The "veepstakes" is the name given to all the useless, yet strangely fascinating speculation about whom each presidential nominee will choose as his running mate. Since the incumbent president is a Republican, all eyes are turned toward Democratic nominee John Kerry. I'm just as much of a political junkie as the next guy, always searching for some new drug to fulfill my addiction to media-exploited electoral coverage, so I have been following the veepstakes closely. Let's look at the names being tossed around and see what they have to offer.
In the media's constant quest for another way to use the Clinton name, Hillary Rodham Clinton has been thrown out as a possible VP. Simplest reason to reject this: it's unlikely that she'll attract any votes that Kerry won't win anyway. She's also too focused on her own career right now.
A strong contender in my opinion is Senator Evan Bayh, D-Ind. He neatly embodies the party's shift to more moderate views and strongly appeals to swing voters. However, he is from Indiana. Picking up Indiana as a blue state is about as likely as Bill Clinton running for a third term. It would be perfect, but somehow against the laws of the land. Bayh may help in neighboring state Ohio, however, a highly contested swing state this year.
While we're in the Midwest, let's turn to Dick Gephart, D-Mo. He's a seasoned and groomed congressional insider with lots of labor union support, but an unfortunate lack of charisma and appeal. Sound familiar?
On to the South. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was an early hit who, strangely, dropped out of the limelight recently. He's a good ideological balance to Kerry. Also, New Mexico is important. Al Gore won the state by only a few hundred votes in 2000. Unfortunately, Richardson lacks national name recognition. The argument that simply because he's Hispanic he'll draw the Hispanic vote is more offensive than effective.
At first, I was thrilled to hear former Democratic senator Sam Nunn's name mentioned. This former senator for Georgia relatively unknown, but he is well-respected within the party. He recently re-entered the public eye with his work on the Nuclear Threat Initiative. He could pull votes in the South, and he's strong on national defense. However, I've heard the guy speak, and as much as I love him, I can't say he's all that exciting. If I got bored, the average voter won't even give him a second look.
Another media favorite is Senator Bob Graham, D-Fla. His used-car salesman aura aside, Graham is a dedicated Democrat, truly solid on the issues. And in case you missed the 2000 election, Florida is an important state to win. However, if you followed the 2000 election, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris aren't going to let anyone but Bush win, no matter what the vote count says. The Florida strategy isn't viable until the power at the state level turns over.
Perhaps the most controversial possibility is Senator John McCain, R-Ariz. Granted, there's no way Kerry can lose with McCain as his running mate. I know McCain came across like a moderate in the 2000 primary, but comparing his voting record to Kerry's shows a serious lack of alignment. Good luck making that work in today's two party system.
This brings us to everyone's favorite VP speculation, Senator John Edwards, D-N.C. I'm tempted to reject this idea just because it's what everyone is saying, but the beauty of the duo can't be denied. Edwards has great southern appeal. He is much more moderate than Kerry. He's personable, charismatic, trustworthy, and just so damn charming! But his political pull in the South is debatable; there's a reason he's not running for re-election of his Senate seat. In addition, Bush is just itching to go after his background as a tort lawyer.
Keep in mind that the importance of a vice presidential candidate entirely disappears once the person actually becomes vice president. The sole purpose of a running mate is to make the presidential candidate more electable by balancing the ticket in terms of regional, political, and personality appeal. Looking ahead to what will likely prove to be the longest, dirtiest presidential campaign in years, I welcome any discussion about the best way to put on a strong, united front against Bush in November. And I can't help but smirk and join John Kerry in saying, "Bring it on."