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Jewish World ReviewMarch 5, 2004 / 12 Adar, 5764

Roger Simon

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Running Mates | John Kerry will not choose John Edwards as his running mate and I will tell you why:

Kerry looks at his own career: Nineteen years in the U.S. Senate preceded by being a lieutenant governor preceded by being a prosecutor preceded by being an anti-war activist preceded by being in combat in Vietnam.

Then he looks at John Edwards's career: Five years in the Senate preceded by being a personal injury lawyer.

It is not just that Kerry believes Edwards has not punched his ticket, it is not just that Kerry believes Edwards has not paid his dues, it is that Kerry believes John Edwards is not ready to be President of the United States.

Many considerations go into choosing a vice president — most of which are wasted since the American people rarely look at the No. 2 spot on the ticket when casting their votes — but nobody as serious as John Kerry is going to pick a man who cannot do the job of president should fate call upon him to do so.

Others will say Edwards has earned a spot on the ticket, that he ran a terrific campaign and Kerry would be a fool to pass him up. But what did Edwards really accomplish during his campaign?

The most important primary he won was the media primary. He was the beneficiary of a media swoon different in intensity but not in kind from the John McCain media swoon of 2000.

The media went on and on about Edwards's speaking skills, his good looks, his energy, and his ability to connect with audiences. The voters, however, seemed somewhat less impressed: Edwards won only one primary, his native state of South Carolina.

The Edwards swoon reached the height of its silliness in Wisconsin, where Kerry beat Edwards by six percentage points. Six percentage points is a very solid victory, especially in a multi-candidate field. Six percentage points is only four percentage points away from a landslide.

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But the press treated Wisconsin as an Edwards victory, not a Kerry victory, writing about how close the outcome was and how Edwards had beaten expectations (meaning the foolish expectations of the media based on foolish polls.)

I guarantee you that if Kerry beats George W. Bush by six points in November, the same reporters who wrote that six points was a razor thin margin in Wisconsin will write that Kerry decisively beat the incumbent president signifying a sea change in American politics.

Edwards kept saying he could carry the South in the fall, but he presented no evidence. And, in fact, preserving the illusion of his southern support is what caused him to drop out this week.

Next week, four southern states, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida, will hold primaries. If Edwards had entered those primaries and lost, his southern support would have been exposed as mythical, making it very hard for him to run again.

He was not a bad candidate. He got farther than many thought he would get. And having good speaking skills is no small thing. But the vote-drawing ability of your speaking skills is diminished in a vice presidential candidate because very few people are listening to you.

Some say Edwards will not get the vice presidential nod because a vice presidential candidate should be the attack dog of the ticket and Edwards was not good on the attack. I disagree, however. He was not mean on the attack, but he was good. His message about George W. Bush creating two Americas, one fixed in favor of the rich and powerful and one for the rest of us, was a good one.

But Kerry doesn't need an attack dog. Kerry is going to be his own attack dog. He has to make the case for change; he has to make the case that George Bush has been a failure. If Kerry doesn't, Kerry will lose. Unless voters are given a convincing reason to oust an incumbent president, they will retain an incumbent president.

So who will Kerry select as his running mate? The list of possibilities is pretty long, but I think Dick Gephardt has a strong shot. And Hillary Clinton has an outside chance.

But don't Republicans hate Hillary Clinton? Yes, but they hated her husband even more and he got elected and re-elected.

Why would Hillary want the job? Wouldn't it be better for her to run on her own some day as senator from New York? Maybe. But look at the record: Only two people in history, Warren Harding and John Kennedy have gone directly from the U.S. Senate to the White House. (John Kerry is hoping to be the third.)

But vice presidents have gotten to the presidency 14 times: five times through election, four times through assassination, four times through natural death and once through resignation.

So if you want to be president some day, the vice presidency turns out to be a very good job to have while waiting around.

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