Kerry is Not So Very
Discussing potential vice presidential picks for three consecutive days is probably a record for me, and I promise to move on to other topics tomorrow. But an item caught my attention this afternoon, which raised for me again the quadrennial question of whether a political party should dip back into its well of unsuccessful general election tickets for its nominees. When I read that John Kerry’s Senate campaign manager was forced to issue a statement saying that Senator Kerry was not interested in being Barack Obama’s running mate, my first reaction was simply why was this question even asked? If I mentioned that the answer is a combination of Chris Matthews and a Massachusetts-based political website, perhaps that information would be sufficient.
But the item raises the more serious question of whether it makes sense for Obama to go back to politicians like John Kerry, John Edwards, or even Al Gore for a potential running mate. I have always thought that this is a bad idea. I understand there is a courtesy/respect aspect to again floating the name of individuals who were recently at the center of a political party’s universe, and for many Democrats, it’s the least that could be done for Al Gore, given what he endured in 2000. Still, the combination of an endless primary season, media saturation coverage of the candidates, and the intensity of the general election campaign, usually means that voters are ready to move on to other options when the election cycle begins anew.
While it is true that there is a retrospective component to how voters evaluate candidates, that calculus is usually reserved for sitting incumbents. For a current challenger to reach back to former candidates who did not win in their day, only prevents voters from focusing on the future, and inevitably leads them to revisit the foibles and missteps of those earlier races. So, unless the Obama campaign wants to hear the familiar refrain of I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it ringing in its ears, its vice presidential vetters should look elsewhere (and, in reality, they almost certainly are).
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