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The Veepstakes

Friday, May 28, 2004
Okay, I'll bite. It seems to be an obligation of every political analyst (or wannabe) to comment on who Kerry should select as his running mate. First, let's run down a list of the potential candidates:

John Edwards
Dick Gephardt
John McCain
Bob Graham
Wesley Clark
Janet Napolitano
Kathleen Sebelius
Bill Richardson

There are probably others, but these are the major candidates as far as I can see. I'll take them in order

John Edwards: Performed well in the primaries. A charasmatic candidate with a good populist message and a good choice if you're looking for regional balance. Also, he's from a pretty big state (North Carolina has 15 electoral votes). He also scrupulously avoided criticizing Kerry. On the minus side, he might have too much charisma for Kerry (making the latter look bad by comparison). Being from the Senate might be a liability (too much Washington-insider stuff), but he doesn't have a long tenure in that body, so that might not hurt much. Unfortunately, that inexperience might hurt a bit in this election (which is a big reason why he lost the primaries). He's only been in politics for 6 yearss. But the biggest potential problem is that he would have a hard time carrying the state for Kerry- it isn't even clear that Edwards could have kept his seat if he'd run for re-election. And I'm not sure how much he lets us cut into the Republican lock in the South. On balance probably a good choice, and clearly a popular one among the Democratic rank-and-file.

Dick Gephardt: I love Dick Gephardt's background, experience, and populism. He also might help us pick up Missouri. The biggest problem with him, however, is precisely that experience. If Gephardt is the VP nominee, a lot of people will just yawn. More dangerously, a Kerry-Gephardt ticket would reinforce the image of being a party of Washington insiders. And I hate to say this, but there are a whole lot of people in Washington who are sick and tired of Gephardt and blame him for the trouble the D's have had recovering the House. And a lot of people outside Washington view him as exhibit A of how the Democratic party in Congress has been hoodwinked and bullied by the Republicans. But he is probably the safest choice- he's a known commodity.

John McCain: This is more a press-driven story than anything else. They love the guy, and it is clear that McCain is pretty pissed at the Bushies. I believe McCain when he says that he wouldn't take the job. But let's just say that he would. It would win us Arizona (up to 10 electoral votes), consolidate Kerry's grip on independents and even cut into some Republicans. It would also be a war hero ticket, which doesn't hurt. But I'm just not crazy about having an anti-environmental anti-choice Veep. I can imagine the Republicans pointing to all the things they disagree on. Finally, I'm afraid McCain is in a similar position to that of Robert Kennedy in 1967- he's effective as long as he isn't running, because as soon as he announces, it becomes all about revenge. Frankly I think McCain does us more good criticizing the Bush administration from within the Republican party, a lot like Perot helped Clinton in 1992 by doing all the dirty work for us.

Bob Graham: A nice man and proven vote-getter in Florida, the nation's premier swing state. He also has foreign policy experience and was a forceful and able critic of the Bush Administration's foreign policy. But man is this guy a snoozer!

Wesley Clark: An all-military ticket, and from the south. I really don't know effective a campaigner this guy is, and like Edwards I'm not sure what he really brings to the electoral table. Is this guy really ready for prime time? He wasn't really vetted in the primaries.

Janet Napolitano: A woman, which is fun. From Arizona, a swing state. But what kind of candidate is she?

Kathleen Sebelius: Also a woman, and also an unknown, but not from a swing state, so no electoral college gains. If you have to pick one of the other, I'd say go with Janet, although I don't know a lot about either.

Bill Richardson: In my humble opinion the no-brainer choice for VP. Upsides? This guy is Mr. Upside. He's Latino, which will solidify our position with one of the most critical constituencies. He's from the Southwest, which is a swing region. He would secure New Mexico, which is small, but he also might help in Colorado and Arizona, which totals up to 24 electoral college votes. His Latinity (Is that a word? And hy is it "Latino" anyway? Aren't the French and Italians Latino too?) might also help in Florida, which is obviously nice. And there's an obvious thematic bonus- securing the American Dream, with Richardson an obvious example of its success, and then a segue into how we need to preserve it for the future and how the Republicans are squandering that legacy.

But there's more than that with Richardson. He's Latino, but he's not a strictly ethnic candidate. He's very personable, folksy, and someone you can imagine having a beer with, which is precisely the quality that Kerry lacks. He also is a Governor, so no insider problem. But he's a Governor with tons of experience from many years in the Congress, and even foreign policy credentials as U.N. ambassador. I am positively salivating at the prospect of a VP debate in which Richardson asks Cheney if they're so good at foreign policy, why did the Bush administration had to come begging to Richardson to help them out on North Korea?

And even if we lose the election (egads I hope not), we have set up a prominent Hispanic for national politics. I just don't see the downside. So we should just ignore the governor's statements he doesn't want the job- he can win us the election we have to win, and if LBJ couldn't say no, neither can he.

Just my opinion.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:43 AM
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