Tags: Kerry-Edwards | Ticket

A Kerry-Edwards Ticket

Wednesday, 11 February 2004 12:00 AM

It's Kerry-Edwards in March. Spring might be coming early.

Who needs to wait until August, people are asking.

Everybody is ready to work together.

Twenty-four years ago, when Kennedy ran against Carter, Democrats weren't ready to work together after the convention. In October, they still weren't speaking. Now, they can't wait.

That doesn't mean the race is over.

Should something happen to John Kerry on his way to a majority of the delegates, should he stumble or be tripped, John Edwards wants to be the last man standing. In that sense, he is certainly a more serious candidate for president than Howard Dean.

But in this day and age, when you're trying to come from behind, eventually you go on the attack. John Edwards took a few very mild swipes in John Kerry's direction on the issue of trade, but other than that, he's run what my old friend Mike Dukakis would call a strong and positive campaign against the front-runner. If you ask me, it's not just because Edwards is the sunshine candidate.

The first rule of vice presidential selection is do no harm: The best choice is someone whose skeletons have been available for press perusal for the last year and who has already been through spring training, or, in this case, winter ball.

But the reason that, contrary to popular lore, such dream tickets of former competitors like Kennedy-Johnson and Reagan-Bush are indeed the exception and not the rule is because, particularly in this era of negative campaigns, it's hard to run against someone and not end up hating them, figuratively speaking of course. Think voodoo economics. Reagan was a generous man. Kennedy had to be convinced.

On that score, you've got to give Edwards a lot of credit. He's walking a tightrope, and he's walking it very, very well.

What he's managed to do in this campaign is quintessentially vice presidential: Impress almost everyone and alienate almost no one. This has been true not only among the pros who cover the campaign but among the voters as well. Everywhere you go, he shows up as everyone's second choice on polls. It served him very well in Iowa.

Traditionally, you pick vice presidents, as the ever candid Howard Dean explained it when he was riding high (he later volunteered for the job), to fill a gap in your own experience or profile. In that sense, Edwards helps Kerry in the South. In fact, the days when a vice president could carry a state for the party are long gone; the days when a presidential candidate could necessarily carry his state, think Al Gore, may be gone.

What Edwards really adds to Kerry is his ability to connect with voters. If there is any criticism of Kerry the candidate among those watching him most closely over the last months, it is this last element. Or maybe it is just that Edwards is so good, better even than Bill Clinton at this point on the stump, that you have to think that if you put the former trial lawyer in the room for a while with the former prosecutor, what would come out of the mix would give the guy I saw on television last Sunday quite a run for his money.

The danger for Democrats, for the first time since the name Monica Lewinsky was uttered publicly, is that they might start feeling confident.

Someone will get to him, a friend said. She was talking about George Bush. No doubt, but the fact that this is shaping up to be a close election and that it has already started is a far cry from just a month or so ago, when Democrats who were looking ahead to a Dean candidacy were holding back sighs of gloom, and Republicans in the White House were the ones fighting overconfidence.

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It's Kerry-Edwards in March. Spring might be coming early. Who needs to wait until August, people are asking. Everybody is ready to work together. Twenty-four years ago, when Kennedy ran against Carter, Democrats weren't ready to work together after the convention. In...
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Wednesday, 11 February 2004 12:00 AM
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