Veepstakes 2000

By Nicholas Sanchez
web posted April 10, 2000

As we get ever so closer to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in July and August, respectively, bored columnists (this writer included) will spend some idle time speculating on who George W. Bush and Al Gore will pick as their running mates. Will George W. pick a woman? Will Gore have the first Hispanic on a national ticket? Will these two base their selections on regional or gender or racial politics? Is it Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi for the Republican vice-presidential nominee? Is it boxers or briefs for the Democratic vice-presidential nominee? And on and on and on....

Such speculation is born out of the fact that while there are some public policy differences between Bush and Gore, they are largely cut from the same cloth of the reigning political aristocracy. Neither of these men can claim with a straight face to have "outsider" status. George W. did not raise $70 plus million dollars in the primary season because of his stirring oratories; he raised it because he had access to Daddy's Rolodex. Al Gore can run around the country wearing all the earth-toned suits and golf shirts with khakis that he wants to; the fact remains that he was raised in an elegant Washington, DC hotel and chauffeured to and from private school. And so, having resigned ourselves to the fact that these two gray men are the two main choices for president, we in the punditocracy look anxiously to the "Veep" selection, hoping and praying that these two prim Tories pick someone who will liven up the race a little. There is always great intrigue in this selection. A good vice-presidential pick can help the national ticket by appealing to a region's cultural/religious flavor that is foreign to the presidential nominee - e.g., John F. Kennedy's selection of Lyndon B. Johnson prevented the South from apostatizing to the Republicans. A bad vice-presidential pick either provides no significant geographical advantage or, worse yet, embarrasses the ticket - e.g., I am sad to say, George Bush's selection of Dan Quayle in 1988.

George W., known for his smirk and schoolboy teasing, has been vetting highly visible GOPers for his number two spot. Al Gore has kept his cards a bit closer to his vest. Thus, our eyes turn to the men and women Bush is currently considering for the national Number 2 spot, their positives and negatives, and their chances for being selected.

Among them are:

John Kasich
- The mop-haired Congressman from Ohio who always acts as if he just drank a six-pack of soda and downed eight table packets of sugar is the most recent name to pop up as a likely VP choice.


Plusses: He is young, energetic, and his enthusiastic manner may help attract new voters to the GOP in the fall.

Negatives: Kasich has never been elected to statewide office, and he actually makes GW look mature, which may cause a "stature problem" for the GOP ticket with over-aged kids running for the two highest government posts in the land. Moreover, Kasich is quirky. Although he touts himself as a solid conservative, he has broken ranks with his party and the conservative movement on some very important issues. On the assault weapons ban, the 1994 crime bill, and the AmeriCorps job program, Kasich supported the Clinton Administration, which has many conservatives (rightly) perplexed.

Chances: Ohio seems to be ready to vote for Bush, with or without Kasich, and so I think Messrs. Bush, Karl Rove (Bush's campaign manager), et al. will look elsewhere.

Elizabeth "Liddy" Dole - The GOP's cheeriest lifetime bureaucrat and wife of the failed 1996 Republican nominee has been mentioned as a possible vice-president for Bush since . . . well, since she declared that she was running for president herself.


Plusses: She's a woman.

Negatives: This Southern belle ain't been elected to Dog Catcher yet. Her entire résumé, which she recites ad nauseum, is one of a federal bureaucrat. She polls well, but whether or not her presence in a national ticket would motivate people to go to the polls remains unclear.

Chances: "Gender gap": these two words are still ringing in the ears of the Powers That Be in the Republican Party after the '96 debacle. Many of the GOP wise men feel that Liddy's soft touch would have women voters re-evaluate their past voting loyalties. Dole has to be considered a top-tier prospect for the Bush team.

Tom Ridge
- This is the media's favorite liberal Republican Governor to bait conservative activists with.

Plusses: Ridge is nominally a Catholic, and he is from an important state that the Republicans need to win in -- Pennsylvania.

Negatives: Ridge is absolutely unacceptable to conservative activists, the base of the Republican Party. He is pro-abortion. And his other problem is...Tom who?

Chances: If the media had its way, Ridge would be Bush's running mate. (This is probably due to the fact that Ridge would do nothing to help the ticket.) However, news will come out about Ridge's problems with his bishop - specifically, how his bishop will not allow him to speak at any Catholic function in the state. Such a situation tarnishes any claims Bush could make of having a "good Catholic running mate."

Of course, there are others whose names are being thrown around. People like Christie Todd Whitman and Bill Bennett both frighten and excite grassroots activists and journalists alike.

Whether George W. picks one of these individuals or not, it would be good for him to remember that in picking a Veep, he is essentially picking someone to be his own personal Amen corner. And so, if he wants to make a "good choice," which is to say one that will hold the Republican base and specifically conservative and religious voters, he would do well not to pick someone who will alienate them, by picking a candidate who is overtly hostile to them.

Nicholas Sanchez is director of Development at the Free Congress Foundation.

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