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Hello Al Gore, Goodbye Political Junkie
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, August 17, 2001

NOTE: It pains me to announce that, after more than three years, the Political Junkie column is coming to an end. The same goes for my ScuttleButton puzzle contest. For details, see the last question.

Question: Do you think Al Gore can make a comeback and secure the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004? Can he manage to come across more human, humble and connect with voters
– Vijay Naik, Pukalani, Haw

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Gore has advantages -- and disadvantages -- for 2004. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: In my mind there is no question that Gore is running again. Nobody comes as close as he did - and some argue that he came more than close - and decides to sit out the next election. There has been the complaint that as the obvious leader of the opposition, he should have been visible and gone public with his disagreements with the Bush administration much earlier. But I'm with those who think that his hiatus from public view was a smart thing, that any earlier emergence would have been seen as "sour grapes." And it gave Democrats who believe he squandered a certain victory a respite from all the things they didn't like about him to begin with.

The argument can also be made that there was no residual damage to Gore for his disappearance. The latest polls show the country as divided as it was on Nov. 7 - trial runs pitting Gore vs. Bush have them virtually tied. So it's not that he wasted any valuable time.

For sure, Gore will have to earn the Democratic nomination this time around; as sitting vice president in 2000, many in the party felt that the nomination should have gone to him by default (and, considering the fact that Gore beat Bill Bradley in every primary and caucus, in a way it did). Plus, there are far more Democrats thought to be looking at the race in 2004 - such as Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) and Sens. Tom Daschle (S.D.), John Edwards (N.C.), Joe Lieberman (Conn.), John Kerry (Mass.) and Joe Biden (Del.), for starters. None of them, with the possible exception of Lieberman, will roll over dead for him. But, unlike the others, Gore will have the advantage of being out of office - no sitting member of Congress has won the Democratic nomination since JFK in 1960 - and thus could run full-time.

The sticking point to all this - and you address it in your question - is whether we will see a "new" Gore. There already has been endless talk about his new facial hair, which I will not go into here. There has always been a real disconnect between Gore and many voters. We saw it in his first presidential bid in 1988, and it was there last year as well. I still see him as the favorite for the 2004 nomination. But there are new, fresher faces out there, bearded or not, and Gore's political skills had better be honed to the max if he hopes to go all the way.

Question: If Al Gore were to choose Joe Lieberman again to be his running mate, would that seem too much of a repeat of the last campaign? Has a presidential candidate who didn't win (well, a matter of opinion) ever had the same vice presidential pick the second time around? Is there any law that prevents this?
– Kenny Rosen, Arlington, Va.

Answer: There is no law to prevent it and, in fact, the latest buzz is that Gore could announce Lieberman as his running mate before the 2004 primaries even begin. By most accounts, Lieberman was a plus for the Democrats last year and may have been the reason why the ticket performed as well as it did in Florida. There has never been a case in which a losing presidential ticket ran twice in a row. The closest historical parallel I can think of came in 1836, when William Henry Harrison was defeated for the presidency by Martin Van Buren. Back then, there was never the same number of presidential and vice presidential candidates in the fall election, and they did not run as a team in all states. One of the vice presidential hopefuls that year was John Tyler, who actually did appear with Harrison on some state ballots. Harrison lost in 1836 but came back in 1840 when he - along with running mate Tyler - was elected.

Question: Democratic Senators John Edwards (N.C.), Tom Daschle (S.D.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.) are all up for re-election in 2004. Can they (like Lyndon Johnson in 1960 and Joe Lieberman last year) run for both re-election and be on the national ticket? What are the state laws in their respective states concerning this?
– Richard Cinquino, Philadelphia, Pa.

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The Texas GOP batted .500 against Lloyd Bentsen in 1988. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Whenever this issue comes up, everybody's frame of reference immediately goes to the so-called "LBJ Law" that was passed by the Texas state legislature in 1959. Texas lawmakers wanted to allow Lyndon Johnson, the Senate majority leader, to be able to run for president and re-election to his Senate seat at the same time. As it turned out, Johnson's bid for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination failed, but he was named as John Kennedy's running mate, and thus ran for both offices in the fall. He went 2-for-2 that year, as the Democrats took the White House and Johnson won a third Senate term over some Republican college professor by the name of John Tower. (After Kennedy's victory, Johnson resigned his Senate seat, which was won by Tower in a special election.)

Johnson was not the only Texan to benefit from this law. In 1976, it allowed Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) to run for both offices, though his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination went nowhere. In 1988, when Bentsen was again up for re-election, he was named as Michael Dukakis' vice-presidential running mate. The Dukakis-Bentsen ticket lost, but Bentsen retained his Senate seat. And in 1996, Phil Gramm was seeking both the Republican presidential nomination and re-election to a third Senate term. As with Bentsen, his national ambitions were not realized, but he retained his Senate seat.

As for the candidates you mention, there is no law in South Dakota prohibiting Daschle from running for both offices. There used to be one in North Carolina, but that was changed in 1995, removing any barrier for Edwards. As for Bayh, I touched upon this in my June 29 column.

Mary Beth Schneider, the superb political reporter for the Indianapolis Star, writes that "as a practical matter," Bayh may have to give up his seat in 2004 if he were named to the ticket since voters, "especially in conservative Indiana, may not care for a politician seeking two offices at once as Joe Lieberman did in 2000. But legally he can run for both in Indiana," as the law was changed in 1996 for Sen. Richard Lugar, who was seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

There's also John McCain. The Republican senator's term is also up in 2004, and Arizona law is unclear whether or not he would be barred from seeking both offices. In 1964, Sen. Barry Goldwater was actively running for both, though he withdrew his Senate candidacy shortly after winning the GOP presidential nod. McCain says he will not run for president in 2004, as a Republican or an independent, but pundits are not so sure. The feeling is, however, that whatever he does, he will not seek a fourth Senate term that year.

As for Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), he is of course up for re-election every two years, which includes 2004. Missouri law allows him to seek the nomination for both offices, but if he were to get the Democratic presidential nod, he could not run for re-election to the House. But here's my gut feeling about Gephardt. He clearly is within striking distance to become Speaker of the House in 2002. If the Democrats regain control, it would make no sense to give up the speakership for a long-shot bid for the White House. And if the Democrats once again failed to regain control, then why would voters reward Gephardt with the presidential nomination?

Question: In 1950, two independents were elected in the House. One was Frazier Reams in Ohio's 9th district. Who was the other one?
– Renzo Ruf, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland

Answer: Only one independent, Reams, was elected to the House that year. However, that year another congressman who was neither a Democrat nor a Republican - New York's Vito Marcantonio, a member of the American Labor Party - was defeated in his bid for re-election. No true independent was elected to the House again until Vermont's Bernie Sanders in 1990.

Question: I love your column. How often is it published?
– Andrew Stevens, Office of Rep. Jerry Kleczka (D-Wisc.), Washington, D.C.

Answer: When you sent in this question a month ago, I gave you a personal reply. But regrettably, things have changed. washingtonpost.com, which has been carrying both this column and my ScuttleButton puzzle since their inception in 1998, has decided to drop them. The lack of advertising on the Web has unfortunately affected "Political Junkie" and "ScuttleButton."

This will be the last column until Friday, Sept. 7, when the column will be published for the final time on washingtonpost.com. With thousands of loyal readers, and thousands of questions I've been saving for subsequent columns, I hope to find another home for these features in the future. Until then, I can be reached at politicaljunkie@erols.com.

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 2001 Ken Rudin


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