Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Running mates: the roundup.

If you'll humor me for a moment, I'd like to present my completely unqualified opinion on Kerry's possible running mates, and what the deal with each of them is. I've read a lot of things from a lot of different sources, and I thought it was about time to put it all together into one "defininitive" list. So far, only Edwards, Clark, and Vilsack have been vetted (Kerry's close friend Jim Johnson is in charge of the official scouting process), but a lot of other names have been tossed around. Okay. Here we go.

The Short List:
  • John Edwards: Senator Edwards (from North Carolina) gained fame and fans during his run for the Democratic nomination. Because of his obvious charm and charisma, he's been described as a young version of Clinton, which could help balance Kerry's purported lack of personality. On the other hand, some say Edwards might overshadow Kerry on the campaign trail, which would be bad. Additionally, some people worry that the class warfare rhetoric that helped his cause during primaries will not be popular with moderates, and that his complete lack of foreign policy experience will continue to work against him on the national stage. Still, Edwards' roots in North Carolina might help Kerry win some Southern states, his optimistic message has made him very popular, and the ladies love him.

  • Dick Gephardt: With a long career in public service -- including twenty-six years in Congress -- Gephardt is seen as a safe pick. He has plenty of national campaign experience, since he's now run for president twice. Unfortunately, he's lost both of those bids of course, and nobody wants a perpetual loser on their ticket -- especially one who would be considered a rather boring and predictable choice.

  • Tom Vilsack: As governor of Iowa, Vilsack helped Kerry win his state during the caucuses. He's Roman Catholic and was raised in western Pennsylvania, two biographical details that could help a Democratic ticket win critical segments of the population (namely people in Western PA and religious folks). The Midwest is another expected battleground in which an Iowa governor could definitely be an asset. Also, his orphan-from-an-abusive-foster-home story beats Edwards' mill town sob story anyday. Unfortunately, even though Vilsack is chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, he is hardly a household name, and some question whether he would have the experience to step in as president.

  • Bob Graham: This election year marks Graham's fourth year on the short list for VP (also in 2000, 1992 and 1988). Graham is hugely popular in bigtime swing state Florida (twenty-seven very key electoral votes), where he's a senior senator and has never lost a statewide election. He has that stale loser smell about him now though, since he dropped his bid for the presidency before Carol Moseley Braun. Some say his failed bid proved how bad he is at national campaigning, which is simply no good for a VP, whose main campaign duty is, well -- to campaign. Additionally, Graham keeps these strange compulsive notebooks in which he records everything (from constituent requests to when he went to the bathroom), and Gore's team found it weird enough to disqualify him.

  • Wesley Clark: Retired military general Clark lost his bid for the Democratic nomination, but gained a place in the national spotlight. He's a former Rhodes scholar (like Bill Clinton) and had the coolest title ever as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces (head of NATO). He's also from Arkansas (like Clinton), which could help Kerry in the South. But Clark has never been a senator, congressman, or governor, so many question whether he's qualified for the executive office. Also, he voted for Reagan. Ew.

The Longer List:
  • Joseph Biden: Sixty-one-year-old Biden, Democratic senator from Delaware, is considered one of the party's experts on foreign policy. He's been in the Senate for thirty-one years, and even considered running for president this year. He was top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supported military action against Iraq, and is less critical of Bush than Kerry has been.

  • Evan Bayh: Bayh, a senator from Indiana, succeeded former VP-hopeful Joe Lieberman to become chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Rumors about Bayh as a possible contender for Kerry's VP started flying when he was spotted leaving his office with Jim Johnson.

  • Bill Richardson: Richardson is governor of swing state New Mexico, and -- as the only Hispanic governor in the country -- may be an asset in a close election. During the last election, Gore learned the hard way that the Latino vote could be critical in many battleground states. But that's not all Richardson has going for him. He also served in the House, as a U.N. ambassador, and as Energy Secretary under Clinton. Unfortunately, some controversies about security lapses at nuclear facilities while he was Energy Secretary might come back to haunt him if he runs on a national ticket. Additionally, Richardson has said that he plans on completely his term as governor.

  • Sam Nunn: The former senator from Georgia has centrist policies and strong credentials on defense issues that have been cited as good for a possible VP. Despite some buzz about him in the press, Nunn has specifically said (a) Kerry has not spoken with him, and (b) he would probably decline an invitation to be VP.

  • Mark Warner: As Democratic governor of usually-Repblican Virginia, Warner's gubernatorial campaign was bolstered by the fact that he ran as a fiscal conservative with a modern stance on gun issues. His recent tax hikes have made some question whether or not he's really a conservative, but his dashing young face might be just the thing statue man Kerry needs.

  • Bill Nelson: Senator from Florida whose energy and eloquence on TV has been duly noted by high-ups in Washington eager to put a little vim into Kerry's campaign.

  • Max Cleland: A former senator from Georgia, Cleland is also a fellow Vietnam vet who has defended Kerry's positions on national security by saying to the Bushies: "If you don't go to war, don't throw rocks at those who do."

  • Jane Harman: The Democratic Congresswoman from the Santa Monica region of California is ranking member of House Intelligence Committee and is considered strong on fighting terrorism. She's apparently done a lot of flip-flopping with her voting though, which is not the kind of consistency accused flip-flopper Kerry needs.

  • Howard Dean: Governor Dean still has legions of loyal supporters and continues to receive campaign nominations even though his campaign is officially over. Still, many have pointed out that he does not have the required chemistry with Kerry and that they really went head to head during the primaries. Also, Dean is from the Northeast, like Kerry, and -- geographically speaking -- that's just not what Kerry needs.

  • Hillary Clinton: She's one of the party's best fundraisers, but -- while she's hugely popular with some -- lots of people hate her. Also, she might overshadow Kerry on the ticket, and she's said time and again that she plans to finish her term as New York State senator.

  • John McCain: I know he's a Republican, but some have said he's just what Kerry needs to score a definitive win in November. During his 2000 campaign for the Republican nomination, he was a big hit with the media and with moderates in both camps. McCain and Kerry are close personal friends. But if we're talking about likelihood, a comment from McCain's spokeperson Marshall Wittmann (responding to rumors about McCain being Kerry's pick for VP) is worth noting: "It's not going to happen -- end of story, period, exclamation mark."

  • Beyonce: I'm not trying to ruin my credibility here, I'm just trying to do a full roundup. I'm not making the suggestions, I'm just listing them. Okay? So. Dave Pell of Electablog points out that the former Destiny's Child singer is adored by the public, has beat everyone she's come up against, and certainly would be an outside-the-box choice for someone considered very much inside the box.

  • Dave Pell: That's right, Dave Pell of Electablog, Forbes Magazine's #1 political blog, has also nominated himself. I thought it was at least worth mentioning. You disagree? Too bad.
Other names mentioned at least in passing include: Joe Lieberman (Connecticut senator, Gore's VP choice, presidential candidate, centrist), Al Gore (Clinton's VP, presidential candidate), Al Sharpton (perpetual presidential candidate), Dennis Kucinich (Congressman from Ohio, presidential candidate, way left lefty), Kathleen Sebelius (Governor of Kansas), Phil Bredesen (Governor of Tennessee), Janet Napolitano (Governor of Arizona), Harold Ford (Congressman from Tennessee), and Mary Landrieu (Senator from Louisiana).

Even though only one person will end up being Kerry's running mate, it doesn't mean these people will just drop off the radar. It's worth pointing out that Kerry and Edwards were both finalists on Gore's list, edged out only by Lieberman. So keep these folks in mind, no matter what. You never know where they'll be in four years.

Is someone missing from my roundup? Let me know so that I can add them.

Thanks to Political Wire and Electablog for linking to so many good articles about the election. Here's a partial list of the articles I read in doing research for this guide:

Cross-posted at Fire & Ice.

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