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Could Hillary Clinton be Obama's ace in the hole?

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
December 6, 2011 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: An Obama-Clinton re-election ticket would give new life to campaign
  • He says Clinton, accomplished politician, could lure independent and women voters
  • He says the vice presidency would position her for a presidential run in 2016
  • Granderson: Obama's former foe could be his ace in the hole

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- Here is what the election next year is about: the fence-sitters, the independent voters. At this point, there is not much President Barack Obama can say that will win over conservatives, and given the current GOP field, he doesn't have to worry too much about losing liberals. But what can he say to convince the middle to give him four more years?

Well, he could start by, to paraphrase Bonnie Raitt, giving them something to talk about.

Vice President Hillary Clinton?

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

Now that's a talker.

Of course if Republicans do something silly like saddle themselves with Newt Gingrich or another polarizing figure, whose politics or past makes the nominee too unappealing to us independents, then there won't be a need for such a change at the top. However, if a moderate does make it out of the GOP, and Obama looks to be in a dogfight, I can't think of a ticket that would generate more wattage than Obama-Clinton '12.

Would the move be characterized by critics as an obvious ploy to attract women?

Well, yeah. And to a degree they'll be right: After all, this is politics.

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But the critics would have to tread lightly, because Clinton would likely be at least as accomplished, and probably more so, than any other person on either ballot. This would not be Obama pulling a John McCain, selecting someone who isn't qualified in hopes of injecting fresh blood into a struggling campaign. If Clinton had to take over the presidency, I think many people on both sides can agree that scenario would be much more desirable than one in which Sarah Palin was running the show. In fact, comparing Clinton's pedigree to Palin's or GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's is like comparing an oak tree to a handful of seaweed.

If Clinton was robbed before, she would receive recompense in 2012, and by 2016 be in an even stronger position to be the first female president than she was in 2008.

Obama selecting Clinton as his running mate in 2008, after a sometimes biting primary season, would have rung hollow. Now, after she's spent four years working with him as secretary of state, an executive partnership would be accepted as authentic. This fall she said she had no interest in running for public office, which is not the same as saying she won't run. The reason why she was even approached with the question is because a fall Bloomberg poll found 34% of Americans believe the country would've been better if she'd been in charge.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he thought Clinton was going to win the Democratic nomination and that "she's probably the most competent person they've got in their Cabinet," and he suggested she should run against Obama in another primary.

Of course Cheney was pushing his new book and probably trying to sow dissent, but he did echo what most everyone in Washington knows -- Clinton brings gravitas few people possess. If those who rallied around her presidential bid were to rally behind her for the vice-presidential nod, it's hard to imagine who in the Republican field could match what she would bring.

Part of the reason that Obama is vulnerable is not simply that the economy is struggling and Republicans are fired up to defeat him. It's because his base does not appear to be fired up for him to win. Quite a few high-profile supporters have expressed disappointment. Quite a few low-profile supporters have expressed buyer's remorse -- not for picking Obama over McCain but for selecting Obama over Clinton. Putting her name on the ticket as vice president would give Obama something Joe Biden never brought to the table -- buzz.

Energy.

Excitement.

That's no knock on Joe. OK, it is, but I'm sure he knows he can't draw a crowd like Hillary.

Sure, we're 11 months away, and given that Gingrich is the sixth GOP front-runner in less than a year -- including two with reality TV shows -- a lot can still happen. But there is no denying that the electricity Obama generated during the 2007-08 campaign is simply not there this time. Some of his supporters are disappointed with the compromises he's made since taking office. Others are frustrated he hasn't done more to help their specific community or interest group. And while the economy is improving, the recovery numbers are way too pedestrian to be used as an inspiring talking point for voters sitting on the fence.

Back in 2008, political strategists on both sides of the aisle could offer a litany of reasons why Obama defeated McCain -- from the Republican candidate being framed as an extension of George W. Bush, to Obama's charisma and an electorate excited by the opportunity to rewrite history.

But a year from now, there won't be as many variables explaining why Obama won re-election. In fact, the rationale could likely summed up in one word: Hillary.

Obama's one-time foe is now his ace in the hole.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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