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Election 2004: Hotline

Vaughn Ververs
Editor of the Hotline
Friday, November 5, 2004; 11:00 AM

President Bush claimed victory on Wednesday afternoon after his Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry, formally ended his bid for the White House.

Vaughn Ververs, editor of the Hotline, will be online to discuss the 2004 election.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Vaughn Ververs: Good morning everybody, let's get to it.


Arlington, Va.: What odds do you put on Hillary winning in 2008 if she runs? Assuming the current political landscape remains the same in 2008 (not likely, but it works for this parlor game) who would be the best Democratic candidate?

Vaughn Ververs: Nothing like finishing up one election by looking forward to the next. First off, the 2008 race will certainly be exciting with wide open races on both sides. Senator Clinton is probably the closest to being a formidable frontrunner in either party at this point but it's not clear whether she would have a clear field. She would likely have to fight for it. Her odds would be good to win the nomination (she was winning polls among Dems last year) but is also a polarizing figure who may energize the GOP as much as she does Dems.


Plymouth Meeting, Pa.: It seems to me that the "values" reason put forth by so many Bush voters is disingenuous. These are people who would vote for Bush no matter what, and since they couldn't really defend his foreign or domestic policies they decided to put more stock into the personal factors. I believe they were reacting viscerally to the perception, rightly or wrongly, that Sen. Kerry is a rich, ambitious New England elitist, and not "one of them", a perception shrewdly put forth by Karl Rove and company. Had Sen. Kerry come from the Midwest or a Southern state, I have no doubt that he would have been victorious. He is in fact a victim of circumstance.

Vaughn Ververs: "Values" is somewhat of a loaded term and can mean many things to different people. It certainly was convinient to paint a picture of Kerry as "not one of us" and that effort certainly pays off. Another part of that calculation was the Bush campaign's portrayal of Kerry as a "flip-flopper," which is also a "values" issue. By putting the choice in terms of the candidate who "says what he means and means what he says" against someone who is more of a "say anything" politician, they played that card well. Senator Kerry also helped them in many instances. It may have helped to have had a candidate from a red state, but only if that candidate was "of" that state but to take Kerry and say he's from Montana, he's still Kerry.


Dayton, Ohio: Vaughn - any chance that the Democratic Party will ditch Hollywood? Or are they hopelessly star-struck? A nice stiff-arm by the Democrats to the excesses of Hollywood and the 'liberal media elitists' would have been enough, in my estimation, to swing things their way.

Vaughn Ververs: Interesting point. If Kerry were to have had a "sister Soljah" moment with some of his Hollywood supporters, would that have helped? Hard to say, and hard to imagine. Hollywood is a tremendously important source of fundraising for Democrats and the stars arguably brought Kerry more excitement than he himself could have generated. But drawing the line somewhere -- perhaps Kerry should have done more to disown some of the language used at that big NYC fudraiser early in the campaign -- certainly could have helped.


Columbus, Ohio: Why is there surprise that President Bush won Ohio considering that the Republicans control all three branches of state government, and the Democrat Party is in such a woeful state that Jerry Springer is being considered as its next gubernatorial candidate? Kerry did well in such a situation.

Vaughn Ververs: I'm not sure anyone was really surprised that the president carried Ohio but there was reason to think Kerry had a better-than-even shot at it. The Democratic effort dumped tens of millions of dollars into the state and spent more time there than almost any other state. Couple that with the economic hit Ohio has taken over the past four years and add Treasury Secretary John Snow's comment that the job losses were "myth," and you get a recipe for a Kerry win. As it turned out, they fell just over 130,000 votes short. Credit the Bush campaign for having an effective effort as well.


Philadelphia, Pa.: This is the first time I can remember that a defeated Dem presidential candidate is returning to the Senate. What will Kerry's role be -- will he always "have our back" as he stated -- will he be more like a McCain? Any chance he will be a candidate in '08?

Vaughn Ververs: It will be largely up to Senator Kerry as to what his role will be. With Tom Daschle gone and Harry Reid set to become the next Dem leader in the Senate, Kerry will certainly have the profile to weigh in on just about anything. I anticipate that he will pick and choose places where he wants to be seen as a difference maker. As to '08, it's unlikely. While Kerry piled up more votes than any other Democratic candidate for president ever, it seemed that he never captured the party's heart.


Washington, D.C.: Hindsight being 20/20, would you agree that Edwards was a terrible choice for VP, given his lack of experience and never once being capable of delivering South Carolina? Furthermore, why is he being spoken of as a possible candidate in 2008? Besides the fact that he won't have a platform, won't he just basically be thought of as the second coming of Joe Lieberman?

Vaughn Ververs: Edwards wasn't a "terrible" choice, but there may have been better. Bob Graham may have brought some unwanted attention to the campaign with his meticulous diaries, but he may very well have brought Florida to the Dem column as well. That would have made the difference. Other than Graham, it's hard to think of another potential pick that would have brought their state. Gephardt may have helped in Missouri but that's no slam dunk. Edwards was picked, in part, to attract more "red" votes in rural areas, but wasn't very effective. And North Carolina was off the map well before November. As for Edwards in '08, he doesn't have much else to do for the next four years but run so look for him to give it a go.


Washington, D.C.: Will the Democrats move more to the center in order to appeal to the red state voters, or more to the left in order to appeal to its base, which appears to have become somewhat disgruntled as the Democrats have just stood by while the Republicans have drifted towards the right?

Vaughn Ververs: My theory has been that had Kerry been elected, he would have had a terrible time within his own party. Half of his base would have expected him to get out of Iraq regardless of his position during the campaign, the other half would have wanted him to withdraw "with honor." Dems need to find a way to broaden their base without losing that passion that drove them throughout the election cycle. That's not going to be easy to do.


Philadelphia, Pa.: My brother-in-law told me a week before the election that the main reason the evangelicals are voting for Bush is because of the Supreme Court and the long term impact on them. Did Rehnquist's illness give Bush the final momentum he needed in the last few days of the election? Did he give Rove the 3-4 points he claimed he lost over Bush's DUI revelation the last few days of the last presidential election?

Vaughn Ververs: It's doubtful that Rehnquist's illness had much of an impact because it was widely assumed that the next president would have multiple appointments so it was already an issue for many voters. It may have reminded them of the importance but those who voted on that issue were going to vote anyway.


Washington, D.C.: Good morning,

I know this may be a bit pre-mature, however, I think a lot of folks are immediately turning to '08. Do you see Barack Obama as a valid candidate? I see his ability to truly communicate with a broad group of constituents and wonder if he is the answer, or if he will still be too "green".

Vaughn Ververs: While Mr. Obama is certainly one of the brightest young stars of the party, he's a cycle or two away from getting into the presidential game. In fact, he was taken aback by being asked the question the day after the election and ruled out the possibility. Let him get his sea legs before throwing him into that fire. He will be on the vice presidential short list for any Dem in '08 though.


Vaughn Ververs: Hate to leave it here, but work calls. It's been an election for the history books and it's been a pleasure to have a front-row seat. Thanks for all the great questions -- Vaughn


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