The Upside Of John Edwards as Kerry's Running Mate

Sunday, July 11, 2004

By J. Randy Evans

Senator John Kerry has selected Senator John Edwards to be his running mate. So far, political insiders are having a difficult time seeing the upside. Here are some of the concerns.

Electoral College analysis. Possibly the most important criteria for the selection of a Vice Presidential candidate is the ability to deliver the all important Electoral Votes of the candidate’s home state. In the case of Senator Edwards, the apparent thinking was that his strong showing in the southern Democratic primaries suggests that he might put the south back in play in the Presidential race. The numbers indicate otherwise. The Bush numerical advantage throughout the south is sufficiently large that even a boost of a few points by an Edwards candidacy would not be enough to make the south competitive. Indeed, it does not appear that his inclusion on the ticket will be enough to move North Carolina, his home state, to battleground status. In Florida, the only southern state which remains in play, Edwards remains a non-factor.

Energized Constituencies. After Clinton, one lawyer on the ticket is a tough sell. Two lawyers on the ticket (Kerry and Edwards) is a tougher sell. Two lawyers, one of which is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer, are downright difficult. While the trial lawyers across the country now have an even stronger vested interest in a Kerry victory, they have never really had anywhere else to go. Bush’s strong tort reform message made him public enemy number one for trial lawyers long ago. On the other hand, like chickens in the hen house upon hearing that the fox has been nominated to stand at the door, the business and medical communities have now been directly incentivized with Kerry’s selection of a well-known, successful and proud trial lawyer as his running mate. Doctors, small business owners, hospitals, nursing homes and chambers of commerce now understand that the 2004 election is not just about who will be President, it is now about life and death.

Turning Out the Base. Without John Edwards, the Democratic nominee had the enthusiastic support of the core activists of the Democratic Party, also known as the “Bush haters.” Edwards neither increases nor decreases their zeal to defeat George W. Bush. Yet, in addition to the Bush-haters, there are the Clinton Democrats - some, but not all, of whom are also Bush haters. These include many southern, mid-western, and southwestern moderates who remain loyal followers of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Interestingly, the most significant threat to a Hillary Clinton Presidency, however, is a John Edwards Vice Presidency. Should the Kerry-Edwards ticket win, the soonest election Hillary Clinton could run for would be 2012, and even then, she would likely have to challenge the candidacy of a sitting Vice President seeking to move up. Basically, a Kerry-Edwards win would be the end of the Clinton dream to return to the White House. This is not exactly the kind of result that would lend itself to an all out effort to support the ticket, no matter what the Clintons may say.

Contrast. Finally, there is the contrast problem. Like Jack Kemp for Bob Dole, John Edwards only highlights the dull, drab, and uninspiring manner, style and look of John Kerry. Republicans are undoubtedly thinking - been there, done that.

J. Randy Evans
Randy is a partner at McKenna, Long, Aldridge & Norman in Atlanta and serves as General Counsel to both the Georgia Republican Party and U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

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