A Prediction on Kerry's Veep Political editor Ken Rudin makes a prediction on who John Kerry will pick as his running mate.
NPR logo A Prediction on Kerry's Veep

A Prediction on Kerry's Veep

The dream ticket for many Democrats is just that. hide caption

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The short-lived 1972 Democratic ticket was the last time two senators ran together. hide caption

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Thirty-two years ago today, Mayor Daley and his allies were ousted by McGovern forces at the 1972 Democratic convention. From Ken Rudin's Collection hide caption

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From Ken Rudin's Collection

Q: Who is going to be the Democratic vice presidential candidate this year? -- Marcus Kosena, Sunnyvale, Calif.

Note: If you wish to be notified when a new Political Junkie is published, drop me a line at politicaljunkie@npr.org.

Also, when sending in a question, please be sure to include your city and state.

A: Let's face it, it's the question on the mind of every political junkie in America, and it's been the overwhelming subject of mail I've received over the past three months. (Readers: please send your own prediction to politicaljunkie@npr.org.)

Some say Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's choice won't really matter in the long run, that voters vote for president, not vice president. For the most part, that's true. But you don't want your choice to be an embarrassment, or a distraction. You don't want to get bogged down talking about your running mate's family finances (as with Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984) or whether he tried to avoid military service (as with Republican Dan Quayle in 1988). But the fact is that since World War II, five vice presidents -- Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush -- all became president, and another one, Al Gore, nearly joined that list. So even if the choice may not decide the election, it is important, and you know it will be scrutinized and analyzed to death.

I know the case against North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. I know he has less than six years in public office -- half of what Quayle had in '88, and yet he was famously ridiculed over his qualifications in the debate against Lloyd Bentsen. I know that Republicans will paint Edwards as being in the pocket of trial lawyers. Some anonymous Kerry staffers have complained that Edwards is too ambitious, appearing too eager for the job; would a President Kerry have to look over his shoulder for four, or eight, years? Plus, there is no guarantee he will help Kerry carry North Carolina, let alone any other Southern state. The real battleground for November, we are told, is the Midwest -- hence the argument for outgoing Rep. Richard Gephardt (from the swing state of Missouri), Sen. Evan Bayh (IN) or Iowa's Gov. Tom Vilsack. And as someone who was so determined to run a positive, upbeat campaign during the primaries, could Edwards switch personas and become an attack dog, which is, after all, the historical role of a running mate? These are all legitimate concerns.

But unlike many other VP selections over the years, voters around the country have seen Edwards in action -- and apparently they like what they see. Yes, he won only one primary (his birth state of South Carolina). But he seemed to strike a chord with his optimism, energy and charisma. One presumably needs more than that if he or she is to be elected president, but having those traits in a running mate may be a different animal. Even if he can't push Kerry over the top in the South, his presence on the ticket could give southern Democratic candidates for the Senate license to embrace the ticket. (With five seats in the South being vacated by Democratic incumbents, this will be the region that decides who controls the Senate in the 109th Congress.) As for the issue of their compatibility, or their potential lack of: well, Bill Clinton and Al Gore certainly had it, and they won. But John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson apparently did not, and they won as well.

I should tell you that, against all odds, I predicted Quayle in '88 and Thomas Eagleton in 1972 (honest!). So I'm either prescient, or out of my mind. This time, however, I'm expecting a more conventional choice, and I think it's going to be Edwards.

Q: Was there ever a vice presidential nominee who reprised that role with a later presidential nominee? -- Charles Markey, Jersey City, N.J.

A: Yes, there were three. Thomas Hendricks of Indiana ran on the unsuccessful Democratic ticket led by Samuel Tilden in 1876. Eight years later, he ran with, and was elected with, Grover Cleveland. (Hendricks died after less than nine months as vice president.) Adlai Ewing Stevenson, a Democrat from Illinois, was elected with Cleveland in 1892. In 1900 Stevenson was again the VP nominee, but he lost on the ticket headed by William Jennings Bryan. Finally, Sen. Charles Fairbanks (R-IN) was elected vice president under Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. In 1916, he again sought the office, but the GOP ticket led that year by Charles Evans Hughes went down to defeat.

For the record, only two times in history has a vice president served with different presidents. New York Gov. George Clinton was VP in Thomas Jefferson's second term (1805-09) and later during James Madison's first term (1809-12), where he died in office. John C. Calhoun was John Quincy Adams' vice president (1825-29) and again under Andrew Jackson (1829-32); he resigned shortly before the end of Jackson's first term to become a senator from South Carolina.

Q: Your June 2 column focused on House elections, in which the unsuccessful candidate in the special came back to win the general election. You said the last such case was a West Virginia race in 1980. What about the 1993 special in Wisconsin to fill the seat of Rep. Les Aspin (D), who became President Clinton's Secretary of Defense? In that election, Democrat Peter Barca defeated Republican Mark Neumann, but in 1994 Neumann beat Barca in the rematch for the full term. -- Sally Smith, Ashburn, Va.

A: Here's the difference. My column was talking about special congressional elections that came on the same day as primaries designed to choose nominees in November for the same seat. Earlier this month in South Dakota, for example, there was a special election to replace ex-Rep. Bill Janklow (R) the same day as the primary where nominees were chosen for the November election -- and in each instance, the candidates were the same. That was the case in West Virginia in 1980, when Republican Mick Staton lost the special election to Democrat John Hutchinson but on the same day was nominated to run again in November against Hutchinson, where he was successful.

In the Wisconsin elections you cite between Barca and Neumann, it was 16 months after the special -- on Sept. 12, 1994 -- when Barca and Neumann won the nomination of their parties to run again.

OK, tell the truth, did I just make this even more confusing?

Q: I want to tell you that I am so glad your informative column has returned. My one disappointment is that it will only be every other Wednesday. How can NPR make this a weekly feature? -- George Kirschbaum, Baltimore, Md.

A: This column depends totally on input from the readers. For it to become a weekly feature, it will need more questions submitted by those NPR junkies who read this on the Web site.

This Day in Campaign History: At the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, the party's credentials committee votes to unseat Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and 58 other delegates from Cook County, saying the delegates violated party reform guidelines. It is considered a big victory for the campaign of Dem frontrunner George McGovern, and it represents a humiliating defeat for Daley, who for the first time since 1956 does not play a major role at a Democratic convention (June 30, 1972).