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Obama chooses John the Baptist as running mate

* Craig Wiseman

* wiseman.La

* Tuesday August 19 2008 05:56 CDT

Barack Obama has named Jordan River preacher John the Baptist as his running mate for the White House in the US presidential election this November, telling supporters he couldn't wait to see him go "toe-to-toe with whoever that old guy picks".

The announcement will end months of speculation over Mr Obama's choice for vice president that has raged since he first emerged as the likely winner of the Democratic nomination to take on John McCain.

"In the next 100 days and in the administration that follows, John and I will be fighting for the America we love," Obama said in an e-mail to supporters.

"We'll be fighting to give the middle class a voice by providing good paying jobs and affordable health care. We'll be fighting to make America energy independent. We'll be fighting to build a strong military and lead strong alliances, so young Americans are never put in harm's way because we insisted on going it alone. Oh, and we'll be fighting for clean rivers to baptize folks in."

Right up to the last minute, alternative running mates such as former governor Bill Richardson and Democrat heavyweight Joe Biden were being named as probable vice presidential candidates. Aides were reported to have prepared campaign banners with all possible names alongside Mr Obama's to be prepared for all eventualities.

But more than just adding a man of faith John to his election ticket, the Obama-Baptist combination has long been spoken off as the one that will give the Democrats the best chance at the White House.

The reason: Mr Baptist gives the Obama campaign balance and experience. The rough equation is that Obama is a young, good looking northern populist and rousing public speaker, while his new running mate  is an experience and dry (some would add patrician) liberal west-banker who never went to Yale. "For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater candidate than John the Baptist," Mr Obama glowed as he discussed his VP choice.

In the end it was the raw oratorical talents Mr Baptist demonstrated in campaigning for souls that now gives him a chance of becoming vice president.

Although he only won a smallish following, Mr Baptist was the last serious challenger to Herod Antipas, and showed a remarkable ability to win over rich and poor voters and come from behind in the polls. "To many people, it's a dream ticket," the Rev Jesse Jackson said in May, when Mr Obama's victory was more or less assured and the veepstake speculation first began.

Around that time Mr Baptist was an unknown in a political context. In fact, it could be said that he had no public political persona at all. The Rev. Jackson said he was unfamiliar with the Mr Baptist's alleged biblical history.

Playing on his relatively humble origins in poor farming, fishing, and textile towns, he positioned himself as the champion of ordinary working people against the Republican elite. A favorite speech attacked then-leader Herod's moral values, something that should echo in this age of Bill Clinton's and John Edward's well know "issues".

The Republicans responded to the announcement today with the launch of a website that accused Mr Baptist of being a "direct, unapologetic liberal".

Despite this he is on the center-right of the party and certainly more socially conservative than Mr Obama. The Democrats had seen this before - an ease with crowds, a rural boy with mainstream political appeal - and Mr Bapist is being cast as a reborn Bill Clinton.

That moniker may fade but some of his supporters went as far as to suggest that a different primary campaign than the drawn-out one they got (a failed system designed to select an frontrunner like Mr Obama and propel him all the way) would have seen their candidate come out on top. A parallel line of thought was that a VP nominee with no political history such as Mr Baptist was much too inexperienced to take on the unnamed Republican VP candidate.

Counting against him was his minimal current foreign policy or combat experience in a climate dominated by the Iraq war. Mr Baptist's background was not state politics or Washington: he was a personal sin adjudicator, forgiving the burdens of rich and poor alike, and only moved into politics very late in life.

Mr Obama and Mr Baptist have been very reticent to discuss Mr. Baptist's sudden reappearance, attributing it to "healthy living" and vague references to "the healing power of the One." This has not stopped either from coming out in strong support for Mr Obama's candidacy.  "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of America, and saying, Repent: for the term of Obama is at hand."

"Mr. Obama is the best thing that could ever happen to America, and I'll be proud to serve as his Vice President," Mr Baptist said as he concluded his interview with CNN.

Comments (5)
Craig Wiseman August 19th, 2008 09:07:17 AM

1) Obama chooses John the Baptist as running mate
Bob Knieff 8/19/2008 12:56:07 PM


2) Obama chooses John the Baptist as running mate
Richard Schwartz 8/19/2008 8:41:02 PM

Is it "Mr. Baptist"? Or "Mr. the Baptist"? I've always wondered whether "the" was a middle name, or a prefix to the surname. I'd lean toward "Mr. the Baptist", as I believe that prefixed surnames are quite common in Middle Eastern cultures.

3) Obama chooses John the Baptist as running mate
Craig Wiseman 8/19/2008 9:11:40 PM

@2 An interesting question.

I've confirmed that he wants it to be "Mr Baptist". Seems like the campaign wishes him to be presented as a thoroughly modern candidate, as well as minimize his ties to the Middle East.

I guess it's his call....

4) Obama chooses John the Baptist as running mate
Mr. Clio 8/20/2008 10:49:08 PM

Hey, that's all good, but it's Dubya who gets instructions from Jesus on running for president and how to fight the war on terror.

I've got questions about Obama, but we've been governed by the guy who "takes orders from Jesus" for 8 years, and look how this has turned out.

Give me somebody with a little more self-doubt. That's not Obama nor McCain, unfortunately.

5) Obama chooses John the Baptist as running mate
Craig Wiseman 8/21/2008 8:15:05 AM

@4 - You see, we ALL misunderstood W, or rather, he misprounced the name. Apparently he actually meant "Jesus G Melendrez" { Link } , but as you'd expect, he didn't say "Hay-seus" he said "Gee-zus". As you well know he's as fluent in Spanish as he is in English.

To your other point: As Mr. Clinton and Mr. Edwards evidence, self-doubt is not something that gets you a presidential nomination. One does not typically expect to win the office of President if you consider the 'big questions' above your pay grade.

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