February 09, 2004
And batting second...

I suppose it's time to do a little navel-gazing about who might run as the Robin to John Kerry's Batman in November. Not that I'm ahead of the punditry curve here - Mark Evanier quotes someone he describes as "loosely a member of the Washington Press Corps" who confidently predicts a Kerry/Max Cleland hookup, Greg contemplates Kerry/Gephardt, and both he and Andrew D (who's been kicking butt at YDB lately, in case you haven't been reading) write about Kerry and Evan Bayh. Search around a bit and you'll see musings on Kerry/Edwards, Kerry/Bob Graham, Kerry/Bill Richardson, and more.

My personal favorite among these is Kerry/Edwards. Now, I know, Edwards has said he doesn't want to be Kerry's VP. Well, of course he's going to say that. He's still in the running for the Presidential nomination. Once he says that he'd consider being a VP, he ceases to be viable in any way for the top spot. When and if circumstances make him non-viable, then a statement saying he doesn't want to be #2 will mean something.

I like Edwards for three reasons:

1. He's the best speaker among the candidates right now, the kind of orator who makes people believe in him. Kerry has a great resume, and I think will make an outstanding President (as would Edwards, of course), but he's vanilla. Edwards would generate some actual excitement in a way that Kerry just isn't capable of.

2. Assuming a Kerry win in 2004, Edwards is young enough to be a natural candidate in 2012, something that is absolutely not the case for Cleland, Gephardt, or Graham. That's counting chickens before the eggs have been laid, but that doesn't make it irrelevant. Plus, Edwards makes a great contrast to Dick Cheney - the future versus the past.

(Tinfoil hat fulminations about how the nomination in 2008 or 2012 already belongs to Hillary Clinton are left as an exercise for the reader.)

3. This is just a gut instinct on my part, but I think having Edwards on the ticket would ameliorate some of the hard feelings that Dean supporters have for Kerry. It doesn't make a lot of sense, since Edwards is the more conservative of the two and is equally hawkish on Iraq, but he's also less Establishment, more comfortable with the language of progressivism, and just plain less stiff than his putative boss. I also believe that Kerry/Edwards would feel a lot less like "Bush Lite" to those who already think Kerry is too much like Bush for whatever reason. It's a minor thing, but every vote is going to matter, and I want to have as many Dean supporters (and Kucinich supporters, for that matter) enthusiastic or at least accepting of a ticket headed by Kerry as possible.

Note that I don't list Edwards' Southernness as a key asset. I believe that geographic diversity in a ticket is overrated, and I think the important thing is not so much an appeal to "Southern" voters but moderate voters, especially in Midwestern states. This post on EDM captures what I'm thinking.

Finally, as long as we're talking Vice Presidents, I've seen some speculation that Dubya will replace Cheney as his understudy, possibly with Rudy Giuliani. This seems a bit far out to me. I do believe that Big Time Dick is likely to be more of a hindrance to Bush than an asset, but I think switching horses, even for plausibly deniable "medical" reasons, will feel like weakness and vulnerability, which is exactly what they don't want to project. I could be wrong here, of course, but I seem to recall similar rumors about Poppy replacing Dan Quayle back in 1992, and nothing ever came of that, either. I don't like making predictions, but I think the GOP ticket will be what it was in 2000.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, at Not Geniuses, Nico and Matt ponder Howard Dean as the VP. Personally, I think that'll happen about three seconds after the drop the puck for the NHL All-Star Game in Hell, but I do agree with the commenter on Nico's post who says the following:

Because it really makes more sense to have the VP appeal to the base. Few swing voters are going to not vote for a ticket because of the VP choice (unless it is a real blockhead one like Quayle). But putting a party favorite in the VP slot helps rally the turnout.

I still think Edwards brings at least as much to the table here, but there's something to this. I also note with some interest that unlike Edwards, Dean has publicly stated that he would take the VP slot. Make of that what you will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 09, 2004 to The making of the President | TrackBack

I think it's unlikely that Bush will fire Cheney, even if we assume that Cheney is not a puppetmaster. By most accounts, Bush values personal loyalty highly. He's barely fired anybody, not George Tenet, not Louis Freeh, not even after 11 September. Paul O'Neill was let go largely, it seemed to me, as a symbolic gesture of Doing Something About the Economy (though Suskind's book suggests there might have been something real there, too).

I think Bush is genuinely reluctant to fire people, and so I think it will take something quite extreme and overt to get him to drop Cheney. Scooter Libby taking the perp walk wouldn't come close.

Posted by: Greg Morrow on February 9, 2004 1:35 PM

Replacing Cheney with Giuliani would be about the only way the President could knock that solid 90+ support figure he's consistently enjoyed among Republicans down into the doldrums. No way he alienates sociocons that way. Giuliani replacing Tenet, however, would be much more palatable.

Edwards is such a lightweight. I've no idea why more Dems aren't clamoring for John Breaux if they want a solid Southerner who actually has some substance to him. I hope they don't pick him, of course, because I'd like to see him in the next Bush cabinet. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on February 9, 2004 2:37 PM

Heck, if we're going to consider Breaux, why not include Zell Miller in the equation.

Breaux stands for one thing: Breaux. He has consistently supported some of the more offensive R legislation and would have no credibility promoting a Kerry platform.

Kuff, I find your assesment of VP Dean amusing but probably truer than we want. I fully expect him to pull a Reagan and tell his troops to stay home once it finally sinks in he isn't the One (apologies to Neo). (Now if I could just get the Dean campaign to quit spamming me....)

Posted by: Charles M on February 9, 2004 4:22 PM

Dean will not desert the party. And if we aren't treated like unwelcome houseguests, even the supporters can be persuaded to stay. I'm now agitating to get Dean installed as the head of the DNC when MacAuliffe steps down, as he's said he would do soon.

Dean supporters will be hard put to abandon the party if their favorite guy is chairing it, and it might even mollify the closet Naderites concerning the future direction of the Democratic party. And think of the fund-raising prospects.

Posted by: natasha on February 9, 2004 7:29 PM