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A closer look: Kerry’s next move: finding the right running mate

By Colleen Honigsberg

March 2, 2004 9:00 pm

With the conclusion of Super Tuesday, it is a fair expectation
to say John Kerry’s focus will now shift from winning the
Democratic nomination to winning the presidency.

One of the most important decisions Kerry will make in the
upcoming months is to chose his running mate. He is expected to
pick a potential vice president who could bring in a new
demographic of voters.

Though many factors will influence the decision, Kerry is
expected to primarily look for a politician from a region different
than his own who could bring in at least one “swing”
state ““ a state that could potentially go for either the
Republican or Democratic candidate.

Kerry’s running mate is also expected to be a more
conservative Democrat.

The potential vice president would likely serve as an
“attack dog” who points out everything the competition
is doing wrong, said Morty Cohen, an upper-division political
science instructor and doctoral candidate.

With previous factors in mind, much focus has centered on John
Edwards, a senator from North Carolina and candidate for the
Democratic presidential nomination, who announced Tuesday he would
drop out of the race.

Kerry, who is from Massachusetts, could potentially benefit by
choosing a Southerner such as Edwards.

Edwards, who has shown himself to be an empathetic speaker and
already has high name recognition, would be expected to draw needed
Democratic support in the generally conservative South. Also,
unlike other possible running mates, he has already submitted
himself to the media.

Since the media has already had the chance to scrutinize
Edward’s background, Kerry will not have to fear the media
uncovering a secret from Edward’s past that could potentially
damage the Democratic presidential campaign.

“I think Edwards has a more than 65 percent chance of
being named the vice president if Kerry wins the Democratic
nomination,” said Matthew Dababneh, president of Bruins for
Kerry before Super Tuesday. “The public and the media all
think Edwards is the natural choice.”

Not everyone believes Edwards will be the natural choice. Hans
Noel, an instructor of upper-division political science courses and
doctoral candidate, said his pick for vice president would be Bill
Richardson, the governor of New Mexico.

Though he said Edwards is certainly a contender, Noel noted that
potential presidents do not often pick other presidential
contenders as running mates.

The last time a president was paired with one of his contenders
was in 1980. Before that, it was in 1960.

“People always think the presidential candidate will pick
another presidential contender as their running mate, but it really
doesn’t happen all that often,” Noel said.

Richardson would add to the Democratic ticket both regionally
and racially.

The Southwest is a region the Democratic Party has traditionally
had trouble with, and Richardson would help bring in votes in his
home state of New Mexico and likely throughout the entire

Richardson’s hispanic heritage would also be useful
because it could bring in Latino/a votes.

“Many people say Hispanic votes are going to be the key to
winning the election, and a lot of people think those votes are up
for grabs,” Noel said.

President Bush is said to be courting Latino/a voters through
his immigration laws, he added.

UCLA law Professor Daniel Lowenstein, who specializes in
election law, said that while Latino/a votes will be important, he
does not think they will be crucial in determining the

“The two states with the largest Hispanic population
(besides New Mexico) are Texas and California. If Texas
doesn’t go for Bush, and California doesn’t go
Democratic, all those subtleties will be lost,” he said.

These “subtleties” are the predicted voting patterns
of certain groups within a state.

In addition to Richardson, other potential running mates for
Kerry include Florida senator Bob Graham and Indiana senator Evan
Bayh. Both men are popular senators in states that have
traditionally been difficult for the Democratic Party.

Florida, Graham’s state, has had a larger increase in the
number of registered Republican voters than Democratic voters since

Because the state was key in winning the 2000 presidential
election, the trend has potential Democratic presidential
candidates worried.

According to Mark Peterson, political science professor and
chair of the School of Public Policy and Social Research, Kerry
might win Florida with Graham as his vice president. Peterson also
noted that Graham is reputed to be well-versed in foreign

Bayh has similar strengths to Graham ““ namely, he could
carry an unsteady state and bring in regional support in a divided

In addition, Bayh comes from a political family ““ his
father Birch was also an Indiana senator ““ and he is
well-connected in the Democratic Party.

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Colleen Honigsberg
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