Who will be Kerry's pick?
This week in The Inside Edge, I complete "Top 11" list for the Democratic ticket.
For those needing a recap, my draft pool includes six current or former senators, one congressman, two governors, one corporate leader and a former general. Among the contenders are two women, one African-American and one Hispanic candidate. Six of the 11 are from the South, including three from Arkansas alone.
As the Democratic convention nears, keep an eye on these leaders, one may be coming soon to a John Kerry bumper sticker near you.
Georgia on my mind
My final bet for a VP contender slot grew up in the South, went to college and then to law school at Emory University, dedicated himself to military issues and public service, and won election to the U.S. Senate from Georgia before exiting the office a few years ago.
I know what you are thinking, but I am not referring to ex-Sen. Max Cleland (whom I wrote about last week), but rather to another former senator from Georgia -- Sam Nunn. How unlikely a choice he would be.
Yet in some ways it would make a lot of sense. A former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a military affairs specialist, Nunn has instant post-9/11 credibility. Given Nunn's history of moderate and even conservative Democratic politics, his selection might also help Kerry in his continuing effort to brand himself as a centrist.
Indeed, having the popular former four-term senator on the ticket, could help Kerry win Georgia or at least make it competitive. Remember Bill Clinton won the state in 1992.
Nunn's detractors point out that he was never very charismatic, and that while his conservative Democratic politics turned the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the party on, it might leave the more liberal base a bit cold.
They may be right. Nunn will not fire up the base. But he would be a curveball, and as we know, in VP choices (from Geraldine Ferraro to Dick Cheney), the unexpected has become the rule.
So this year, while smart money is betting on Edwards, Gephardt and Clark, don't forget Nunn, Cleland, Raines or Kerrey. Senators Blanch Lambert Lincoln and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Governors Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack round out the list.
Ralph Nader may be right. The big, established parties are rarely the first to raise important campaign issues. Throughout American history, from the Liberty Party on the abolition of slavery to Ross Perot's Reform Party on the deficit, third parties or insurgent campaigns have often been the ones to break new ground.
The same holds true in this election as we hear candidates from the two major parties speak about issues such as national security, the economy, education, Medicare and Social Security. All important issues, but well-worn.
While Kerry and President Bush could surprise voters and champion finding a cure for cancer or lowering the national voting age, chances are that they will stick to conventional scripts.
The next time you see a third-party candidate, it may be worth your while to take a peek at his or her platform, understanding that while they are unlikely to win, today's "far-out idea" could become tomorrow's policy.