Are you an #ImWithHer Democrat who’s also a big Shark Tank fan? Slow your roll. It’s probably too early to add #ClintonCuban2016 to your Twitter profile. First, it sort of sounds like yet another Donald Trump birther conspiracy theory. Don’t encourage him!
Second, the political courtship between Hillary Clinton and Mark Cuban is probably only at the “Let’s have lunch sometime” stage, if that. The tech billionaire and reality TV star says he’s “wide open” to being the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s running mate. For her part, Clinton is “very interested” in a veep from the private sector and appreciates Cuban’s “openness” to the idea. This sort of talk is very cheap.
Still, some progressives are already worried that Clinton might be seriously considering adding a wealthy centrist businessman to the ticket. And I totally get why.
As recently as mid-April, Clinton had a double-digit polling lead over Trump, a candidate with terrible favorability numbers. The election seemed in the bag. A monster Clinton victory might again give Democrats the House and Senate. That would mean at least two years of unified control to, say, greatly expand ObamaCare or pass a big climate change bill. What’s more, with a landslide likely, Clinton could feel free to pick a party-unifying running mate considerably to her left, such as Elizabeth Warren.
Clinton-Cuban spoils these lovely progressive fantasies. Instead of a White House partner to fight the “millionaires and billionaires,” as Bernie Sanders likes to say, Hillary might put a 0.001 percenter just a heartbeat away from the presidency? I can see how that would be tough for progressives to stomach. Feel the HeartBern.
But it can’t be tougher for progressives to stomach than a Trump-Gingrich White House, right?
Reality check: Clinton and Trump are tied in the polls, both in presidential preference and unfavorability. And Clinton’s initial attacks on the presumptive GOP nominee — he’s a bully, a sexist, a policy illiterate — sound a lot like the unsuccessful attacks from Trump’s vanquished Republican primary opponents. The public has already heard them all. This race could be razor close. Indeed, a well known presidential election forecasting model suggests the so-so U.S. economy “implies a fairly large loss for the Democrats.” Even betting markets show Clinton’s win probability quickly shrinking.
Mark Cuban is just the sort of VP pick that could soothe the deep uneasiness Democrats ought to feel.
Cuban is not Sarah Palin, “the last looks-great-on-paper maverick running for vice president,” as my colleague Peter Weber put it. Cuban is a smart and savvy businessman who can talk about the modern American economy at least as well as any professional politician. And while he’s certainly outspoken — that’s part of his charisma — he’s also well spoken. None of that infamous Palin word salad from him. Plus, the Trump phenomenon suggests few voters prioritize deep Washington experience or policy chops. (Have they ever, really?)
Cuban is super-rich, and maybe that’s a problem for Democrats obsessed with inequality. But, again, Trump’s success suggests a huge chunk of voters can be persuaded to view that as a feature, not a bug. And Cuban is hardly the poster boy for inherited wealth. His father wasn’t worth $400 million like Fred Trump. Cuban is a guy from a middle-class Pennsylvania family who made it big through his own entrepreneurial efforts. That’s a great American story, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican or independent.
It’s hardly a stretch that a ticket with Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and possessor of more than a bit of smash-mouth swagger, might do far better among men than Clinton-Warren or Clinton-Some-Quite-Pleasant-Male-Cabinet-Secretary. Right now, Clinton’s huge edge with women is equally balanced out by a huge gap with men.
Clinton-Cuban also might be a bit more palatable for all those Republicans or lean-Republicans who despise Trump and really, really don’t want to vote for Hillary or leave the presidential box unchecked. After all, Cuban has expressed concern about the national debt and about government regulation hurting innovation, even recently writing an essay on the latter issue for the George W. Bush Institute. (Indeed, some #NeverTrumpers tried to get Cuban to run third party.) Cuban might even allow Democrats to peel off some Trump voters. Like Trump, Cuban is an outsider who supposedly “tells it like it.” Indeed, cartoonist Scott Adams — who uncannily predicted Trump’s continuing success — has mentioned Cuban as the perfect veep for Trump. Basically, Cuban is Trump without all the bigotry … and without the insane policies … and with probably more dough.
Six months ago, Mark Cuban on either major party ticket might have seemed like a crazy idea. It was only the last election, after all, that America rejected a super-rich businessman. But times are changing fast. Kanye West 2020 is looking more realistic by the moment.