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The Search for a Running Mate
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, March 17, 2000

Question: With the GOP convention in Philadelphia, what do you think the chances are of George W. Bush picking Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge for Veep? – Larry Otter, Dublin, Pa.
A no-brainer if not for abortion. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Ridge seems to be a favorite these days for a number of reasons. He is Catholic, which would help shore up Bush's weaknesses among Catholic voters since the South Carolina primary. The McCain camp's post-South Carolina phone calls alleging that Bush is anti-Catholic in the wake of his visit to Bob Jones University did some damage. He hails from Pennsylvania, a key swing state with 23 electoral votes which has supported the winner in every presidential race but one in the past half century. Ridge has both executive and legislative experience, having served six terms in the House before winning the governorship in 1994. As governor he has helped push through anti-crime and welfare overhaul legislation. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran and a longtime pal of John McCain, which could help soothe the Arizonan's hard feelings about Bush. And, perhaps most importantly, Ridge is a longtime friend of the Texas governor – something you couldn't say about any of the more recent GOP ticket-mates (Dole-Kemp, Bush-Quayle, Reagan-Bush, Ford-Dole, Nixon-Agnew, etc.).

On the other hand, a Bush-Ridge ticket would be decidedly weak on foreign policy. And Ridge also is pro-choice on abortion, which would not exactly win much enthusiastic support at the Republican national convention. Does Bush name a V.P. who will energize the right wing of the party for November? Or does he feel he must move toward the center to capture independents and moderates, particularly after his bad reviews in South Carolina? Are the likely gains from choosing Ridge canceled out by the possible losses to Pat Buchanan's Reform Party candidacy? This summer's polls will likely influence Bush's final choice.

For the record, the last time two governors ran on the same ticket was 1948, when the Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey of New York and Earl Warren of California. They lost. The last time a GOP running mate hailed from the same state as the convention location was 1884, when the Chicago convention selected Sen. John Logan of Illinois to join the ticket led by James G. Blaine. They lost too.

Question: Michigan Gov. John Engler had been mentioned as a possible running mate for Bush. Do you think his failure to deliver a win in the Michigan primary hurt his chances? – Jason Fox, Philadelphia, Pa.

Answer: That's putting it mildly. It would be unfair to pin Bush's Michigan loss on Engler, an early and enthusiastic backer; no one foresaw the huge Democratic crossover that gave McCain the victory. But during his decade in office, Engler has made a fair number of enemies, and anti-Engler sentiment motivated much of that crossover. The governor, who seemed to be eagerly seeking the V.P. spot four years ago, is not doing so this time, and in fact has been pushing for McCain.

Question: As an Indiana resident, I feel that Sen. Evan Bayh would be a tremendous asset as Gore's running mate. I don't think he'd pull the state into the Democratic column, but he can help with Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Illinois – swing states contested by both sides. Pols here know that Evan is a tough campaigner, winning twice for governor before his Senate victory. – Adesina Adebowale, West Lafayette, Ind.

Answer: Any list of Gore running mates has to include Bayh, who, like Gore, portrays himself as a centrist Democrat and who, like Gore, is the son of a vanquished liberal senator. And while Bayh, even more so than Gore, has a tendency to come up short on charisma, he has attained unusual success in a reliably Republican state. His gubernatorial victory in 1988 was especially impressive, given the fact that two Hoosiers headed the GOP ticket that year (Dan Quayle for Veep and Sen. Dick Lugar for reelection).

Question: I say that Gore will pick Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. What really matters is that the V.P. is experienced enough so that he or she could step into the top job, and that he/she will perform well both on the campaign trail and in the vice-presidential debate. Kerry meets all of these criteria. He's a decorated Vietnam war veteran who is well regarded on national policy in the Senate. He ran in a tough campaign, debated strongly, and emerged victorious against Bill Weld in 1996. He's even married to a Republican. The key to a Democratic victory is California, New York, the industrial Midwest and the Northeast. Kerry helps solidify support in all of these areas. – Andrew Wong, New York, N.Y.

Answer: You're right about Kerry in every respect, though when it comes down to it I think geography will play an important role in Gore's selection. I'd be surprised if Gore went in this direction, even if his initials are JFK.

Question: Do you think Gore might take Hillary Clinton as his running mate? That in turn may compel Bush to name Elizabeth Dole as his. This means that in the new millennium the U.S. will finally join the list of countries which have had women at their highest political levels. This would be a great victory for gender equality and the world at large. Coming from Sri Lanka, I strongly feel that the U.S. should become a modern society as my country did when we elected the world's first female head of government in 1960. She, Ms. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, is currently our prime minister too. And our current president is also a woman. – Ravindra Wickremasinghe, Vienna, Austria

The chances for DiFi on the ticket may be slipping. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Hillary Clinton may be otherwise occupied, but both Elizabeth Dole, on the Republican side, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, on the Democratic side, make most lists of potential running mates. Dole, however, really failed to take off in her own presidential bid last year, and she did not make much of an impression when she campaigned for Bush during the primaries. And besides, does Bush really want Bob Dole out on the campaign trail this year? Feinstein could help solidify California for the Democrats. But she is up for reelection this year, and while state law allows her to run for both, some say she and Gore are not especially compatible. She was reportedly furious at President Clinton's behavior in the Lewinsky matter, and one wonders if that would lead to further conflict with the vice president. Plus, there are bound to be some questions about the business deals of her husband, Richard Blum (see July 23, 1999 column).

Other women whose names have been bandied about – but who realistically have little chance – are Gov. Christie Whitman (R-N.J.), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D-Md.).

See also:
Name That Running Mate (Nov. 12, 1999)
Lamenting the Withdrawal of Elizabeth Dole (Nov. 5, 1999)
Extremism in Defense of This Column is No Vice (July 2, 1999)
For Gore, Anointment or Disappointment? (April 30, 1999)

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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