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June 14, 2004
Gephardt? He Could Do Worse

US News and World Report have a cryptic, two-sentence, anonymously sourced report that John Kerry has decided to pick Dick Gephardt, the retired House Minority Leader, as his VP nominee:

Labor leaders believe union friend Rep. Dick Gephardt has the inside track to be Sen. John Kerry 's vice president. We hear that AFL-CIO execs say it's a done deal.

Gephardt makes an interesting choice for Kerry, and in some ways a very sensible one. Gephardt has decades of experience and more political heft than Kerry outside of New England, especially (as noted) with labor. Gephardt also ran towards the center on the war on terror; only he and Joe Lieberman actually gave wholehearted support to the removal of Saddam Hussein, although both felt the aftermath was planned poorly and made numerous suggestions for changes. Gephardt also could carry Missouri, which went for Bush in 2000 by four points and in most polls runs closer than that now. (The LA Times has Bush up by eleven in Missouri, which only indicates the strength of the drugs their pollsters ingested.)

Choosing Gephardt also shows that Kerry may lack confidence in his ability to outshine his running mate. John Edwards, everyone's favorite Democratic option, is a much better stump speaker than Kerry, and the campaign could fear that comparison. I expected to hear either Vilsack of Iowa or Richardson of New Mexico, but both of those may be too esoteric to garner any votes other than the already committed, especially Vilsack, and both states went Gore in 2000 anyway.

Gephardt also has his share of problems to bring the Kerry campaign. Despite his national recognition and long record of service, Gephardt has been proven time and again incapable of building a national following. Not only has he run several times for President, each campaign garnered progressively weaker results. Gephardt also relies almost exclusively on his connections to labor, which would go with Kerry under any circumstances already -- and their involvement in his selection underscores the grip that special interests have on the Democrats at a time when they need to be seen as reaching out to Middle America. Finally, Deaniacs who may be only halfheartedly supporting Kerry right now will not be pleased to have Dean's bete noir from Iowa as the lower half of the ticket. Faced with voting for Gephardt, whom most of them blame in part for the hardball attacks leading up to Dean's implosion, they may swing to Nader or stay home altogether out of disillusionment.

I suspect that this little leak may be a trial balloon to gauge reaction. The problem with Gephardt as a candidate is that he doesn't inspire much of it, although in a certain sense, that's also an asset for the Kerry campaign.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 14, 2004 3:06 PM

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