Experts split on Hillary’s future
Some see VP nod, but is that enough?

Staff Writer, CT Post

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will most likely look to become Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate on the Democratic ticket, according to Lisa Burns, associate professor of media studies at Quinnipiac University in Hamden.

Burns is an expert on media coverage of first ladies, and the author of a book on the subject, “First Ladies and Fourth Estate,” due out in the fall.

Not only will Clinton push to be Obama’s running mate, but she could be successful, Burns said Wednesday.

Obama, who secured the Democratic Party’s nomination Tuesday, is making progress toward his goal of becoming the nation’s first black president.

Experts in the region mused about the next step for Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady.

“ I think both candidates stirred up a great deal of enthusiasm among women voters,” said Lisa P. Sementilli, research and public policy director for Connecticut General Assembly’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, a nonpartisan agency that works to eliminate sexism in the state.

Now that the primaries are over, and Clinton is unofficially out of the running, Sementilli said, “there are a number of questions that need to be answered. The first is, what is she going to do?”

So far, Clinton has been laying low, not yet conceding defeat. Many experts have deemed this a strategic choice, and said that Clinton is just plotting her next move, which might be a run for the nation’s second highest office.

“ I think Hillary is going to negotiate very hard for the vice president position,” said Gary Rose, professor of politics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

“She still has her sights set on becoming president at some point. The vice presidency would certainly put her in a very good position to seek the presidency again.”

Burns said Clinton appeals to voters — namely women and working class white voters — who Obama may have alienated. In particular, female Clinton supporters have expressed dismay at the sometimes-dismissive attitude Obama and his supporters took toward Clinton during the campaign, Burns said. “Many older women are saying that they can’t vote for him after the way he treated her,” she said.

Picking Clinton as a running mate could appease those women, Burns said. Having Clinton on the ticket could also offset Obama’s relative lack of experience, one of the main criticisms of the candidate.

“I think they balance each other nicely,” Burns said.

Despite that, Rose argues that it’s unlikely Obama will select Clinton as a running mate. “I think he realizes that having her as a potential vice president would diminish his stature,” he said.

Not only would Clinton push for an “active and empowered” vice presidency, she’d no doubt angle for a prime role for her husband, former President Clinton. “It would be equivalent to having three presidents up there,” Rose said.

Burns concedes that Bill Clinton could be a hindrance to his wife if she seeks the vice presidency.

The former president served as an “attack dog” on his wife’s behalf during much of the campaign, and escalated tension between her and Obama, Burns said.

“There is some bad blood between the two camps and that’s mainly because of Bill Clinton,” Burns said.

But she added that, as long as strict boundaries are put into place about her husband’s role, Hillary Clinton could still have a shot at pursuing the vice presidency.

However, at least one expert thinks she wouldn’t want the post. “That doesn’t seem to work for her,” said Henry Schissler, assistant professor of sociology at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.

Schissler said that vice presidents often play second fiddle to the president, which wouldn’t suit a strong personality like Hillary Clinton.

Regardless of Clinton’s ultimate fate, most agree that her race for the presidency has had a positive effect on the role of women in politics, which has been evolving for a long time.

Sementilli said Connecticut is a prime example of this, and pointed out that women hold four of the six top elected positions in the state, including governor. Clinton’s pursuit of the presidency could spur even more women to seek higher office, and to vote in major elections, Sementilli said.

“I think a lot of Democratic women are disappointed” that Clinton lost the nomination, “but I think a lot of them are excited, because the role of women in politics is changing.”

Rose agreed. “This clearly has energized a number of women to think far beyond where they’d previously been thinking,” he said. “She’s broken down barriers. This is very historic and very positive for women’s rights.”