honest commentator has to say it: The ego strokers
and apple polishers were telling Gov. Mark R.
Warner he would be the new, hot VEEP
choice as the Southern Governor Who Raised Taxes. At
the time, I wrote this was a crazy notion, as governors
simply are not VP players.
is a political circumstance some of us have
been discussing for years. Since the beginning of
the modern TV age of politics, only one sitting
governor has been chosen for the second spot:
Spiro Agnew, then in his second year as the chief
executive of Maryland.
aversion to governors as vice president has always
seemed curious to me given that state chief
executives have proven to be very viable
presidential contenders. In the TV age, two
sitting governors - Clinton of Arkansas and Bush
of Texas - have been elected. Two former governors
- Carter of Georgia and Reagan of California -
also have won the White House.
facts are facts. More current or former governors
have been elected president than United States senators
over this period. Yet governors have become
non-persons in the Veep sweepstakes.
the same time, five current or former members of
Congress - Bill Miller, Geraldine Ferraro,
and Jack Kemp, all from New York State, George
Bush the elder from Texas and Dick Cheney from
Wyoming - have been chosen for a second spot
on a major party national ticket. It seems
inexplicable that members of the House of
Representatives -- for sure, Bush
Cheney and Kemp had far more extensive resumes,
two even had run for president, before being
selected -- elected from 1/435th of the nation,
would be seen as better national ticket material
than governors, all of whom represent larger
constituencies and, moreover, have a far better
background in executive politics. But the record
speaks for itself.
the other hand, a U.S. senator has a
good chance to be chosen for the second spot, as
was the case with Lyndon Johnson in 1960, Hubert
Humphrey in 1964, Edmund Muskie in 1968, Tom
Eagleton in 1972, Bob Dole and Walter Mondale in
1976, Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen in 1988, Al
Gore in 1992, and Joe Lieberman in 2000. And, of
course, John Edwards in 2004. Interesting,
only one - Muskie of Maine - had previously been a
governor, while six others had formerly served in
did Edwards have that Warner didn't have in terms
of VEEP qualifications? He'd run for president and
done remarkably well in the Democratic primaries.
In terms of a political record, both men were only
in their first terms, Edwards having decided to
run after but four years in the Senate.
Edwards' selection followed the reigning pattern
in our presidential election politics.
Gore ran a credible race for the Democratic
presidential nomination in 1988. Walter
Mondale ran for nomination in the 1976 cycle as
one of the early favorites before dropping out, saying
he didn't like living in motels. Hubert Humphrey
had run for President in 1960, along with Lyndon
all the successful Democratic vice presidential
candidates in the modern age first ran a losing
race for the party's presidential nomination: Johnson,
Humphrey, Mondale, and Gore.
is why Senator Kerry picked Senator Edwards, and
rightfully so. The North Carolinian had showed he
could play at the national level. The national
press had been through his dirty laundry and
didn't find anything to start a "gotcha
sum, Edwards was the right guy at the right
time with the right historical resume. He will
shortly become the fifth consecutive Democrat
in the modern age to be elected vice president
after losing a primary fight.
governors are well-regarded as presidential
hopefuls. The last governor to become a
presidential contender solely on the basis of his
achievements was the legendary Al Smith, the first
Irish-Catholic Governor of New York and considered
to be the most forward-looking chief executive of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for president, he
was only in his third year as governor, still
living off the Smith legacy. Former Gov. Jimmy
Carter served one forgettable term as Georgia's
chief executive, his legacy being one of hanging a
picture of the Rev. Martin Luther King in the state
capitol a few days before leaving office. Former
Gov. Ronald Reagan got elected on the Iranian
hostage crisis and double-digit inflation, two
issues he had not faced as California's chief
executive. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was not
elected based on his record in Little Rock anymore
than George Bush won the White House based on his
record in Austin.
truth is, voters in the other 49 states have no
fool-proof way of judging whether a governor's
record is good or bad, since each state is
different in terms of the particulars of the
issues. Indeed, the key problems differ widely
from state to state. The only governor to
actually run on his record in modern times was
Mike Dukakis, whose staff dubbed him the creator
of the "Massachusetts miracle." He was a
miracle worker all right, blowing an 18 point
lead, the biggest debacle since Dewey blew a
smaller lead in the 1948 lose to Truman.
former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean this year. His big
issue was the Iraq War, not his domestic record.
governor gives you the ante to the big
presidential poker game. Unless your record
is pitiful, you can play. The days are gone when party
leaders came to your front-porch and beg you to
run, as, say, in 1896 during the first of Ohio
Gov. William McKinley's wins for the top spot.
Carter, indeed FDR, showed, it doesn't matter how
long you have served. In 1884, first term New
York Gov. Grover Cleveland ran and won the
presidency. In 1912, first term New Jersey Gov.
Woodrow Wilson got himself elected to the Oval
they say about the lottery: You have to be in it
to win it.
the modern age of presidential politics, we have
had the following successful vice presidential
candidates: Johnson, Humphrey, Agnew, Mondale,
Bush, Quayle, Gore, and Cheney. Five had
previously run for president, and all of them got
high marks for service in the second spot. Three
did not run for president before getting elected: Agnew,
Quayle, and Cheney.
is the only vice president to resign in order to
avoid pinstripes: and no, I am not talking about
his missing out on wearing a New York Yankee
uniform. Mr. Quayle was the most unpopular second
banana since Agnew, although the latest polls
suggest that Dick "I am so friggin' good as
vice president" Cheney is almost ready to
claim Dannye boy's position.
having previously run for president has proven to
be a good indicator of success as vice president
in recent years.
putting out Warner's name for vice president
exposed a whole lot to those of us who know the
game. Governors run for president, not vice
president, and they can and do win if they hit the
anti-Washington mood just right. Carter did it, so
did Reagan, Clinton and even Bush in his own way. For
the longest time, Howard Dean had the ball teed up
perfectly for another anti-Washington run.
Gov. Mark Warner will make a strong and
credible candidate for president at some point if
the timing is right. If he gets elected to
the U.S. Senate, his options will change, perhaps
for the better, perhaps for the worse, all
depending on the timing, the great unknown
is one of the 10 largest states. We are no longer
Professor Key's "Museum piece."
Virginia has more electoral votes than Arkansas
and Vermont combined. We have more electoral votes
than McCain's Arizona, and almost as many as North
Carolina. Massachusetts is smaller than Virginia.
top people are as capable as those of other
states. So, the time has come for Virginian's to
stop hoping that maybe, just maybe, someone will
notice one of us as a vice presidential pick.
the time has come for the state's political
reporters and pundits to stop acting like nerds,
hoping the cheerleader will give you a smile. They
have such an inferiority complex.
national politics, the prize goes to the people
who go out and take it from the other players.
the Democratic presidential nominees in the modern
age - Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, McGovern,
Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore and Kerry
- eight out of 10 come from states smaller than
Virginia. That's right: 80 percent. Georgia is not
much bigger and Texas is not likely to be sending
too many Democrats to a presidential primary
states, the press promotes their players and sizes
them up against the other contestants. But not in
Virginia. As I say, this may trace to an
inferiority complex in our press core.
big dreams can mean big belly flops. But in life,
it isn't how many times you fail, it is how many
times you succeed.
is easy not to fail: Never try.
-- July 12, 2004