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June 12, 2004
No Means No, Even For Senators (Sometimes)

John Kerry continues to embarrass himself by making passes at John McCain, fellow Senator and Vietnam veterran, trying through intermediaries to seduce him into joining the Democratic ticket as a VP choice. The AP reports this afternoon that McCain has now categorically told Kerry that he won't consider running on Kerry's ticket, no matter how much the Democrats beg:

Republican Sen. John McCain has personally rejected John Kerry's overtures to join the Democratic presidential ticket and forge a bipartisan alliance against President Bush, The Associated Press has learned.

Kerry has asked McCain as recently as late last month to consider becoming his running mate, but the Arizona senator said he's not interested, said a Democratic official who spoke on condition of anonymity because Kerry has insisted that his deliberations be kept private. A second official familiar with the conversations confirmed the account, and said the Arizona senator made it clear he won't change his mind.

We're now entering the third month that speculation surrounding McCain has overshadowed all of the other potential Democratic veep choices. Major news organizations continue polling on the proposed ticket, showing that Kerry gains fourteen or so points when paired with McCain. Why should that surprise anyone? Pair Bush up with McCain and I suspect he gains about the same amount. McCain remains popular with the centrists because he represents them more closely. All this demonstrates is that Kerry would do better to select a well-known and admired centrist for his VP nominee. Too bad he can't find one from his own party, which is the definite message all of this McCain promotion from prominent Democrats like Bob Kerrey sends.

And then the AP discovers humor:

Both officials said Kerry stopped short of offering McCain the job, sparing himself an outright rejection that would make his eventual running mate look like a second choice.

If anyone doesn't think all this eye-batting from the Democrats and all of the categorical refusals from McCain over the past three months doesn't already give the impression of "outright rejection", then either they never dated much or they've been asleep since the Super Tuesday primaries. The Democrats should never have talked about this idea publicly, especially for attribution, without getting some sort of indication that McCain would consider the proposal. Not only will the eventual VP nominee obviously be a second choice, the Democrats have made sure that everyone understands that anyone but McCain will be a liability.

Don't the Democrats have any grown-ups in the Kerry campaign?

UPDATE, 6/12: Apparently the spin machine at the Washington Post has been working overtime on this story. Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz make the ridiculous argument that all of this foreplay on Kerry's behalf actually helps the campaign:

It could be advantageous for Kerry to make known his interest, aware that McCain would turn it down, strategists say. Hailing from one of the most liberal states in the nation, Kerry has spent the general-election campaign trying to position himself as a centrist who is strong on national defense and a hawk on deficits, two positions the Bush campaign has repeatedly challenged. Kerry frequently mentions McCain in his stump speech, as a way of putting a bipartisan stamp on his work, and has included images of the two men together in his television ads.

It is unclear how seriously Kerry has considered a unity ticket. Aides described Kerry as intrigued but not committed to the idea, even if McCain were seriously interested, which he has made clear he is not.

Chasing after McCain doesn't make Kerry more centrist; it only gives him superficial veneer of centrism, which in its way provides the perfect encapsulation of Kerry's politics. He has spent the last year running away from his lengthy record as a highly liberal, anti-defense politician who suddenly wants to claim otherwise by making a few stump speeches. Unfortunately, Kerry's record speaks for itself, and will no matter how many times the Post or the New York Times mentions the personal friendship between Kerry and McCain, and that's getting to be a weekly installment at both papers.

Any possible political advantage that Kerry might get from this public courtship and rejection would immediately be overtaken by the knowledge that whoever ends up at the bottom of Kerry's ticket is a consolation prize. Not only does that damage the campaign, but the tacit acknowledgement that only a Republican can provide credibility on defense and national security simply confirms everything that the Republicans have been saying throughout the entire election cycle.

I guess I wonder now if the Post has any grown-ups on the political desk, either.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 12, 2004 8:19 AM

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