Now that Senator John Forbes Kerry has wrapped up the Democratic nomination, the speculation on potential vice-presidential candidates has kicked into high gear. A myriad of names have been thrown out by politicos and pundits. While some mention names like Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano or New York Senator Hillary Clinton, most agree there are truly only six candidates in the running: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson of Florida, Congressman Richard Gephardt of Missouri, and Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
All of these candidates are incredibly well credentialed public servants. However, Governor Bill Richardson and Congressman Dick Gephardt are exceptional members of the pack as they contribute the most to the Democratic ticket in terms of electoral votes.
If I were Senator Kerry, Governor Bill Richardson would be my first choice for the number two spot on the ticket. His resume is most impressive as he served as a Congressman for the New Mexico Third District for fifteen years, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary of Energy, as well as governor. In addition, Richardson has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times in 1995, 1997, 2000, and 2001.
Many opposed to his nomination cite the fact that he is from a small state (New Mexico), which possesses only five electoral votes. Opponents to his selection, however, fail to realize the impact Richardson’s selection would have on the sleeping giant of Hispanic voters. While shoring up Democratic support in New Mexico, which Gore only won by four hundred votes, Richardson’s appeal to the Hispanic demographic could benefit in states like Ohio (a state with twenty electoral votes that Bush won by less than five percent), where the largely Democratic voting Hispanic population stayed home on Election Day in 2000. Richardson also represents a savvy political sense and expertise in fundraising that will benefit a Democratic ticket matched up against the unprecedented fundraising abilities of the Bush-Cheney campaign. I am, however, discouraged because Richardson proclaimed on “Meet the Press” on March 7 that he was not interested in the position.
If not Governor Richardson, Congressman Gephardt would be my selection for the ticket for two reasons only: Missouri and Ohio. Democrats’ support among union households, while currently strong, would only be bolstered by the addition of Gephardt to the ticket. Gephardt’s selection has the potential to raise Democratic support in union households over the 70 percent mark, which would almost certainly grant Democrats the state of Ohio. Missouri would have a better chance of going for the Democrats as it is Congressman Gephardt’s home state.
If Democrats in 2004 win every state they won in 2000 — a reasonable assumption — Democrats, because of the reallocation of electoral votes following the census, would have 260 electoral votes. Missouri alone, with its eleven votes, could grant Kerry the White House as could Ohio with its twenty electoral votes — both of which the Democrats lost by less than five percent in 2000. Additionally, Gephardt could appeal to the Reagan-Democrats of the Rust Belt and bring them back to the Democratic Party.
Regardless of whom Senator Kerry picks to be his vice president, the decision will only help his ticket. Any candidate contrasted with Vice President Cheney, whose polling numbers currently show his approval percentage at a mere 33 percent, will certainly come across as more credible, more likeable, and more capable to fulfill the duties of the office with integrity. However, as I anxiously await the comparison between the vice president and the Democratic alternative, I truly hope Senator Kerry takes his time. As the speculation continues, so does the Senator’s press coverage. This kind of free advertising could be of great help to a candidate who trails his opponent by 100 million dollars in campaign funds.
While all the candidates in the running represent the best the Democratic Party has to offer, Governor Richardson and Congressman Gephardt have the most to contribute in terms of electoral votes. Many Democrats find Senator Edwards an attractive, inspired candidate, yet he contributes nothing in the Electoral College, as the South will indisputably side with the Republicans in November, with the possible exception of Louisiana. Democrats, in this situation, need pragmatism rather than passion and should therefore side with a vice presidential candidate, such as Richardson or Gephardt, who can help deliver the prize.
Jonathan Menitove is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College.