Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Late Happenings: Recovery from a weekend of debauchery and besottedness forced me to withhold comment on Kerry's choice for VP. All the speculation pushed aside, there is a bit of clarity to hindsight, a realization that picking Edwards was Kerry's only option. The Hillary thing was unlikely from the start, and Kerry/Gephardt could be bottled and sold as an insomnia tonic.

Here at FauxPolitik, of course, it was not hindsight but foresight that put us in the vanguard of this issue. I'll quote from a February post:

I think Edwards has given up. He'll tail along, perhaps hoping for that Kerry misstep, but he knows he's a natural for the VP slot: young, southern, unseasoned but promising. Once the junior candidates have left the stage, with Dean in a sputtering rage on a stage in Guam, hoping they have some delegates, Kerry and Edwards will run a hand-holding, soft-soap final lap into Boston and declare themselves the high-minded ticket.
Well, that's just what they did, with Edwards hanging on in the primaries to build name recognition, but never attacking or dismissing Kerry.

But what's the upshot here? Obviously, Kerry's attempts to straddle on protectionism come back to haunt him, since Edwards was the protectionist par excellence of the primaries. Don't hold your breath for a free-trade plank in the platform.

Edwards, like Kerry, voted against the famous $87 billion for the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. The fact that Kerry spent so much time spinning this vote ("I voted for it before I voted against it") seems to indicate that it is a non-winner in the focus groups. Bush should have little problem painting this duo as making the perfect the enemy of the good while out troops were in harm's way.

Finally, Kerry is lucky to have a young, energetic running mate. But he'll be inclined to keep him on a string. The more Americans saw of Edwards, the more they seemed, inexplicably, to warm to his transparent car-salesman charm and poor-huckleberry bootstraps story. Meanwhile, Kerry seems to be more popular in the abstract, getting a bounce whenever he disappears from sight. What better way to instill a sense of buyer's remorse in this ticket than to spend the next three months on a continent-wide tour of in-the-flesh proof that primary-voting Democrats put the wrong guy at the top of the ticket? Of course, I don't buy the entire "Edwards's charisma will overshadow Kerry" argument. True, Kerry could have picked his arthritic old housecat as a running mate and suffered by comparison. But if you're going to be second banana in your own campaign, pick someone with low negatives -- i.e., not Hillary. Edwards was the right pick. Let him do his thing.

More: Jon Chait puts this last point vividly (here, scroll down to his first post):

In fact, here's my ideal plan for the Kerry campaign. At an upcoming rally, an anti-Kerry protestor starts to burn an American flag. Kerry leaps down from the podium and starts strangling the protestor with his bare hands, then hurls him to the ground and rescues the flag. In the course of putting out the fire, he suffers minor burns that, the campaign announces, will force him to be hospitalized and inaccessible to the media and the public until mid-October. In the meantime, Edwards is dispatched to present the Democratic message for the next three and half months.

Sounds good, huh? All they need is to gin up a protestor who's willing to endure some minor, non-lethal choking.

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