Under the definition that a cynic is a premature realist, I nominate myself with the following theory: It’s no accident or coincidence that Joe Biden is acting like such a jerk lately, and Hillary Rodham Clinton is playing the good soldier. They are trying out for new jobs -- each other’s.

Clinton could replace the foot-in-mouth vice president as President Obama’s running mate, and Biden could replace her as secretary of state.

I’m aware that the White House already has shot down the idea, and perhaps honestly so. Since it’s early in the campaign and Obama hasn’t given final approval, there is no deal.

Yet the switch makes such perfect sense that White House handlers likely will be forced to give it serious consideration next year, if they haven’t already. Absent an economic miracle or the gift of a Republican opponent who can’t attract independent voters, Obama looks to be headed for defeat in 2012. His divisive populism isn’t moving the needle, and he’s running out of options and time.

The key fact is that he pulls only one in three independents, and that means he will have trouble winning enough swing states to get a majority of 270 electoral votes. Running up the score in deep-blue states like New York and California won’t matter if he can’t win in places like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. All four of those states elected GOP governors last year.

Biden adds nothing to the ticket, and his erratic bluster makes him a liability. Clinton would be a shot in the arm for the campaign among women, and holds appeal to the blue-collar workers in the industrial states Obama needs.

So remember my theory the next time Biden says something stupid -- which will be the next time he opens his mouth. And remember it the next time Clinton goes on TV to enthusiastically praise Obama for “smart leadership,” as she did Sunday.

Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist. To continue reading his column on other topics, including WikiLeaks, click here.

Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist.