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Oglesby: Who’s going to be second on the presidential tickets?

POSTED: April 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Earlier, I listed the top three presidential candidates in each major party I thought best qualified overall for the presidency under the philosophical banner of that party and the major issues. Now that the list has been narrowed to one Republican and two Democrats, let’s beat the major media in doing the same for the running mates.

First, the qualifications I consider most important. Tops, the choice should be qualified for the presidency itself. Second comes political realities, which boil down to geographic balance and electoral vote attraction.

Democrats first.

Should Barack Obama be the nominee, half-seriously I’d say Hillary Clinton. At least a political adult would be on the ticket. Actually, either would add something to the other, but either would add as much as someone else.

Based solely on being ready for the presidency, I believe New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson would be best despite, like Obama, being wrong on Iraq, the most important issue facing the country. He provides geographical balance to either and has the great breadth of experience needed by a president. He has executive branch experience as a governor and cabinet member, congressional experience and foreign policy experience as an ambassador. He would attract a number of Hispanic votes. Negatives? His state has few electoral votes, but the few could swing a close election. His stance on immigration would drive away a number of hard-liners.

A Floridian such as Sen. Bob Graham could provide an Eastern North-South geographic balance and a critical swing state with sizeable electoral votes. A former governor, he has executive-branch experience to go with his legislative. Lacking is foreign policy credentials. In economics, he’d follow the traditional Democrat tax-and-spend policy and select liberal Supreme Court justices.

A Californian would provide a Western balance for either and could sew up California’s nation-leading number of electoral votes. I don’t know the presidential bona fides of many Californians, but of the two female senators, Diane Feinstein appears more qualified. A female might be good for Obama, poison for Clinton. Same for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who may decline to vacate her seat. Senators like Joe Biden and independent Joe Lieberman wouldn’t provide a geographical balance.

My first choice for either Clinton or Obama would be Richardson, followed by Graham and a Californian in order.

Now to McCain’s task on the GOP side. He’s got to reassure and pay homage to the right wing without losing his considerable support of independents and moderates of both parties. Florida’s popular GOP governor, Charlie Crist, would provide both East-West geographical balance and a rich electoral vote trove. He’s lacking in foreign policy. If their differences could be resolved, Mitt Romney would provide a Northeastern geographical balance and a shot at the considerable electoral votes of a usually Democratic state. He would please many on the economic front though displease those who consider him cosmetic and wishy-washy on issues as well as many evangelicals here in the Bible Belt who won’t vote for a Mormon.

Political reality could force a pragmatic selection of Mike Huckabee, a close friend and darling of the evangelicals. A Republican must carry most of the Bible belt to win. Huckabee is sorely lacking in foreign policy and is suspect on Iraq. Despite his seeming lack of enthusiasm and dismal primary showing, Tennessee’s Fred Thompson would bring a number of assets but few electoral votes.

I can’t help but keep dreaming that he could select a willing independent Joe Lieberman without infuriating GOP hardliners. Both are pragmatic problem solvers with records of working successfully across party lines to get things done.

Conceding Lieberman’s probably a pipe dream, Florida’s governor would be my first choice followed closely by Romney with Huckabee third, barely edging out Thompson since my choices must be limited to three. Let’s see what happens.

Ted Oglesby is retired editor of the opinion page. He can be reached at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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