How to pick a VP
Veepstakes speculation and “insider” news has pretty much been beaten into the ground as an interesting topic in the neighborhood. I have some preferences and prejudices, just like everyone else. The common wisdom going into this weekend is that it’s definitely down to a choice between Edwards and Gephardt, unless, of course, it isn’t, and that’s a real possibility. All of which is a nice way to say no one really knows anything.
The number one rule in picking a VP should be: he or she must add something to the ticket. The Veep should deliver something--preferably electoral votes, but a coveted demographic is also nice--that is either out of reach or difficult for the top name on the ticket to take. A Veep who delivers Ohio or Florida would be nice, as would be one who snatches Indiana or Georgia from the other side. I liked Richardson because he would have made us safe in New Mexico and made the Bush campaign spend resources fighting to keep Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado.
I said that “should be” the number one rule because there is another rule so important that it shouldn’t even need to be said out loud, but we seem to need to say it this year. The Veep choice should do no harm to the ticket. The Veep should not drive voters away or provide the enemy with easy targets to exploit. It is not clear that Gephardt clears this hurdle. His behavior in the pre-war debate offended many on the anti-war left and he brings truckloads of baggage to the campaign. All of his supposed strengths were called into question during the primaries. He didn’t deliver the union vote. He wasn’t a strong regional favorite. His record is full of votes that might have made sense at the time, but which now are the mother load to any half-way competent opposition researcher. Gephardt might be able to turn all of that around and become a great running mate, but is it really wise to risk that for someone who is going to be a hard sell to our own party. If the Party establishment feels we owe him some kind of debt of gratitude for his years of service, promise him the Secretary of Commerce chair. He would probably be great at it.
This choice and the run-up to the convention are probably the best chance we have to shoot ourselves in the foot. We are Democrats after all. As the last congressional elections showed, we haven’t lost our talent for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.