Who do you think would have been a good vice presidential choice for John Kerry in 2004?
I think Biden would have been just as good of a choice for VP in 2004 as he was four years later (he also would have been a better Democratic Presidential nominee in 2004 than Kerry was). Other potential Vice Presidential candidates that John Kerry should have chosen in 2004 instead of John Edwards: Bill Richardson, Dianne Feinstein, Gary Locke, John Lewis, Hillary Clinton, Jeanne Shaheen, Barbara Mikulski, Bob Kerrey, Howard Dean, and many others. In hindsight, it should have been anyone but Edwards and I was anti-Edwards back in 2004, too. Even John McCain – who was vetted and seriously considered by the Kerry campaign in 2004 – would have been a better pick than Edwards, and almost certainly would have won the election for Kerry.
But here are the top five people I would have liked to have seen as John Kerry’s Vice Presidential running mate in 2004 (if, in this hypothetical situation, John Kerry still had to be the Democratic Presidential nominee):
- 5. Wesley Clark: the retired General and NATO Supreme Allied Commander made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2004 and I thought he was an intriguing candidate. A Kerry-Clark ticket would have had powerful national security credentials at a time when the country was in the middle of two costly wars. And while it may seem silly on the surface of things, “Kerry-Clark” is great-sounding ticket. The names of the candidates sound good together and that’s one of those weird advantages that campaigns cherish (and actively seek, believe it or not).
- 4. Joe Biden: again, it’s Joe Fucking Biden…he would have been a good VP pick for pretty much every Democratic candidate since 1988. His story and his blue collar roots would have helped balance John Kerry’s perceived eliteness and reputation for being out-of-touch with everyday Americans. Biden could have communicated with the exact voters that would have put Kerry over the top in 2004.
- 3. Max Cleland: a former U.S. Senator from Georgia, Cleland could have provided the same geographical balance that Kerry sought with his pick of Edwards. Cleland also could have done a better job of reaching the Americans who couldn’t connect with the wealthy Kerry who was seen as more of a WASP than George W. Bush even though Kerry was actually Catholic and the grandson of Austrian-Jewish immigrants. More crucially, it would have been very difficult for the Bush-Cheney campaign to use their damaging “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” attacks against a Kerry-Cleland. While Bush and Cheney were both going to great lengths to avoid service in Vietnam, Kerry and Cleland were both Vietnam veterans who were wounded in combat. It was already disgraceful for the Bush-Cheney campaign to use the “Swift Boat” strategy against Kerry; I doubt they could have justified using that strategy against a ticket including Max Cleland who lost both of his legs and part of his right arm in Vietnam and was wheelchair-bound – especially considering the number of American soldiers, sent overseas by Bush-Cheney Administration policies, who were fighting in the bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time.
- 2. John Glenn: at 83 years old, Glenn probably was a little too old in 2004, but he was also John Glenn. Glenn had been been a crew member on a space shuttle mission just six years before that and was not a normal senior citizen. He was basically Captain America. Glenn, a former U.S. Senator who missed his window for the Presidency for various reasons (he should have run in 1976 instead of waiting until 1984), was an American hero and would undoubtedly have boosted the popularity of Kerry’s ticket because, like I said, he was John Glenn. Not to mention the fact that Glenn’s quarter-century in the Senate was spent representing his home state of Ohio – the very state that decided the 2004 election.
- 1. Ann Richards: I think Ann Richards would have been a perfect running mate in 2004. First of all, a female on the ticket would have motivated a lot more people who stayed home on Election Day to get out the vote. Secondly, she was from Texas and while that state was never in play, it would given Kerry’s ticket even better geographical balance than Edwards did and would have rattled George W. Bush to face a popular former Texas Governor in a national race. Best of all is that even though George W. Bush began his rise to the Presidency by defeating Richards in the 1994 Texas Gubernatorial election she would have been an amazing hatchet woman (as good Vice Presidential candidates often are). Richards was famously brutal and biting with her words and her wit, and many of her best lines came at the expense of the Bush family. It was Ann Richards at the 1988 Democratic National Convention who said of George H.W. Bush, “I’m delighted to be here with you this evening because, after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like” and quipped, “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” And those comments were for the elder George Bush! Imagine what she would have said in a national campaign about George W. Bush! In my opinion, Ann Richards would have been a great fit for John Kerry in 2004, and I think a better running mate would have won that election for Kerry – I mean, Kerry barely lost the 2004 election with John Edwards as his running mate, so surely an even marginally better VP nominee could have flipped Ohio in favor of the Democrats. And that’s all Kerry would have needed to have been elected President in 2004. Oh well, I’m sure that doesn’t keep anyone lying awake at night except for John Kerry, his campaign staff, and 60 million Americans.