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Dark horse Republican veepstakes

By Bruce Walker
web posted March 29, 2004

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is a man of incomparable loyalty, integrity and moral purpose. He has no desire to be president of the United States (although he would make an incredibly good president) any more than Colin Powell had a desire to be president of the United States (although he, too, would make a very good president.)

It is a great tribute to President George W. Bush that he has surrounded himself with men and women who have the combination of intellect and ethics to be outstanding presidents, but who view themselves as true servants of the Republic.

Consider that the woman who could most credibly serve as president today might be Condi Rice or it might just be Lynne Cheney, a genuine intellectual who was defending very effectively conservative policies ten years ago on national television. Consider that the next first lady well be Columba Bush, born in Mexico and the first wife of a president who is an immigrant.

Colin Powell may be the best person to replace Dick Cheney if it appears that the war on terrorism and the credibility of President Bush may cost him the election. Dangerous statements and the destruction of bipartisanship by Democrats, along with vicious personal attacks on Powell, may well persuade this decent and capable man to accept the vice presidency.

John Kerry and company would have a very tough sell trying to tell Americans that they cannot trust a man who has served with distinction in the last three administrations. Kerry cannot make the case that the only person who has almost continuous experience in national security under Republican and Democrat presidents is not very capable. Would Democrats dare to savage the character of Colin Powell? Almost certainly not.

What if the election appears likely to be close and President Bush needs help with specific constituencies or in specific states? Colin Powell would not deliver his home state of New York to the Republican ticket and he probably would not gain many black votes (although his presence would make it difficult to agitate large black voter turnout.)

There are some dark horse candidates for the Republican vice presidential nomination who would help in specific states. These dark horse names almost never pop up in discussions of a replacement for Vice President Cheney, but each could significantly add the Electoral College calculations.

Senator Rick Santorum

Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is young, very popular and a strong social conservative. There are few, if any, candidates who could actually swing a big state from one party to the other. Senator Graham might be able to deliver Florida to Kerry. No Democrat would deliver Ohio or Texas, and no Republican could deliver California, New York, Illinois, Michigan or New Jersey.

Santorum could deliver Pennsylvania, which already is the best shot Republicans have to capture a big state from Democrats. Senator Santorum could do more than that. He would bolster Republican prospects in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia, and potentially make Michigan winnable. Santorum could help in these Democrat states while actually solidifying and energizing social conservatives dramatically, a one of the strongest champions of the Pro-Life movement in the nation.

The triangle of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia is one regional battleground; another such battleground is in the industrial Midwest, where Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota all could be in play. Republicans only one Missouri in 2000, but lost the other three states by tiny margins.

Senator Norm Coleman

Senator Norm Coleman defeated Walter Mondale for Senator Wellstone's seat in November 2002. As an enormously popular mayor of St. Paul, who won reelection in a traditionally Democrat city with 59% of the vote. Senator Coleman would not only deliver Minnesota to the Republican ticket, but he would also attract many voters in neighboring Wisconsin and Iowa, which Gore carried by a whisker in 2000. These three states have more votes than Florida.

The life of Norm Coleman would also be inspirational to many Americans. He is Jewish and grew up in New York. His early political life was as a Democrat. Norm Coleman left the Democrat Party and became a Republican eight years ago out of frustration with the cynicism and indifference of Democrats to the genuine welfare of people. Senator Coleman has been a fairly solid conservative during his first year in the Senate.

As Jewish voters see the Republican Party as the true defender of Israel and the real opponent of intolerance, Republicans like Norm Coleman, who is younger and more attractive than Senator Lieberman, could attract significant numbers of genuinely ambivalent Jewish voters across America. This would help Republicans hold Florida and also help in potentially close states like Ohio and Missouri.

Congressman David Dreier

If Republicans carry California, the election is over. If Arnold Schwarzenegger could serve as vice president, he would be an obvious choice as running mate. There are no other statewide elected Republicans who could reasonably help the Republican ticket. Congressman David Dreier, who has a solid conservative voting record, is closely associated with Governor Schwarzenegger.

Congressman Dreier was not only selected to head Governor Schwarzengger's transition team, but he is also Chair of the California Republican Congressional Delegation. He is thoroughly familiar with California politics and has broad support within the California Republican Party.

While Governor Schwarzenegger could campaign with the Republican ticket and try to transfer his popularity, that effort could look insincere. Not, however, if David Dreier is on the ticket. Congressman Dreier also is smart, articulate, young and savvy. He would only adds votes nationally.

Vice President Cheney should remain on the ticket unless it appears that President Bush could actually lose to John Kerry. There are many roles that Dick Cheney could play in American government. My favorite choices would be as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court or as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a body in which he once served as Republican Whip.

If it looks like John Kerry might be the next president, Republicans need to consider all their options. Three dark horse names on that list should be Santorum, Coleman and Dreier, young and articulate Republicans who could not only insure a Republican presidential victory in 2004, but also could win in 2008 and 2012.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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