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Obama-Clinton ticket in 2012? Why Democrats are talking about it now.

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

(Read caption) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a conference on the Vietnam War, Sept. 29, at the State Department in Washington. Democrats are once again chattering about Clinton replacing Joe Biden as the president's running mate for the 2012 election?

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Want to know why Democrats are once again chattering about Hillary Rodham Clinton replacing Joe Biden as the president's running mate for the 2012 election? Just look at the polls.

And by “look at the polls,” we don’t mean just take a quick glance at the top lines, which show Democrats unenthusiastic about politics and trailing Republicans on the generic ballot. We mean look at the demographic breakdowns to see where, in particular, the GOP has surged.

Working-class whites right now are rushing to the Republican camp. An Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday shows whites without four-year college degrees prefer the GOP over Democrats by 58 percent to 36 percent. And this is a constituency that in the 2008 primaries preferred Ms. Clinton to Barack Obama by a margin of about 2 to 1. The math is thus obvious: Dump Joe for Hillary. Turn her loose on the trail to do what she did so well the last time around: express empathy with the troubles of the lower middle class in small- and medium-town America.

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In this scenario, working-class whites then come flocking back to the Democrats. Or, at least enough of them come back to hold the White House in 2012 and maybe to regain the House. Then Clinton herself is positioned to run in 2016 and extend the party’s grip on the executive-branch end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Problem solved!

“Hillary Clinton could run in her own right in 2016 and be younger than Ronald Reagan when he was elected president,” über-reporter Bob Woodward told CNN’s John King Tuesday night.

Mr. Woodward, who is making the media rounds to promote his new book, “Obama’s Wars,” turned the volume way up on this particular rumor by openly talking about it on Mr. King’s show. People believe Mr. Obama is showing some political weakness, Woodward said, and in 2012 the president will have to win back the people whom Clinton did so well with – Latinos, retirees, working-class whites.

“It’s on the table,” said Woodward of the "dump Biden" movement. “And some of Hillary Clinton’s advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012.”

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Worried Democrats may react to this suggestion as if they’re floating in the ocean, surrounded by sharks, and someone just threw them a life raft that gets Wi-Fi: We’re saved! What are they saying about this on Daily Kos?

But you’ll notice that Woodward, who is a pretty careful guy, sourced his statement to “Hillary Clinton advisers.” Hmm. Might at least one of these “advisers” be someone personally familiar with the Oval Office, who seemed pretty ripped when Obama beat Clinton in the primaries?

Top Democrats of the non-Clinton advisory camp, meanwhile, have said the rumor is just that – a rumor that’s morphed into a kind of political fable that just keeps coming up. On Wednesday morning, Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine said he’d seen references to a Hillary/Barack movement only in the press.

“I talk to the White House and folks there all the time, and I’ve never heard any conversation about it,” Mr. Kaine said on NBC’s “Today” show.

Also ruling against such a swap is the fact that being secretary of State is a pretty good job. Clinton might not want to give up the chance to shape world events to serve in a job that has been famously compared with a bucket of warm bodily fluids by John Nance Garner, one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s VPs.

Plus, the swap might not actually work. The last president to dump his VP prior to an election was Gerald Ford, who got rid of the moderate Nelson Rockefeller in favor of the more hard-edged Bob Dole. Ford/Dole lost, barely, to Carter/Mondale in 1976.

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