by David Corn
George W. Bush -- the soon-to-be $100 Million Man -- has a lock on the
Republican presidential nomination and Al Gore, despite a couple of
missteps, still has most of the Democrats behind him. Done deals.
So what time is it? Time to talk about running mates. In the hyperspeed campaign of 2000 (by election day we'll be ready to boot out of office whoever is elected) it's not too early to consider number twos. When Rep. John Kasich bailed out of the GOP presidential race last week and endorsed W, pundits wondered if he was angling for the second spot on the ticket. That day, I had breakfast with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and a group of reporters. She told us that "the time is right" for a woman vice president and acknowledged that should the GOPers nominate a YY for veep (hint, hint: Elizabeth Dole), the Democrats would have to follow suit. (For those of you looking that far ahead, the Republican convention next August occurs before the Democratic convention.) But DiFi expressed minimal interest in being the Dems' designated woman, and her aides have been telling California reporters for weeks that she really, really, is not keen on the job.
Which presents a problem for her party.
Asked what other Democrat-in-heels might serve as slate-mate to Gore or Bill Bradley, Feinstein named not a one. She said that any of the Democratic women senators could do the job and that there are Democratic women in the House and in the administration who would make good picks.
But she identified none because, other than herself, there are no obvious or near-obvious candidates. Her fellow female senators -- Barbara Boxer (too erratic), Mary Landrieu (too new), Blanche Lambert-Lincoln (too new, too), Barbara Mikulski (too mean) and Patty Murray (too nondescript) -- are not strong contenders. No one in this pack has the Feinstein combo of cultivated gravitas, nonthreatening manner and middling politics. And can you cite a Democratic congresswoman or governor who has national standing? Scoping in the House raises the discomfiting specter of Geraldine Ferraro, a congresswoman who was far from ready for primetime when Walter Mondale placed her on the Democratic ticket in 1984. The only female Democratic governor is Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Democrats in her state have complained about her clumsy handling of tax and education issues. One possibility mentioned by whoever it is who does this sort of mentioning is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the lieutenant governor of Maryland and daughter of Bobby. Yet it would seem a stretch if the Democratic presidential nominee chooses a lieutenant governor.
Feinstein, alas, may be the only Democratic woman who fits the conventional bill. But on one front, she does not, for she's Jewish, an untested quality in national politics. (That is, if you don't count Arlen Specter's over- in- a- blink run for the GOP nomination last time.)
If she is successfully courted for the task, she may have to give up her Senate seat, which would be good news for the disarray-ridden California Republicans. (It's possible Feinstein could run for both vice president and Senate. Then, if she and her running mate won, she would resign from the Senate and California Gov. Gray Davis would appoint her successor.)
Sure, complain it's too soon to be handicapping the veepstakes. But Bush's $36 million I-Am-Me roar is drowning out the Republican contest, and Gore's awkward and messy campaign is too painful to watch. With all the attention Campaign 2000 has received, it feels as if it should almost be over and done with. Aren't you by now sick of Bush and Gore? It's a relief, if temporary, to look at who's next in line.
July 26, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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