By Nicholas Sanchez
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:
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.
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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