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Ridge to the future

The guessing game about his running mate has begun, but if Obama’s the opponent, one man can secure the white house for McCain
By STEVEN STARK  |  March 12, 2008


With the Republican nomination officially settled, the speculation about John McCain’s choice of a running mate has already begun. In most campaigns, this conjecture tends to focus on the likes of former campaign-trail foes, ticket balancers, non-political celebrities from the world of business, and even members of the opposing party.

But for this election, if Barack Obama is the opponent, there’s an obvious choice who seems to fit virtually all of the Arizona senator’s political needs: former two-term Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.

In fact, Ridge was considered something of the front-runner to become George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000, when Dick Cheney — who was leading that search for potential veep — somehow ended up persuading his boss that he was the best choice for the job. McCain is unlikely to choose anyone as divisive as our current second-in-command. To win against Obama, McCain has several campaign goals:

* He has to win more than his share of the rust-belt swing states — such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and even Michigan — that are likely to decide the election.

* He has to do this by appealing to a large number of working-class, often Catholic swing voters in industrial states — the so-called Reagan Democrats.

* He has to convince enough voters that Obama is too inexperienced to handle the foreign-policy and terrorism threats facing the nation.

* And he has to hold the Republican Party together by discouraging a far-right third-party candidacy while maintaining his appeal to Independents.

Power couple
Ridge — a 62-year-old Vietnam vet and President Bush’s first Secretary of Homeland Security — would help him accomplish all these objectives. First, he’d be an enormous asset in Pennsylvania, which John Kerry carried by only three percentage points in 2004. The same would be true to a lesser extent in Ohio, Michigan, and other crucial northern swing states.

Equally important, Ridge would reinforce Reagan Democrats’ attraction to McCain — a demographic that Obama has had difficulty courting. Take for example a recent New Jersey poll, which had Clinton leading McCain in the Garden State by nine points in a hypothetical match-up, while Obama trailed McCain by a few points.

Ridge also reinforces McCain’s national-security appeal. Because of McCain’s age, it’s imperative for him to select a running mate who has the qualifications to be president. But it’s even more important for him to choose a candidate whose national-security credentials exceed those of Obama — the better to make the argument that the Illinois senator is unprepared to be president — an argument that already seems to be working for Hillary Clinton.

Yes, Ridge is pro-choice. But because as governor he supported a number of restrictions on abortion that tempered his position, he’s likely to be acceptable to most conservatives, while allowing McCain to retain his appeal to Independents.

Certainly a number of other candidates are likely to be under consideration. But it’s hard to find anyone else who meshes as well with McCain as does Ridge, who supported the Arizona senator in the primaries. Most of the “young faces” often mentioned — Florida governor Bill Crist, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, or Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty — are so inexperienced themselves that, in comparison, they make Obama look like a senior statesman. Ditto for any outsider businessman McCain might pick, with the additional proviso that most Independents (think Joe Lieberman or Mike Bloomberg) are likely to be unacceptable to the right wing.

Plus, none of the former candidates in the race appeal to voters in an important swing state. Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell might be an intriguing choice, but they’re too connected with the Bush policies in Iraq for comfort — and, besides, it’s unlikely Powell would accept the nod, anyway.

Traditionally, presidential candidates have looked for running mates who diversify the ticket. But with his selection of Al Gore in 1992, Bill Clinton demonstrated that it might be a better strategy to pick a candidate who reinforces your own appeal — the better to run on a consistent theme. Against Obama, McCain’s candidacy will rise or fall with his ability to convince the electorate that the nation needs a steady, experienced, somewhat independent hand at the tiller. Ridge has the best stature and persona to help reinforce that argument.

And if the opponent is Clinton? In that unlikely case, McCain might want to look elsewhere — which is why he’ll wait to the last minute, after the Democratic convention, to make his choice.


The nominee


Odds: 2-3| past week: same
Odds: 3-2| same

On the Web
Steven Stark's Presidential Tote Board blog: //

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Ridge to the future
It's time for the Democratic Party to get unabashedly, unapologetically cynical--time to ask, not who's going to make the better president, but who will get elected. Both candidates want to end the war. In a McCain presidency we can expect the loss of trillions of dollars, not to mention the much more immeasurable loss of lives. We know that Obama will come out ahead in the delegate count, but we also know that Clinton has a diabolical skill when it comes to pulling the rug out from under someone--be it Obama himself, or McCain. Ridge may well be able to make the case, rightly or wrongly, that Obama is inexperienced. The superdelegates must determine that and decide if they could float a candidate who could be a true hero, like Kennedy or King--or if it is the lesser of two evils to choose an intelligent but garden-variety pol who simply knows how to get the job done.
By gordon on 03/13/2008 at 1:18:58
Ridge to the future
That said, it appears that Clinton is up to her old tricks again with her negation of Farrarra's comment. This is what in psychoanalytic terms would be called "undoing": making an aggressive gesture and then reversing it in order to elevate the original gesture to a more powerful symbolic plane. But then again, who's to say the same thing wasn't happening in Obama's campaign with the "monster" comment"? Let's get on the same page, folks!
By gordon on 03/13/2008 at 8:01:44
Ridge to the future
Excellent analysis that McCain should keep and expand his appeal to moderate-to-liberal Republicans (one or two left, here and there), Independents and suggestible Democrats while using his Veep to tame the trumpeting elephants on his right flank. Yet, Ridge's pro-choice position may further enflame the raging religious right. Also, McCain's weakest political area is the economy and domestic issues. He's to be commended for trying to do something about so-called "illegal immigration." No other GOP primary candidate was in favor of doing anything. Romney had 'em mowing his lawn. McCain-Feingold is another McCain accomplishment. Yet, besides those two items, where is McCain on health care, education, Social Security, and the entire array of issues best represented by the "mommy" or "nanny" party? Ridge may also be lacking in these particulars. If the election swings on the economy or domestic issues, the Democratic nominee can easily outmaneuver McCain unless his VP choice can credibly carry the ball. Good suggestion that McCain play his cards close to the vest and wait until after the Denver Donkey Donnybrook subsides before deciding his choice. Us'n in the NorthEast must swallow the bitter pill that, in the Republican Party at least, the nominee is now from Arizona ("Where is that, papa?") and the bottom-half of the ticket may come from the East Coast. Goldwater, in 1964, wanted to saw off the East Coast and let it drift out to sea. Not so fast! Ridge is from Pennsylvania.
By L-J on 03/13/2008 at 9:24:20
Ridge to the future
To L-J: They say that a running mate can't help a candidate, but he or she can hurt them. With Ridge pulling a liberal card, the Republicans may end up in more of a mess than the Democrats. I wouldn't put it past them, but I believe it is the kind of dubious conflict of interest that the legal-minded Obama could dismantle to lay those poor-soaking warmongers down for the count.
By gordon on 03/13/2008 at 11:20:14
Ridge to the future
To GORDON. Yeah, you're right. Ridge's Homeland Security background would be vanilla frosting on white cake to McCain's anti-terrorism and Iraq Troop Surge street creds. A mentally unbalanced ticket, perhaps. They'd resemble The Lone Ranger and Tonto, riding across the desert sands to make the world safe for Halliburton. So-o-o-o, may I then suggest Beyonce as McCain's running mate? If you absolutely insist that a running mate have a last name, then Mary J. Blige would be terrific. Naomi Campbell would be divine and would match McCain's temper tantrums. But darling Naomi is a British subject. No problem, 'bro. We'd have the Congress pass a bill allowing British subjects to serve in U.S. public office. Have Bush sign it and 38 states would easily ratify the Constitutional Amendment well before November. Beyonce, Mary J. or Naomi would help McCain address age, race and gender issues. At his inauguration, McCain would feature The Supremes (the real ones, dude, not the court).
By L-J on 03/13/2008 at 2:26:47
Ridge to the future
Well, L-J, your insights are colorful and informed as usual. Kudos. Beyonce is beautiful, and Mary's a great singer (my favorite is her "Confrontation" from the Funkmaster Flex record "The Tunnel"). But the only way the Republican ticket will become viable is if McCain takes the VP spot and gives the candidacy to a gay or lesbian. I'm thinking of Morrissey's song "America": "Until you elect a president who is either black, female, or gay, you've got nothing to say." Come to think of it, if British subjects can run, why not Morrissey himself? I'm still in love with him.
By gordon on 03/13/2008 at 2:55:20
Ridge to the future
McCain needs to look to someone else other than MN Gov. Pawlenty. Pawlenty has nothing to offer, and Romney or Huckabee have a number of states under their belts to offer. When one looks at Pawlenty's Judicial Appointees one sees further reason for McCain to stay away from Pawlenty, unless McCain wants to be associated with Pawlenty's history. Pawlenty named Chief Judge Russell Anderson and Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson to the MN Supreme Court. Shortly after those appointments were made, Former MN Senate Majority leader Dean Johnson claimed that he had secret meetings with (2) Judges surnamed "Anderson". Under Pawlenty's mantle of deception, Pawlenty supported an affluent District Judge who was openly holding secret meetings to determine court cases. When a Pawlenty supporter took one of the court cases, that the judge decided via a secret meeting, to the Minnesota Appellate Court, former Appeals Court Judge G. Barry Anderson took part in a decision and ordered that deciding a court case, via a secret meeting, could not be detrimental to judicial proceedings. The District court judge even told a local newspaper that "We do ex parte all the time." notwithstanding ex parte is a violation of Minnesota Judicial Canon. Following the ex parte Appellate decision, by Judge G. Barry Anderson, Pawlenty appointed him to the Minnesota Supeme Court. Concurrently, Pawlenty appointed Judge Russel Anderson to Chief Judge of the Minnesota Supreme Court where notably Russell Anderson is a friend to the ex parte District Court Judge. The secret meeting of the (2) Justices surnamed "Anderson" was taken to the MN Judicial Board which operates under Pawlenty's administrative and selective control. Thus, the Board refused to hear evidence of (2) eye-witnesses to the judicial impropriety. One must remember that Pawlenty is a Lawyer and his wife a former MN Judge, so he should be well aware of MN Judicial Canon.
By gouldnen on 03/13/2008 at 5:14:23
Ridge to the future
I imagine the situation with the MN Gov. is only symptomatic of the problems the Republican Party will be rife with in finding a running mate for McCain. Just wait: skeletons will be crawling out of Ridge's closet, and the race will be delivered back into the Democrats' hands.
By gordon on 03/13/2008 at 6:54:13
Ridge to the future
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, 48, is a real possibility for McCain. As a Congressman he voted against pork-barrel projects (McCain is also against pork-barrel stuff) and has a 92% Congressional lifetime approval rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU) as compared to McCain's 82% ACU. As governor, Sanford has advocated school voucher choices so parents can have a say where their kids get educated. He's challenged South Carolina's public colleges to focus more on educating students than on conducting research. Sounds easy but North Carolina boasts the "research triangle" and Sanford indicates he'd rather make students his priority. He, after some delay, signed domestic violence policy into state law. Sanford, a post-Civil Rights era figure, shows sensitivity and responsiveness toward the Palmetto State's 30% African-American population. He's a libertarian and sometimes independent thinker (hello, John McCain) who proposes limited government - characteristics associated with GOP primary contender Ron Paul. Sanford once hauled in a couple of pigs into the state house to graphically depict his opposition to "pork barrel" legislation. Chances are McCain heard about it while aboard his Straight Talk Express, chuckled and probably wished he'd have done that. Terry Sanford, an influential JFK-era politician from the 1950s-60s, represented North Carolina. Mark may be related to Terry Sanford (What's in a name, right?) If so, a familial link could be interesting indeed.
By L-J on 03/15/2008 at 2:11:43
Ridge to the future
I'd have to give McCain all the credit in the world if he chose someone like that. Then the politicians would be on the same page as the electorate, seeking a civil debate over what ticket is really best for the nation instead of grandstanding and smearing and mudslinging.
By gordon on 03/15/2008 at 4:03:41

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