Saturday, March 6, 2004

VP sweeps

With John Kerry's position as the Democratic nominee all but solidified, the focus now becomes who is the best running mate for the candidate. Kerry has named Jim Johnson, a D.C. banker and Democratic insider, to head up the search committee. A lot of names have been spinning around the Web. Below, are some of the choices, including my comments and the latest line from Campaign & Elections Magazine in [brackets]. I am also running a poll on DailyKos which will be up until the choice is made: ["RadioTony Diary"] . When Kerry chooses, I will post the results of the poll along with other information about the choice.

Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina, [4 to 1 or 20 percent chance].
Ever since Edwards posted a close second place in Iowa, the media and Democratic insiders have been gaggling over a Kerry/Edwards ticket. Voters in New Hampshire, especially the 50,000 who don't normally vote in primaries, were clearly influenced by the spin. Not only did they cast votes for Kerry, essentially crowning him as the nominee, they also used the write-in option under the vice presidential slot to cast more than 16,600 votes for Edwards. However, the spin about a Kerry/Edwards ticket essentially ended Edwards' chances. Over and over, Edwards was asked if he would accept the VP slot with Kerry. Edwards consistently said "no," at first, acting pissy but later, smiling nicely. Edwards has a slick Southern charm, similar to Bill Clinton without the sleaze. He is colorful, set a good tone and delivered a solid populist message during his campaign. Edwards is also from a Southern state that the Democrats haven't won in decades. A Kerry/Edwards ticket would be solid. But Kerry probably won't pick Edwards. The southerner will overshadow Kerry in charisma, performance, and message. Edwards is also a former trial lawyer which does have some negative connotations. Also, only a couple of times in American history have two senators been able to win the presidency and vice presidency together. Although the last time two senators together on a ticket, John Kennedy/Lyndon Johnson in 1960, the two were former challengers who joined together to beat Richard Nixon.

Rep. Dick Gephardt, Missouri, [20 to 1 or 4.8 percent chance].
Campaigns & Elections doesn't give Gephardt much of a chance but he is probably Kerry's best choice. If Kerry picks Gephardt, he should have him spend the entire seven months of the campaign barnstorming through all the Midwestern swing states. These states can go either way in elections and Kerry only needs one of them along with the Gore blue states. Gephardt gives Kerry the worker credibility he currently doesn't have. Also, as others on the Web have said, Gephardt mortally wounded Dean in Iowa by defending himself against Dean's relentless negative attacks. The negative salvos between the two wasted millions and ended the campaigns for both. Gephardt was also the loyal soldier, endorsing Kerry and campaigning in Michigan before that state's caucuses, effectively ending Dean's campaign. Missouri is a swing state the Democrats need and Gephardt could help win it. He is also friendly with Nader which could help in the final days of what is expected to be a very tight general election. On the con side, some liberal Democrats may be upset that Kerry didn't pick a running mate who was a tad more liberal than Gephardt. Also, citing the Edwards example, it isn't often that two Washington, D.C. candidates to run together.

Gov. Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania, [10 to 1 or 9.1 percent chance].
Rendell is an interesting choice. The former Mayor of Philadelphia and former head of the Democratic National Committee, he is a pro-choice political moderate in a state that sometimes swings to social conservatives. Rightwing Rick Santorum and single-bullet theorist Arlen Specter, both Republicans, are the state's senators. Pro-life Democrat Bob Casey was also the governor until he died of brain cancer. Pennsylvania is a must-win for Democrats and if they can't win this state in 2004, they will have no hope of winning the presidency. The rust belt is essentially crumbling. Millions of jobs have been lost, mostly due to bad trade deals pushed through by Clinton with the help of Kerry. So while Kerry attacks Bush for the factory job losses, he is essentially campaigning against his own voting record. So how does he counter the criticism? Well, Rendell might be a way to go although he has no public voting record on trade and a search didn't yield any results.

Gov. Bill Richardson, New Mexico, [5 to 1 or 16.7 percent chance].
Richardson is another candidate the Democratic insiders are excited about. He is Hispanic, a former Congressman, and former Energy Secretary. But his choice also comes with a lot of negatives. First, New Mexico only has five Electoral College votes so it isn't a very strategic choice. While Al Gore only won the state by 370 votes, Ralph Nader isn't likely to repeat his 21,251 2000 performance, despite a very active Green Party in the state. Second, while liberals fall all over themselves to help hispanics, under the guise of diversity, hispanic voters are more motivated by social issues, swinging to the Republicans because of Catholicism. Unlike social conservatives in Boston, hispanics don't have a historic relationship with the Democrats and there is no guarantee they will swing to Kerry with Richardson. Richardson was also at the Energy Dept. during a time period when numerous nuclear secrets were leaked to American enemies, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report in 1999. He also didn't put forward any meaningful energy legislation to hold the automobile industry to increase gas mileage in cars, promote alternative energy like solar or wind to make the country energy self-sufficient. I don't think he would be a very good choice.

Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana, [10 to 1 9.1 percent chance].
While Bayh is from a Midwestern state, Democrats rarely win in Indiana. The only reason Bayh won is because he is a legacy: the Bayh family are the Kennedys of Indiana. Bayh is a Democratic Leadership Council Democrat, the pro-business, centrist wing of the party that the base is furious with despite the fact that they are about to nominate Kerry. He is also a former governor so he does have a lot of experience although it is doubtful that Kerry would pick another senator. However, the question will be raised if Kerry can afford to have another corporate centrist on the ticket with him. This kind of move would be similar to what Gore did in 2000 when he picked conservative Democrat Joe Lieberman and voters - and cash - fled to Nader. The last thing Kerry wants is a repeat of 2000.

Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida, [10 to 1 or 9.1 percent chance] and Sen. Bob Graham, Florida, [12 to 1 7.7 percent chance].
The Florida boys. No Democrat has forgotten Florida and as many of us have said, if Gore had picked Graham in 2000, he would be the president today. The former legislator, governor and retiring senator, is a rabid campaigner, carrying a small notebook wherever he goes, writing the names of people he meets ala Clinton. While some bloggers think this is weird the process is called building a base. Graham has a huge base of support, although during his own campaign for the presidency, his sleepy yet smart style turned many people off. On the negative side, there are all those funky family land deals in South Florida that no one has really spent any time looking into. Then again, he makes Kerry look exciting and the two are friends. Again, it is doubtful that Kerry would pick another senator but he was a governor too, so who knows.
Nelson has gotten a lot of face time of late because of all the hot things going on at NASA. Nelson is a former congressman, legislator, and space shuttle astronaut. He is also a very centrist Democrat. But he has barely been in the senate three years so his chances are probably slim.

Ex-Gen. Wesley Clark, Arkansas, [12 to 1 or 7.7 percent chance].
Originally, Clark was tagged to be the VP choice of Dean. The two did powwow but they couldn't get a deal together. In the end, Clark was in way over his head in his presidential campaign, with seven different positions on the invasion of Iraq and numerous unclear or embarrassing policy positions. Abortion into the ninth month? What were you thinking Wes? However, in the New Hampshire VP vote, Clark did come in second - with over 7,600 votes.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Ohio, [No odds listed].
Kaptur is my own personal long-shot candidate. Sure, she is in Congress right now and probably would not want to give up her seat. But she does bring worker cred like Gephardt does without the baggage that Gephardt has. Being a woman from a swing state, Ohio, is also a huge asset. Kaptur is very popular with the Perot and fair trade Naderites which Kerry needs to win but doesn't have because of his terrible voting record. She could shave voters from President Bush since by three- and four-to-one margins, the Perot voters went with Bush in 2000. She is also on the moderate to progressive side of most issues. Choosing Kaptur would be one of those surprising picks that rarely occurs in the process but should.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California, [30 to 1 or 3.2 percent chance]. A terrible choice for Kerry. First, California is a safe Democratic state and if it isn't they will lose for sure. Second, Feinstein is not popular with people outside of California and she'll invigorate the Republican base.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York, [50 to 1 or 2 percent chance]. She's a three year senator and probably the most hated political woman in the country. She'll motivate the Republican base. Don't pick her.
Ex-Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia, [100 to 1 or 1 percent chance]. Cleland has been great on the stump for Kerry [no pun intended]. He is a hero and was destroyed by the Republicans two years ago. Maybe as the head of the Veterans Administration but it is doubtful he would be picked for VP.
Ex-Sen. Sam Nunn, Georgia, [100 to 1 or 1 percent chance]. Again, the Democrats need Georgia but Nunn is a conservative free trader who could alienate thousands of voters Kerry needs to win.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut, [100 to 1 or 1 percent chance]. Ditto Nunn.
Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois, [100 to 1 or 1 percent chance]. Durbin is the archenemy of Chicago Mayor Bill Daley so he can't be all bad. Don't know much else about the guy.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana, [100 to 1 or 1 percent chance]. Landrieu easily won reelection in 2002 during a Republican sweep year. Is moderate to centrist but is also a pro-choice woman.
Ex-Treasurer Sec. Robert Rubin, [100 to 1 or 1 percent chance]. God no! Kerry doesn't need Wall Street bankers who helped destroy our manufacturing base on the ticket with him. Rubin would be a foolish choice.
Sen. Joe Biden, Delaware, [100 to 1 or 1 percent chance]. Funky hair weave and people still remember his plagiarizing of a Neal Kinnock speech in 1987. Biden won't be chosen.
Gov. Tom Vilsack, Iowa, [100 to 1 or 1 percent chance]. Iowa is a safe Democratic state. Wife was with Kerry before the caucuses.
AG Elliott Spitzer, New York, [200 to 1 or less than 1 percent chance]. Very popular New York City pol. Spitzer supports gay marriage which will be used against the ticket. Slim chance.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln [AR], [200 to 1 or less than 1 percent chance]. Don't know.
Sen. John Breaux, Louisiana, [200 to 1 and less than 1 percent chance]. See Nunn.
Gov. Howard Dean, Vermont, [500 to 1 and less than 1 percent chance]. The Deaniacs would be thrilled but two New Englanders would be a strategic slip up.
Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader, [No odds]. Want to get rid of the threat? Nominate Ralph! Better to offer him the AG's position.
Ex-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Illinois, [No odds]. Braun backed Dean in the primaries after dropping out. Slim to none.