HANDICAP? TSK, TSK. "DIFFERENTLY ABLED," PLEASE
CQ columnist (and former Hotline editor) Craig Crawford knows a great deal more about presidential elections than yours truly, but his latest column
handicapping the (perhaps soon to be resolved) Veepstakes fun struck me as a tad feeble and sometimes even silly. So here's something like a fisking, though I'll only take on those candidates deemed to have a better than 10% chance of winning Kerry's endorsement:
Sen. John Edwards, N.C.
Odds: 3-1 (Chance for the ticket: 25 percent)
Pro: Caught the fancy of Democrats during the primary seasons, starting with a close second place to Kerry in the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses. Polling around the country demonstrates an appeal to independent voters that Kerry lacks.
All true. (Some way to begin a fisking, huh?)
Con: A one-term senator with no other political experience, he will be dogged by questions about whether he could take charge in the Oval Office in an emergency. And picking him is so widely expected, Kerry would barely make news with this choice.
Um, I agree. (Is this working? Well, hold on.) While I won't make any prognostications on whom Kerry will pick, I do agree with the widespread belief that Edwards is the likeliest of the likely/available veeps. Many will point to the historical fact that the presumptive pick is never the actual pick, but little about this election so far has followed the history books. Besides: As far as indicators go that's a particularly weak one, unless a very good reason explains why something keeps happening. I'm not aware of one here.
Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Mo.
Odds: 5-1 (Chance for the ticket: 20 percent)
Pro: Delivers Big Labor.
Oh, sure. Just like in Iowa? Gephardt and Dean more or less split the labor vote, and if they had any impact on the caucus this year, it was barely detectable amidst other factors. Moreover, labor's influence in presidential politics has been in a long decline, and unlike union leadership, unionized workers individually are very moderate and often vote for Republicans.
Could be a slam dunk if Kerry rests his bid on a Midwest play, and might cinch Missouri’s 11 electoral votes. Of all the contenders, he is the most akin to Kerry’s low-key style and liberal ideology.
Low-key style? Try boring, dull, and uninspiring. Sure, Cheney isn't terribly exciting, but with all his faults George W. Bush in 2000 generated enthusiasm far more than John Kerry does in 2004. Kerry needs a bit of juice -- that's why Edwards or Hillary (about which more below) would be better picks.
Con: Widely perceived as an unexciting captive of Washington politics with limited appeal to swing voters.
Unexciting, yes. Wasn't this a plus just one sentence ago? As for the swing voters, I don't know about that. When Gephardt declared his candidacy last year, there was a take-Gep-seriously conservative boomlet. George Will probably wrote the definitive piece on this (if it's available online outside of Nexis, I can't find it). If avowed conservatives find something to like about Gephardt -- and despite his "miserable failure" catch phrase, I do -- then so would swing voters.
Oh yeah, did I mention Gephardt voted for the war and, unlike John Kerry, pretty much stood by that vote throughout the primaries? (Though not as strongly as Joe Lieberman did, and look how far that got him.) Kerry needs the left, since Nader will at least be on the ballot in Florida. A relatively unapologetic Gephardt wouldn't help.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, N.Y.
Odds: 9-1 (Chance for the ticket: 10 percent)
Pro: Like a bunker-busting bomb, picking her would remake this race and provoke a news media frenzy. No one could do more to excite the Democratic base. Her background in health care politics might be an asset as Kerry struggles to spotlight the issue.
How hard would it be for the Republicans to bring back Harry and Louise
? (Yes, I'm linking Wikipedia's black sheep sister, Disinfopedia.) Hillarycare, as it came to be known, was a total disaster. There is some argument to be made for a federal reorganization of health care -- even a conservative one -- but to say that Hillary Clinton is a credible figure on the issue is absurd.
Con: She turns off some swing voters. And Bill Clinton’s book tour is highlighting his scandalous past more than his supporters had hoped.
Okay, I agree with that, too.
Consider this a failed fisking. (So why am I posting it? Because it was fun to write, and I got to criticize someone far more important than me!) If anything, it underscores the point that nobody -- not Craig Crawford, nor any other experienced Beltway observer -- has any idea who Kerry will choose. We all think Edwards is the most likely, but there are a host of reasons to think he will not be the pick. And although Hillary is probably a bit more of a longshot than Crawford writes, it's hard to think of anyone more likely. (Vilsack? Surely you jest.)
Crawford gets the details wrong, but he gets the bigger picture right. Then again, that bigger picture is conventional wisdom, so it's not like he stuck his neck out at all. Despite it all, I do have to give him some credit for titling the column "Use This Tip Sheet Now, It's About To Become Obsolete." Ha! Very true.
You've probably seen the news on Drudge that Kerry will announce his VP pick first on the internet, in an e-mail to supporters (read: anyone who signs up for the mailing list). This will delay the announcement not a whit, since every news organization up to and possibly including al Qaeda's internal listserv signed up months ago. But it's nonetheless smart: it'll get plenty of undecided-but-curious voters to sign up for regular messages from the campaign. It also hasn't been done before, so it's possibly the most futuristic advancement in online politicking since Howard Dean revolutionized the medium.These are intangibles, and who knows how many votes this could really pick up (just ask Dean). But presidential elections -- especially the close ones -- are often won and lost on the intangibles. So chalk this one up as an ... uh, I don't know. I said no prognostications.