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Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, March 10, 2000

Question: Now that John McCain is out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination, can he, technically, turn around and run as an independent? – Frances Del Rio, Oakland, Calif.

Answer: Technically, yes. The filing deadlines for independent presidential candidates in most states are still months away, and should he decide to emulate his hero, Teddy Roosevelt, who left the Republican Party for a third-party bid, he could do so. That would almost assuredly hand the election to Al Gore. But McCain has said all along that he would not leave the GOP, and when he announced this week that he was "suspending" his campaign, he repeated that pledge.

Anderson, a Republican, bolted his party during the 1980 primary season to run as an independent. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Then-Rep. John Anderson (R-Ill.) is the most recent candidate who bolted his party for an independent presidential effort. During the 1980 Republican primary season, the liberal Anderson openly sought independent votes and even appeared with California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democratic White House hopeful, to discuss women's issues. Anderson narrowly lost the GOP primaries in Massachusetts and Vermont and finished a strong second in Illinois. But he was never a threat to win the nomination, and in April he left the GOP race and announced he would run as an independent.

Anderson had logistical problems in his independent bid from the get-go, fighting an uphill battle both to raise money and get on the ballot in all 50 states. He was perceived to be more of a drain on President Carter than on Republican nominee Ronald Reagan, so many state Democratic parties filed legal challenges to keep Anderson off the ballot. When the League of Women Voters agreed to allow him to participate in the fall debates, Carter said he would not appear if Anderson did. After he was shut out of the debates, Anderson never got the attention he sorely needed. He finished with 6.6 percent of the vote, carrying no states.

Question: Thinking back to the Bradley-McCain handshake in New Hampshire, would it be possible to have a presidential candidate from one party and a vice-presidential candidate from another? Or do they have to be from the same party? – Susan DeBow, Maineville, Ohio

Answer: Possible but not probable, given the fact that presidential nominees more often than not pick their running mates to unite their respective parties. Given the raw partisanship exhibited by today's Democrats and Republicans, naming a V.P. from the other party is unthinkable.

But it did happen once. At the 1864 Republican convention, with the nation torn by civil war, President Lincoln selected Andrew Johnson, a Tennessee Democrat, as his running mate. They won in a GOP landslide. But Lincoln's assassination the next year and Johnson's ascension to the throne led to bitter battles between the new Democratic president and the Republican Congress.

A ticket composed of a Republican and a Democrat might make more sense in a third-party or independent effort, especially if the candidates made a centrist appeal for votes. Republican John Anderson attempted to bridge the divisions between the two parties in 1980 when he named former Wisconsin Gov. Patrick Lucey, a Democrat, as his running mate. But the pair may have turned off more voters than they attracted.

Question: I really liked Sen. McCain and I voted for him in the South Carolina primary. However, didn't he move to Arizona to run for Congress? If so, how is this any different from Hillary Clinton moving to New York to run for the Senate? – Wade Peeler, Gaffney, S.C.
McCain, who ran this year as a "Reagan Republican," ran similarly in his 1984 re-election bid for the House. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: There are many similarities. McCain did move to Arizona from Virginia in 1981 expressly to seek a seat in Congress. While he was in the state shopping around for a district, John Rhodes, the former minority leader, decided unexpectedly to retire. McCain, with his new wife, Cindy, immediately bought a house in the 1st Congressional District. Lavishly financed, McCain won a contentious primary in the district in September of 1982, easily won election in November, and held the seat until 1986, when he won the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater.

The difference between his situation and Hillary Clinton's, if there is one, is that McCain's wife is the daughter of a wealthy beer distributor in Phoenix. It gave McCain the cover to move to Arizona, and he set up shop in a public relations job handed to him by his new father-in-law.

Aside from being a "life-long Yankees fan," Mrs. Clinton doesn't have any New York roots. She insists she was always planning to move to the Empire State after her husband's presidency, and that it was only the urging of local pols that got her to consider a Senate bid. McCain's new residence was not an issue in his 1982 campaign. Whether it haunts Clinton in her Senate campaign remains to be seen.

See also:
Does McCain Have a Sense of Yuma? (Dec. 10, 1999)
Can McCain Afford to Skip Iowa? (Aug. 6, 1999)
Citizen McCain's Panama Problem? (July 9, 1998)

Question: In what month will we know who the candidate for each party is? – Sarah, age 8, in Michigan.

Answer: Your question arrived weeks ago, before Super Tuesday, when there was some doubt as to whom the nominees would be. Now there is none: Bill Bradley's withdrawal and John McCain's suspension eliminated any suspense as to whom the Democratic and Republican standard bearers will be in November. Officially, the nominees are not certified until their national conventions. Republicans hold theirs in Philadelphia July 31-Aug. 3; Democrats will be in Los Angeles Aug. 14-17.

Post Script: If you collect political buttons (as I do) – or if you want to chat about campaign trivia – or if you are just dying to meet Ken Rudin in person – then you'll want to come to a political memorabilia show at the Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg, Md., on Saturday, March 18. The hotel is on the corner of Route 355 and Montgomery Village Ave. (map and directions), and the show is from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the 18th. I'd love to see you there; write me for more details. Believe me, if you are going to see Gaithersburg just once in your life, this is the time to do it.

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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