Match Making

John Edwards is out of the presidential race; does he have a shot at Vice President?


As expected, John Edwards bowed out of the Democratic presidential primaries after losing all ten Super Tuesday states. No less expected, talk immediately turned to whether he’d now make a bid to be Kerry’s running mate.

The manner of Edwards’ exit, admittedly, was a bit of a surprise. Kerry annihilated him in California (67-18), and beat him even in Georgia, which Edwards had expected to win. With that, it was all over, and the “little engine that could,” as Edwards called his campaign, called it quits — because it couldn’t.

One Cincinnati man interviewed by The Associated Press summed it up:

”The issue that drove me is getting rid of Bush, and that led me to Kerry. Maybe Edwards someday, but I don’t think he’s ready yet.”

Granted, Edwards added some “Southern Comfort” to the race, balancing out Kerry’s gray cloud of a personality. He’s by far the best speaker — the best communicator — the Democrats have; he’s smart; he had a serious, detailed platform; and he’s famously “likable.” But he didn’t have the right stuff. Not this year. And that’s all it really boiled down to for voters: Democrats want Bush gone; Kerry looks to have the gravitas and the experience to do the job; Edwards doesn’t — yet. Case closed.

The Washington Post writes: “He was called charismatic, likable, polished and, to his frustration, ‘vice presidential.’

Yet for all the positive things people said about this candidate and the positive message on which he ran, the senator from North Carolina could not convince most Democratic voters that he was the party’s most plausible nominee against President Bush.”

Now attention turns to a different question: Is Edwards the most plausible running mate for Kerry? Kerry has just set up his candidate-vetting operation, and will probably decide by May, ahead of July’s Democratic convention in Boston. Edwards has hinted that he’s interested; Kerry hasn’t indicated one way or the other. Relations between the two men have been hard to read. Earlier last week, during the Democratic Debate in southern California, the two were all mutual appreciation, calling each other “John” and never getting too combative. Then on Sunday, in New York, Edwards pulled out his most aggressive script so far, and attacked Kerry as a “Washington Insider.” Kerry acidly responded that Edwards, after five years in the Senate, isn’t exactly an outsider.

After Edwards unofficially withdrew from the race last night, both men exchanged compliments during their speeches; things seem to be going smoothly again.

In theory, when you combine Kerry’s sobriety, experience, and foreign policy know-how with Edwards’ sunny demeanor and concern for the poor, you get a dream ticket, right? Not necessarily, according to some sources who say the senators aren’t as compatible as some may think. As the New York Times notes:

It is no secret that the Massachusetts senator views Mr. Edwards’s lack of foreign policy and military experience with disdain; Mr. Kerry once cracked that when he came back from Vietnam in 1969, Mr. Edwards might not have been ‘out of diapers.’ He later called to apologize.

Diaper insults are not exactly the start of a beautiful relationship.
Last night’s speeches notwithstanding, the two men aren’t close. This from the New York Times:

They live a block away from each other in Georgetown, the capital’s ritziest address. They have the same job and the same first name. They have turned to the same political consultant and have strikingly similar voting records. Yet in the clubby world of the Senate, John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina have hardly become fast friends.

And this from ABC’s blog, The Note:

Asked during each appearance about his relationship with John Edwards, Kerry described stories (including in Tuesday’s New York Times) that depicted their relationship as frosty as ‘fiction,’ ‘fictional,’ a ‘myth,’ and ‘mythological.’

‘I hear there’s a story today — I have not seen it. But I think it’s fictional to suggest that John and I don’t have a relationship,’ Kerry told ABC’s Diane Sawyer, saying that he and Edwards sit next to each other on the floor of the Senate and talk to each other before and after each debate. ‘It’s just a myth if you write anything else.’

‘To Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, Kerry added that he and Edwards barely get to see anybody — ‘even close friends’ — given their schedule, but that ‘I like him, I respect him, and we will work together in one way or another.’

That the two aren’t friends doesn’t necessarily rule out a Kerry-Edwards ticket. As the Washington Post points out, “Presidential candidates typically seek out a running mate they are comfortable being around, such as Clinton and Al Gore in 1992, but it is not unprecedented to pick a rival, even a bitter one, as John F. Kennedy did when he tapped Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960.”

A more substantive reason why Edwards might not make the cut is that Kerry might want to bring a woman onto the ticket. Says the Post, “Several women are being talked about, including former New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, and former health and human services secretary Donna E. Shalala. Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), a civil rights champion, could be included.”

Other possibilities being tossed around are former Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin (“The one person who … I think has the potential to really be a powerful voice against Bush’s most significant vulnerability [the economy] is Bob Rubin,” John D. Podesta, the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, tells the Post), and Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and Clinton’s Energy Secretary.

“Several Kerry supporters,” notes the Post, “are pushing for a Democratic pit bull who can attack Bush while Kerry stays more above the fray.” That doesn’t sound like Edwards, does it? Or maybe it does. “Edwards,” the article concludes, “despite his sunny disposition in the nomination fight, has shown a penchant for pugilism, too, and has the added bonus of hailing from the South.”