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Questions About My Answers
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, February 25, 2000

If you think I'm borderline obsessive with the political trivia minutiae I throw in each column, you should see my readership. Every week I get tons of e-mail from folks who want to expand on my answers, challenge them, or show me why I'm wrong. Now, one would think that I would not want to let the world know that I am fallible. Truth be told, I get great satisfaction knowing there are people out there who are into this as much as I am, people who are in as much need of professional help as I am. This week's column focuses on some of the more illuminating correspondence.

Question: I find your column to be truly indispensable reading and an absolute gold mine of political facts and data. Thus I was surprised and disheartened to read your response as to whether Al Gore could name Bill Clinton as his running mate [see Dec. 3 column]. You said no, citing the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States." By January of 2001, President Clinton will have served two terms, the limit as decreed by the 22nd Amendment. You wrote, "Since he would thus be ineligible to serve again as president, he would be ineligible to serve as vice president as well."

Your answer is incorrect. The 22nd Amendment does not say two-term presidents are ineligible to be president – it only says that they are ineligible to be elected president ("No person shall be elected to the office of President more than twice...") The amendment does not, therefore, prohibit presidents such as Clinton from serving as president, acting as president, or exercising the powers and duties of president. It only prohibits a particular means of ascent to that office.

Thus, a Gore/Clinton ticket is entirely constitutional. It is unclear to me why the crafters of the 22nd Amendment opted for the vague and less-restrictive "no person shall be elected to the office of President" when they could have employed the clearer language used in Article II and the 12th Amendment ("no person shall be eligible to the office of President...").

I concede the utter improbability of the above scenario; in the real world there is no meaningful distinction between "ineligible to be elected to the office of President" and "ineligible to the office of President," but that seemingly semantic discernment has had, in other parts of the Constitution, meaningful and significant constitutional significance. – Dr. Griffin Hathaway, Dept. of Political Science, Towson University, Towson, Md.

Answer: Dr. Hathaway is not the only one to have raised this point, but I am still searching for the definitive answer on this. Over the years this has often come up, and many constitutional authorities have sided with my original answer. John Vile, the chair of the political science department at Middle Tennessee University, wrote in his valuable 1998 book, "The United States Constitution: Questions and Answers," "Can an individual who has served as president run for office as a vice president? Under term limits now specified in the 22nd Amendment – this would be possible only in the case of presidents who have not served as president for six years or longer." I encourage further discussion on this question.

Speaking of loopholes, here's an even more intriguing one:

Question: Since the minimum age for president is 35, and for the House 30, the speaker of the House can be under 35. Since the speaker is second in line to succeed to the presidency, would the speaker be excluded if he/she were under 35? And what would happen if the speaker, or anyone in the order of succession, had already served his limits as president? – Joseph B. Comstock, Austin, Tex.

Answer: I love your question, but I confess I don't have an answer. Help!

Question: I enjoy your column a lot but you should have given a stronger response to the question about crossover voting in the South Carolina GOP primary [see Feb. 18 column]. There is little or no evidence of "raiding" actually influencing the results of primary elections. Crossover voting is almost always based on attraction to a candidate in the opposing party. The idea being advanced by some Bush supporters, including former Gov. Carroll Campbell, that Democrats were planning on voting for McCain in South Carolina because he would be the weaker candidate in November is preposterous! In fact, Democratic Party leaders are trying to discourage Democrats from voting for McCain in the Republican primary because they know that he would be a tougher opponent in the general election. How can a Republican with strong appeal to independents and Democrats be a weaker opponent than one who lacks such appeal? – Alan Abramowitz, Alben Barkley Professor of Political Science, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.

Answer: The Bush camp in South Carolina, led by Carroll Campbell, made an effective and ultimately winning appeal to the electorate – that the Democrats were out to steal the primary away from them, and they should not let that happen. Republican voters responded overwhelmingly, and Bush beat McCain convincingly.

In Michigan, things turned out differently. Geoffrey Fieger, the disastrous 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former attorney for Jack Kevorkian, openly urged Dems to vote in the GOP primary (and, subtly, for McCain), solely for the purpose of embarrassing Gov. John Engler, Bush's patron in the state. This was a clear case of a Democrat urging fellow Democrats to cause mischief in the other party, and the widespread feeling was that the Bush campaign was handed a golden opportunity to link McCain with those "liberals" who were out to "hijack the election to help Al Gore." The Bushites tried to make the same case Campbell made in South Carolina, but this time it didn't work. Democrats and independents did come out on primary day, did vote in the Republican primary, and were responsible for McCain's victory over Bush.

But did they do so in order to help the weaker (i.e., McCain) candidate? According to exit polls, a clear majority of the Democrats who voted in the GOP primary said they felt McCain to be the stronger Republican in November. So despite Fieger's tactics, this would suggest that many Democrats crossed over not out of mischief – otherwise, why vote for someone who had a better shot at defeating Gore? This would support your point.

Question: In your Dec. 3 column you stated that former Sen. Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) is nine months older than Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). In fact, Thurmond is three months older than Mansfield. – Davy Jones, Nashville, Tenn.

Answer: My abacus failed me on this one; you are among many who wrote to point out the error. One of those who caught me, William Abbott, also said that my claim (in the same column) that there are 131 living former senators was incorrect – that the number is really 134, and then he went on to name all 134!! (List available on request.) Talk about a true political junkie! Following his note, I spent a tremendous amount of time checking out his list, and as it turns out he is correct. (This is what makes doing the column so rewarding.) For the record, two former senators from his list – Carl Curtis (R-Neb.) and Maurine Neuberger (D-Ore.) – died within the past month, well after he sent his note.

Question: In your recent list of tickets formed by rivals for the nomination [see Nov. 12 column], you left out the 1944 GOP ticket of Thomas E. Dewey and John Bricker. – Daniel Fox, Columbus, Ohio.

Answer: You're right. Ohio Gov. Bricker, a strong isolationist at a time the nation was fighting a world war, was never a threat to Dewey's nomination, but he did stay in the contest as late as just prior to the vote at the convention.

Question: Why did Delaware even bother to have a primary for the Democrats if it is non-binding? Do any other states have non-binding (or "beauty contest") primaries? Any idea why anyone in Delaware would bother to vote in a primary that is nothing more than a straw poll? – Mike Cradler, Wilmington, Del.

Answer: Democrats do not allow any states other than Iowa and New Hampshire to hold their delegate selection contests before the first week in March. When Delaware decided it would hold its primary in February, Democrats were forced to make theirs non-binding, and award their delegates via caucuses held in March.

Washington is also holding a February primary (Feb. 29), and so while the GOP primary that day is binding, the Democratic one is a beauty contest, with delegates to be selected in a process beginning with caucuses on March 7. Bill Bradley is making a serious effort in the beauty contest, not to win delegates, but to prove that he remains a potent force in the race for the Democratic nomination. Afraid of being overwhelmed by Al Gore in the multi-state March 7 contests, Bradley is looking at the Feb. 29 event as his chance for a breakthrough. Washington State Democratic chair Paul Berendt, who supports Gore, said Bradley is "desperate for a win. He has to win someplace or his campaign will die. It is high risk what he's doing, but what choice does he have?" The state has long been hospitable to "outsider" candidates – Democrats Gary Hart and Paul Tsongas won in 1984 and 1992 respectively, and Republican Pat Robertson won the caucuses in 1988. But none parlayed their wins to the nomination.

California's controversial event on March 7 is part-beauty contest and part-binding primary – and the subject of next week's column.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2000 Ken Rudin

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