Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Who's on a Dream Ticket in 2000? ; with Nominations Virtually Assured, Bush and Gore Want Their Choices for No. 2 to Win Independent Voters

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Who's on a Dream Ticket in 2000? ; with Nominations Virtually Assured, Bush and Gore Want Their Choices for No. 2 to Win Independent Voters

Article excerpt

Here's a quick quiz: What do Chuck Hagel, Evan Bayh, and Tom Ridge have in common?

Or rather, can anyone outside the world of presidential politics even identify these guys?

The first two are senators, the other is a governor, and their names are suddenly on the tip of every political aficionado's tongue as the great quadrennial game of "who wants to run for vice president" kicks into gear.

For both Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, now positioned to win the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations, the choice of running mate is a key piece in the quest to woo voters in November.

Though both men enjoy high name recognition among the public, most voters still haven't focused on who they really are. Their running-mate selections, expected by the summer conventions, will give important signals about the qualities each man sees as important in fleshing out his presidential ticket - and in the next administration.

For both, the veep selection is also an opportunity to reach out to the vast body of independent voters - now one-third of the electorate - who are up for grabs. In particular, they're after that newly energized corps of voters who supported Arizona Sen. John McCain for the Republican nomination, who are now searching for a political home in November.

"The vice-presidential choice is pretty critical this time around, probably more so for George Bush," says Jim Guth, a political analyst at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Governor Bush had to veer further right than he had planned to clear the way to the GOP nomination, and now he has an opportunity to show voters he's not a captive of the religious right, analysts say.

"For Bush, [the vice-presidential choice] is crucial to certify his moderation," says David Axelrod, a Democratic consultant in Chicago. "He's so thoroughly mortgaged to the right wing of his party, he needs to buy his mortgage back through the VP nomination."

The way to do that, analysts say, may be by putting a moderate on the ticket - even someone who favors the right to abortion. Two names in that category are Gen. Colin Powell and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. Many Republicans mention the retired Army general as the dream running mate, an African-American with high name recognition, a positive image, and a strong military record that helps balance out Bush's weakness in that area.

A Bush-Powell ticket might have the negative effect of looking like a jack rabbit, say some analysts - that is, stronger in the hind quarters than up front. But that's probably a moot issue, because Mr. Powell is reportedly not interested in the job.

Governor Ridge is less well- known, but he has the added value of possibly giving Bush a swing state, Pennsylvania. Ridge is also a Roman Catholic, which could help Bush with a key constituency; a Vietnam veteran; and a long-time governor, which would enhance the GOP ticket's image as made up of outsiders with solid executive experience. …

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