The Kerry/McCain Stories Don't Go Away - Why?
There’s another story in the New York Times this morning that floats the idea of a Kerry-McCain ticket. These stories seem to come out every two weeks or so, and they are always accompanied by the usual rejections from McCain’s camp. This latest story is no different, with several qualifiers. Sure, once again McCain says that “I won’t do it,” and his camp is saying that he has “totally ruled it out.” And there are the usual and valid comments from those inside the party that no matter the positives in such a “national unity ticket,” McCain holds positions that are against those of many Democrats, such as on a woman’s right to choose.
It's easy to dismiss these stories if they were coming solely from Chris Lehane in another effort to hurt Kerry or from unnamed sources in a Rovian effort to cause dissension within the party. What’s noteworthy to me however are that 1) the stories keep coming out, with an assist this time from the campaign and potential running mates themselves, and 2) what the issuance of such stories from the campaign or those currently in contention for the running mate slot really say about the Kerry camp’s view of the pool of potential running mates. Lastly, is it possible that either the Kerry camp or the McCain people are allowing or encouraging these stories to keep coming out just to mess with Bush and Rove?
On the first issue, this latest story is sourced not only to “one longtime Democratic official who works for the Kerry campaign”, but also to running mate candidates themselves, namely Florida senator Bill Nelson and former senator Bob Kerrey, who both went on the record about the wisdom of such a ticket. Such sourcing indicates that the Kerry camp is pushing this as a continual trial balloon, and the story indicates that McCain will continue to say no, at least until Kerry talks with him directly, which hasn’t happened yet. Kerry obviously would not talk directly to McCain this early in order to protect McCain’s interests in running for reelection this fall, but Kerry did indicate earlier this week that he would wait until just before the convention to make his choice. In fact, the stories late last week about possible replacements for Rummy in a Kerry Administration spoke volumes about a possible Kerry preference for a bipartisan government when he mentioned McCain and John Warner as possible Defense secretaries in his administration.
Secondly, this story, again coming from the campaign itself, follows on the heels of another story earlier in the week where it was reported that the search has been narrowed to five names, four of which included former competitors Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, and Clark, plus Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa. And the AP speculated that of the remaining potential running mates who were also competitors against Kerry both Clark and Graham may be less than inspiring to the Kerry camp, based on how they performed themselves during the primaries. This would leave Gephardt, Edwards, and Vilsack as the frontrunners for the Number Two spot. I have said previously that I think Gephardt or Edwards would add the most to Kerry’s electoral chances, but there are those who feel that Clark and Graham can help a good deal as well. Vilsack to me would be a great choice if he could deliver more than his home state of Iowa and if national security and war weren’t going to be such big issues in this campaign. But again, the story on McCain comes out several days later, quoting someone inside the campaign as well as Nelson and Kerrey, so you have to wonder if this is a statement on what the Kerry folks feel about these five as compared to McCain, or if the Kerry guys are trying to mess with Rove’s head.
So, what’s really going on here with these McCain stories? Suppose Kerry makes the call to McCain on the eve of the convention after more weeks of trial balloons about a national unity approach? Suppose that Kerry announces his cabinet before the convention, comprised of some of his competitors (Gephardt for Labor, Edwards for AG, Clark for Defense, Graham for Homeland Security) as well as Holbrooke for State and Kerrey for CIA to demonstrate to McCain a moderate approach towards national security as a lure to come aboard?
It is warranted for Democrats to complain why it is that our party has to succumb to being for unity when the GOP can cater to zealots. But after more weeks of bad news in Iraq it just may be that Kerry really wants to take a run at a unity government both within and outside of the party to seal the deal with swing voters. Otherwise, why would these stories keep coming up unless they are messing with Rove?
Naming McCain at the convention would anger some of the base but it would kill off Bush before the GOP convention and cut into Nader's support. After all, it’s not like McCain himself has publicly told Kerry to stop it.