By Ken Rudin
Question: If Al Gore stumbles in the Iowa caucuses and early primaries, is it possible other Democrats besides Bill Bradley could get into the race? This surely would be affected by the compressed primary schedule. Frank Smist, Kansas City, Mo.
The dream-candidate scenario has surfaced before. Ted Kennedy was going to rescue the Democratic Party from the hapless George McGovern in 1972. Hubert Humphrey was going to come off the sidelines and take on Jimmy Carter in 1976. Gerald Ford was not going to let the GOP jump off the cliff with the conservative Ronald Reagan in 1980. We always wait for these candidates to appear, but they seldom do.
Question: John Anderson abandoned his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in the spring of 1980, opting instead to run for the White House as an independent. What do you think the chances are of Bill Bradley doing something similar from the Democratic side in 2000? G. Scott Thomas, Tonawanda, N.Y.
Anderson's rise in 1980's early GOP primaries was boosted by support from independent (and in some states, Democratic) voters. These voters not Republicans largely fueled his decision to seek the presidency as an independent. Anderson figured he had a chance to win if Republicans thought of likely nominee Ronald Reagan as too conservative and Democrats perceived President Carter as too flawed. But as is the case with most independent candidacies, the early dream of grandeur some polls showed Anderson in the 20s and preparations were made for an Electoral College stalemate faded fast. He never was able to raise the money to compete with the two major-party nominees. He wound up with just 6.6 percent of the vote.
Question: Bill Bradley seems to be a real threat to win the Democratic nomination. And Bill Clinton is heavily supporting Al Gore. This could pose real problems for the Democrats. It would seem to me that Clinton is in a position where he could seriously aggravate Bradley supporters. What do you think? Andrew Kleit, State College, Pa.
Answer: Clinton is known to be concerned about his legacy, and Gore's election as his successor is one way to assure it. The president has said many times well before Bradley entered the race that he will do whatever he can to see that Gore is nominated and elected. That remains the case, despite reports of friction over the Veepster's public criticism of Clinton's involvement with Monica Lewinsky. But Bradley's rise in the polls may be partly a reaction to weariness over what Clinton has put the country through during the past seven years, so in that respect the Bradley people might not mind having Clinton and Gore linked in voters' minds.
Post Script: In the June 18 column, there was a question about presidents who "continued their political life in elected office" after they vacated 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Mike Dowling of West Palm Beach, Fla.; Adam Hurtubise of Malden, Mass.; Matt Pinkus of Silver Spring, Md.; and Willy Jay of Churchville, Md., all pointed out the case of John Tyler. Tyler, the nation's 10th president, took over following the death of William Henry Harrison. He left office in 1845 after failing to win his party's nomination for a full term. In November of 1861, Tyler, 71, won election to the Confederate Congress as a representative from Virginia. But he died on Jan. 18, 1862 while preparing to attend the first session of this Congress. So though he was elected, he never served. And that gets me off the hook with my answer.
The following came in response to another question in that June 18 column:
Question: I was surprised you left out Wendell Willkie in your list of dark- horse nominees. Certainly, no political pro gave him much of a chance when the Republican convention began in 1940. He was a declared Democrat until 1939, a Democratic delegate who voted for FDR at the 1932 convention, and finally won the 1940 GOP nomination on the sixth ballot. Dennis McCulloch, Kansas City, Mo.
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© Copyright 1999 Ken Rudin