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News: Updated Mar. 13

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News from the Votemaster

Eliot Spitzer's resignation as governor of New York will cost Hillary Clinton one superdelegate as both he and the new governor, David Patterson (who was already a superdelegate and will continue to be one), supported her. The New York State constitution has no provision for filling a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's position so it will remain vacant until the next regular election.

As an aside, all this microscopic delegate counting pales in comparison to how the Florida and Michigan issues are solved. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) wants a mail-in revote. The Florida Democratic House delegation is against this plan and wants the delegates chosen Jan. 29 to be seated. The final call will be made by the Florida Democratic party, which has to submit a revised plan to the DNC, which then has to approve it. It is hard to imagine the DNC rejecting any plan except "let the Jan. 29 vote stand." In Michigan, the talk is of a caucus in June. Stay tuned.

If you missed the news late yesterday, Texas finally got the votes counted. The net result is that Obama actually won Texas. Clinton got four delegates more than he did in the primary but he beat her by nine delegates in the caucus. Between Texas, Wyoming, and Mississippi, he now has a bigger lead in delegates than he had before March 4.

Enough for the Democrats. Let's give the Republicans a bit of attention. The main subject, of course, is who will be John McCain's Veep. This is an area in which the ritual lying is as bad as it gets. Every presidential candidate always says "I chose the person best able to lead the country should the need arise." This statement can best be compared to the stuff you often find on the ground near the rear end of a bull. Does anyone really believe that Spiro Agnew (Nixon's Veep) or Dan Quayle (Bush 41's Veep) were the best qualified Republicans in the country? The true statement is: "I picked this person because I thought he or she would maximize my chances of winning the election." Why can't they just say it? Nobody would think it an odd thing to do or say.

That said, what do candidates want in a Veep? Traditionally, they want balance. The Veep should appeal to some geographic or demographic group the presidential candidate does not appeal to. But there are exceptions to this strategy (notably Bill Clinton picking Al Gore, another Southerner in 1992).

Another principle is when a party is fractured, as the Republicans are now, the #1 guy often looks for a #2 who will help unify the party by pacifying the voters who opposed him in the first place.

Still another principle is that it is better if the presidential candidate likes the Veep candidate. It gives more synergy to the ticket. Clinton liked Gore; that's probably why he picked him. On the other hand, Jack Kennedy considered Lyndon Johnson a crude, boorish, oaf, but he felt that Johnson could bring in Texas so he put up with him. John Kerry didn't seem to like John Edwards much and kept him hidden throughout the 2004 campaign, despite Edwards being a moving stump speaker. Nevertheless, all things being equal, you pick somebody you like.

How are these general principles going to work for John McCain? He is weak with the conservatives in his own party, but popular with independents. This puts him in a quandry. He could move to the right and pick a true-blue conservative to pacify the base, but doing so would alienate independents and Democrats. Or he could move to the center and pick a moderate, thus picking up independents tired of 8 years of bitter partisanship. But this approach would just confirm to the base what they already suspect-- that he is some kind of crypto-moderate (despite a very conservative voting record in the Senate).

Fortunately, he is in no hurry and can wait until the Democrats have a nominee to guide him. Against Hillary Clinton he can move sharply to the center and count on the irrational Hillary-hatred of the base to make them hold their noses and vote for him. After all, they would have no where else to go. Against Obama, he has a real problem since he can't count on the base reflexively rejecting Obama. He's a blank slate to many of them and they might be willing to give him a chance. On the other hand, against Obama, he also has to worry about the independents, who thus far have warmed to Obama. At the very least, a Clinton nomination makes his life easier.

Given his age (72 in August) and health (three bouts with a particularly nasty form of cancer) he certainly wants a young Veep, but one who seems presidential as his Veep will get a LOT of scrutiny.

So, who might be possibles? Condi Rice would be a brilliant stroke, pulling in both blacks and women. Furthermore, the case that she actually was the best person to be President in an emergency would actually have a ring of truth in it. Nobody doubts that she is very smart and has more foreign policy experience than just about everybody else in Washington. But that is also her downside. The Democrats would deride McCain/Rice as Bush III. Besides, she has said she doesn't want the job.

Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge is sometimes mentioned. He is a moderate from a state that might be in play if he were on the ticket. His downside is that the far right would howl at the moon if it were McCain/Ridge. This would confirm their worst suspicions that deep down inside McCain is a not a crazy. But Ridge would help bring in independents. And without Pennsylvania, the Democrats would be in deep trouble.

What about one of the 2008 losers, like Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee? Giuliani couldn't even bring in New York and the Base would react even worse than it would to Ridge.

Romney? McCain clearly doesn't like him and he is open to charges of flip-flopping. There are some people in the party who want him as Veep and may try to force McCain to take him though. If some of the party elders hold a gun to McCain's head he might take Romney but it won't be out of love and four years from now Romney will be quoting John Nance Garner like a real pro.

Huckabee? It would definitely shore up McCain's support with the evangelicals who would all go around with buttons reading: McCain '08/Huckabee '16. Privately, it is likely that McCain regards Huckabee as a lightweight nutcase, but he brings votes and charisma, so Huckabee can't be ruled out, like Kennedy/Johnson in 1960. Thompson? Well, he might take the job. It pays $208,000 a year and you don't have to do anything. But McCain doesn't need an lazy old guy with incurable cancer. Ron Paul? Too old and not a team player.

This year, for only the third time in American history, will a sitting senator be elected President. Part of the reason is that senators have long voting records that can come back to haunt them. For that reason, it is unlikely that McCain will look for another senator. Besides, although McCain knows a lot about foreign policy, he is weak in domestic policy, so a governor looks like a better bet. Only two senators might have a chance. One is Joe Lieberman (D-CT), who supports McCain 100% on his signature issue, Iraq. Oddly enough, even though Lieberman is an orthodox Jew, the Base liked him a lot in 2000 because he is so overtly religious (something McCain is not). Picking a former Democrat as Veep would enhance McCain standing with independents and probably wouldn't antagonize the Base. However, it is not clear what states Lieberman brings in. Certainly not Connecticut. The other senator is Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). Picking her would be an overt appeal to women. But she may not want the job as she is planning to run for governor of Texas.

So what about a sitting Republican governor? There is a large field to choose from. Here is the list of the governors with comments about their suitability.

State Governor Notes
Alabama Bob Riley A solid conservative with much experience but doesn't add any states
Alaska Sarah Palin A young woman would get a lot of attention, but is she presidential?
California Arnold Schwarzenegger Not a natural-born citizen, thus ineligible
Connecticut Jodi Rell Much too liberal for the national ticket
Florida Charlie Crist Maybe. Not much experience but from a crucial swing state
Georgia Sonny Perdue Very conservative but McCain can carry Georgia on his own
Hawaii Linda Lingle A twice-divorced childless Jewish woman from a very blue and small state
Idaho Butch Otter A little-known but solid conservative from a state McCain can carry on his own
Indiana Mitch Daniels Mostly conservative but he has repeatedly tried (and failed) to raise taxes
Louisina Bobby Jindal An Indian-American would help with minorities, but he was just elected
Minnesota Tim Pawlenty Serious. Young, conservative, and might be able to carry Minnesota
Mississippi Haley Barbour An old party war horse, but may be too conservative for the country as a whole
Missouri Matt Blunt A one-term governor not running for reelection because he might lose
Nebraska Dave Heineman A solid conservative but from a state McCain will win easily without him
Nevada Jim Gibbons Sex, business, nanny and other scandals make him a very bad choice
North Dakota John Hoeven The nation's most senior and most popular governor but unknown outside ND
Rhode Island Donald Carcieri With 14 grandchildren, he doesn't exude the youth McCain needs
South Carolina Mark Sanford Maybe. His is conservative enough for the base, moderate enough for the country
South Dakota Mike Rounds He signed a law banning abortions but seemed indecisive about even a Senate race
Texas Rick Perry He would remind people of another (quite unpopular) Texas governor
Utah Jon Huntsman A relaitively unknown Mormon from a state McCain will win easily
Vermont Jim Douglas He signed a bill banning discrimination against gays. The Base won't like him.

Of the governors, Crist, Pawlenty, and Sanford look the most promising. Crist is from the mother of all swing states, which is a huge plus. He was also married for 1 year 28 years ago and not remarried. For the family values crowd, this could become an issue. Pawlenty is young enough to offset McCain's age problem and from a state that he might be able to carry but would otherwise be lost. Sanford is conservative enough to energize some of the McCain haters and bring them back to the fold, but his state is a given no matter what.

But McCain is a maverick and could yet do something very unconventional, like choosing a businessman, mayor, or congressman. Mike Bloomberg, any one? But Bloomberg knows what fluid the Vice Presidency is not worth a pitcher of.

-- The Votemaster