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Opinion: An Obama-Clinton Ticket? Won't Happen - But These Things Might

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The year began with a new Congress that promised to focus on jobs, a State of the Union in which a president turned his focus on infrastructure investment, an anti-worker energy sweeping statehouses and a GOP Primary destined to be dominated by Sarah Palin.

A year can turn out very different from how we imagined it, and it's just proof that predictions are foolish.  But they are also fun, so why not end 2011 speculating about what 2012 will hold? We know it will be a year dominated with election energy - but what can we expect to see, or not see, in the race?

Robert Reich kicked it off predicting an Obama-Clinton Presidential ticket.  So, I'll counter with my own prediction: we won't see it. 

Secretary Clinton may be on the top of the Most Admired People list, and may be doing a broadly praised job at the State Department, but it's a fantasy to imagine her moving to the second seat on the ticket.  The two of them work well together, and it would reinvigorate a certain type of Democratic voter who had been skeptical ever since Obama took the primary prize in '08.  But it creates as many problems for the President as it solves.

First of all, Reich argues that it allows them to focus on international successes rather than domestic stagnation.  Sadly, if the Democrats run on an issue other than the economy, it will only look like one thing: running away from the economy.  They need to tout their successes, but the ticket needs to show it understands that issues one, two and three are jobs, jobs and jobs.

After all, as another winning campaign once noted, "It's the economy, stupid."

Furthermore, despite Reich's claim that Clinton would unify the Democratic base, it was the holdovers from the past Clinton economic team who came to represent the Obama administration's coziness with Wall Street.  Will memories of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers rally progressives?

I don't know what Secretary Clinton will do next, and I'm excited to see where she takes her extraordinary skills (for the sake of disclosure, I worked on her 2000 campaign and in her New York Senate office in 2001).  But it won't be to a residence at the Naval Observatory.

Enough of predicting what won't happen; let's give a shot at what will:

1. Romney-Rubio.  When all is said and done, the guy whose turn it is - Mitt Romney - will overcome all the haters in his own party and fight, outlast and buy his way to the nomination.  For his VP, he'll choose Marco Rubio: a Tea Party darling, the first Latino on a Presidential ticket, and a boost in the Sunshine State.  Plus, it just sounds good.

2. Obama-Biden.  As much as it's fun to fantasize about who else would fill out an Obama second term, and how that sets up the 2016 race, I don't think we've seen the end of Joe.  As the Obama team battles with stagnant employment numbers, Biden is the ambassador to the white working class of key states like Pennsylvania and Ohio who sends the message that they are represented in Washington.  His presence on the ticket signals that the Obama administration is confident in its record, dispelling any news cycles about self-doubt.  And confidence is something the President needs to show the country.

3. In the end…Obama beats Romney.  The progressive base turns out more dutifully than far-right conservatives.  Romney never wins any hearts and minds in middle America.  The Tea Party will have lost its way, and progressive campaigns in a handful of states will bring out new voters and big numbers.  The economy won't be strong but will be creeping the right way.  And the power of incumbency seals the deal.

That's not to say I think the President is doing A+ work.  I want progressives to push him - from continued Occupy actions, to dynamic candidates of the 99 percent - and make him a better leader.  But in the end, the centrist incumbent will best the convictions-challenged challenger.

And we can start taking bets on 2016.

Looking forward to 2012, and to seeing just how far off my conventional wisdom is by this time next year.

Happy New Year.