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July 6, 2004
Gephardt's First Choice

All of this VP speculation reminds people of the big effort that John Kerry made to woo maverick Republican Senator John McCain to run as his VP. The Republicans are poised, reports the New York Times, to ensure that people remember that his final selection will be nothing but a consolation prize:

President Bush's campaign strategists say they are planning to attack Senator John Kerry's running mate as a second choice no matter who it turns out to be and are preparing a commercial asserting that Mr. Kerry has made clear that his first choice was a Republican who still stands at Mr. Bush's side, Senator John McCain.

"We think it's important that people understand that this is a ticket of John Kerry and his second choice," Nicolle Devenish, the Bush campaign's communications director, said.

The effort to turn Mr. Kerry's flirtation with Mr. McCain against him is part of a multipronged strategy to offset what the Bush campaign assumes will be a sharp swing in the polls for Mr. Kerry. That, Mr. Bush's aides say, will come once Mr. Kerry announces a running mate, which could come as early as Tuesday morning, and presumably accepts the Democratic nomination in Boston at the end of this month.

Of course, this is why campaigns tend to keep VP selection processes quiet; it minimizes embarrassment for those who do not get selected, as well as for the presidential nominee who makes an offer that gets refused. Kerry's campaign and the rest of the Democratic Party forgot this in 2004, making a months-long public effort to convince McCain to jump ship and climb aboard the Kerry ticket. However, except for the initial reaction in March when McCain said he'd be obligated to discuss it with Kerry if asked, McCain has been unequivocal in his refusal to join the Democrats. He even co-chairs the Bush re-election campaign in Arizona and starting last month has made campaign appearances with the President.

The Times reports that the Republicans are readying ads for release as early as today using McCain's campaign appearances to remind voters of Kerry's desperation to get McCain's endorsement. Instead, McCain's endorsement of Bush will be made clear. While McCain appears in support of Bush, the Republicans could also dig this up in order to make clear that both halves of the Democratic ticket think that McCain is the ultimate authority:

Representative Richard A. Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat who has often been mentioned as a running mate for Senator John Kerry, is talking kindly about another choice: Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. Asked after a speech in California on Monday what he thought of Mr. McCain's potential for the Democratic presidential ticket, Mr. Gephardt described him as a "very attractive figure in American politics" who "would be accepted by the Democratic Party," according to CNN.

Mr. McCain is "someone a lot of Democrats could get interested in," Mr. Gephardt said at the Leon Panetta Center in Monterrey.

Now that the Post has announced Gephardt as Kerry's running mate this election, the longtime Missouri Congressman's word could come back to haunt the Massachussetts Senator. As I blogged when this article first appeared at the end of May, going on the record for attribution in support of McCain in the middle of the VP search was amazing, and very troubling for Kerry. It suggested that, along with other Democrats going on the record for chasing McCain such as Hillary Clinton and Bob Kerrey, no one really wanted the VP slot, and even worse, no one thought that a Democrat would do as well as a Republican.

The Republicans should have no trouble driving this point home in their new ads; even Gephardt made himself a second choice. What does that tell you about the Democratic duo this year?

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin reviews Gephardt's positions and notes a certain inconsistent consistency between the running mates.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 6, 2004 6:02 AM

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