Jewish World Review March 8, 2004 / 15 Adar, 5764

Zev Chafets

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A George for John? | If you're worried about losing the junior senator from New York to the national ticket, you can relax. Hillary Clinton is not going to be the vice presidential nominee.

John Kerry will see to that.

There are differing schools of thought about what makes an ideal No. 2. Hillary doesn't fit any of them.

She brings no ideological or geographical balance to the ticket. Kerry needs another Northeastern liberal like he needs another chin.

In 1992, Bill Clinton, a small-state governor, picked Al Gore to bolster his national security cred. But Hillary has no expertise or experience that Kerry lacks.

Nor is she needed to carry her state. If Kerry can't win New York, on his own, he's a goner.

Hillary might galvanize the female vote. Then again, she might not. Niche candidates look better on paper than they do on Election Day. Remember "Vice President Geraldine Ferraro"?

Hillary's political attributes are negatives as far as Kerry is concerned. She has the star power and charisma he so obviously lacks. She has access to more campaign money (and therefore more power) than he does. And she is the wife of Bill Clinton.

Hillary has been coy about running. She says she wants to finish her Senate term. But she hasn't made any Shermanesque declarations, either. Why should she? A veep run by Sen. Clinton would tempt the Republicans to use their considerable stock of ammo on her. If that damages the ticket, well, her name isn't on the top line and the loss isn't hers. And, once used, the GOP's anti-Hillary bombs would be defused in 2008.

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For all these reasons, John Kerry would be crazy to put Hillary Clinton on the ticket. No candidate wants a running mate who overshadows him. Hillary is a star. Hillary is a threat. Hillary is a Clinton. Three strikes and you're out.

That narrows the vice presidential field down to every other Democratic politician. John Edwards wants it, but, like Hillary, he makes Kerry look dour and dull. Besides, Edwards probably can't carry his own state. Neither can Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. "Wesley Clark" has become the answer to a trivia question. Howard Dean is yesterday. Florida's Bob Graham is a flake with a heart condition (Dick Cheney has one, too, but President Bush isn't a recovering cancer patient).

At this stage, the vice presidential prospect appears to be Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico (foreign affairs experience, Southwest swing state, half-Hispanic). A longer shot is Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a good campaigner from a state Kerry has to win.

The vetting process is long and unpredictable. But one thing is certain. If Kerry gets really stuck for a running mate, he'll turn to George Mitchell.

For a generation, Mitchell has been the Democratic default for every open job. Chairman of the Disney Corp.? George Mitchell. Middle East negotiator? Irish peacemaker? George Mitchell. Supreme Court associate justice, commissioner of baseball? Say, what about George Mitchell?

Mitchell might not bring much balance or charisma to the national ticket, but he won't upstage the headliner. The only problem is that a Kerry-Mitchell ticket would leave a key Democratic power center leaderless. But there is a Hillary solution to this one. How about Sen. Clinton's husband for chairman of Disney?

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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