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RealClearPolitics - Articles - Barry Casselman





Last Build Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 14:11:16 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009
 



Why McCain is Floating Lieberman and Ridge

Mon, 25 Aug 2008 14:11:16 -0600

In reality, the vice presidential choice is almost always a very personal decision by each party's presidential nominee, taking into account not only political consequences, but the private psychology of deciding to put someone so close to the Oval Office who, once elected, cannot be fired. Since the traditional media speculation about the choice has become an inevitable fact of the life of a presidential campaign, however, it is not unheard of for a presidential campaign to use this speculation as a tool for its and its candidate's own purposes. It appears to me that Senator McCain, after his impressive performance at Reverend Warren's event, and his unambiguous declarations of his pro-life position on the issue of abortion, is not going to choose a pro-choice running mate, even if he wanted to do so. As measured by the polls at least, Mr. McCain has drawn even or possibly slightly ahead of Mr. Obama, and is clearly enjoying a upsurge that could be capsized if he were to make a choice that would upset too much a part of his political base. So why is Mr. McCain and his campaign allowing and even encouraging the speculation about a pro-choice running mate? I think the answer is that he is sending a signal to independent voters, moderate Republicans and disaffected Democrats that he is the kind of Republican who they will likely feel comfortable with should he win in November and replace President George W. Bush., even if they disagree with him on some issues. I think the McCain campaign has diagnosed the political environment for this year's presidential election to be one in which they must capture the bulk of the independent vote, and make inroads in some traditional Democratic constituencies. They would like to have included black voters in that, but with Mr. Obama's candidacy, there is simply no hope for that. There is some opportunity for notable gains among blue collar workers, Jewish voters and Hispanic voters, as well as those women still angry about the defeat of Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination by Senator Obama. Many Catholic, Hispanic, orthodox Jewish and evangelical women are pro-life, but the largest number of women, especially older women, remains pro-choice. If they perceive Mr. McCain as an inflexible social conservative, they will vote for Mr. Obama, even if they are not enthusiastic about doing so. Of course, if Mr. McCain picked a pro-choice running mate, he would get many of their votes easily, but the cost to the McCain campaign would simply be too great to make this a wise decision. So the McCain campaign is taking the next best course, that is, openly praising moderate and pro-choice Republicans and Democrats who support their candidate, and including them as "possible" running mates. I have written many times about my admiration for both Mr. Ridge and Mr. Lieberman. Tom Ridge, particularly, has the distinction of being a finalist for vice president for three GOP nominees, Bob Dole, in 1996 George W. Bush in 2000 and now, John McCain in 2008. But if he wants a lease in or near the Oval Office, he will have to run for it himself, and not depend on others. Good choices remain for John McCain. In particular, my own governor, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, makes considerable sense. (As a former local elected official, then state legislator and GOP majority leader, and now as a two-term governor, he has much more political experience than Barack Obama.) Former Governor Mitt Romney, former Ohio Congressman John Kasich and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, pro-lifers all, would be attractive running mates. Pro-life Republicans, seeing Mr. Obama take a hard line against them, realize that they don't have a lot of choice in 2008, especially since Mr. McCain has made such a strong statement for their issue. They see the speculation of a pro-choice running mate for Mr. McCain as a squeeze play in which they will be forced to accept the unacceptable. Some of their leaders already have petulantly threatened Mr. McCain they will stay home. I don't think they need worry, and they do the[...]