2000 Veep Choices Take on Greater Importance

July 7, 2008 - 8:25 PM

(CNSNews.com) - With their parties' nominations seemingly wrapped up, both the Bush and Gore campaign's are beginning the process of considering running mates - a process that many analysts say will be especially important in the 2000 race.

"A vice presidential nominee can sometimes sway two or three percent of the voters," said Glen Thurow, a political scientist in Dallas, Tex. "In a close race, that can be the deciding factor."

Many factors enter into the consideration, including complementariness to the nominee, regional and ethnic balance, and the ability to mobilize key voting blocks. The choice may be especially important for presumptive Republican nominee George W. Bush, whose running mate could go a long way toward healing the GOP after a bruising primary fight.

So what would an ideal Bush running mate look like? Many analysts say that the Texas governor would be wise to consider a prominent member of a minority religious or ethnic group. Topping everyone's list of ideal attributes are two: "female" and "Catholic."

In past general elections women have consistently voted in higher numbers in presidential elections, and Democrat Al Gore is likely to exploit polls that show that Democrats have a preference advantage over Republicans on issues that women rate as "important' or "very important," such as health care, education, and Social Security.

Among women, of course, no one excites more speculation that Elizabeth Dole, onetime Secretary of Labor and Transportation and former head of the Red Cross. Dole has endorsed Bush and campaigned with him in several states, and while her presidential run attracted little support her positive remain high in many public opinion polls.

However, Dole has several negatives: detractors say that she is too controlled and stiff on the stump, is a poor campaigner, and may be seen as too liberal for many core Republicans.

More to the point, the Bush camp might be unwilling to choose a vice presidential nominee whose popularity might upstage Bush.

"The Bush family doesn't like underlings who get too big for their britches," said one Republican strategist who worked for a rival presidential campaign. "Plus, Liddy Dole used to coordinate her shoes with the carpet she stood on. She's not ready for a rough and tumble campaign."

A Catholic would not only help to woo voters in the large industrial states that are considered important for a GOP victory - such as New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois - but would also shield Bush from charges of anti-Catholic bias that have surfaced after his February visit to Bob Jones University in South Carolina, whose founder has made anti-Catholic statements.

"Choosing a Catholic would go a long way toward reconstructing the Reagan Democrat-conservative coalition that dominated politics in the 1980s," said Deal Hudson, editor of the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis.

"In our history, there's an unfortunate undercurrent of discomfort at Catholics in positions of governmental power. . . . It would be well received if a member of our faith community was chosen because they might be more responsive to the concerns of our community," said Fr. Frank Pavone, director of the Catholic group Priests for Life.

But choosing a Catholic also has potential pitfalls, as a Catholic politician who is pro-choice would serve to alienate many religiously active Catholics, said Hudson.

Pavone agrees with Hudson, and says that such a choice might engender a public response from many members of the Catholic hierarchy. Priests for Life is a canonical Catholic organization whose board of directors include such members of the Catholic hierarchy as John Cardinal O'Connor of New York City; Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.; Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo of the Vatican's Council for the Family; and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Col.

"The dividing line [in choosing a Catholic pro-lifer] would not be between Catholics and non-Catholics, but between those who are pro-life and those who are not, regardless of denomination," said Pavone, who adds that he worries that a pro-choice Catholic would confuse non-Catholics and softly identified Catholics as to the position of the Roman Catholic church on abortion.

That would seem to end the chances of one Catholic Republican governor whose name has been mentioned frequently, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania. While Pavone's group does not take positions on any particular candidates, he said that any pro-choice Catholic - either Republican or Democrat - would cause "scandal among Catholics."

High on everyone's list - at least before the Michigan primary - is Michigan Gov. John Engler, a pro-life Catholic whose policies have helped drive the abortion rate in Michigan down dramatically. However, Bush's poor showing in the Michigan primary in February makes it increasingly unlikely that Engler would be chosen, for fear he would not be an electoral draw.

Other Republicans mentioned frequently are Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, who managed to pull his pivotal primary for Bush, and has been key to huge GOP gains in the Old Dominion, but adds little extra-regional appeal; Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who might be hurt by the fact that he attracted so little support in the Republican primaries; and Ohio Rep. John Kasich, who hails from a state with a large electoral vote but might be seen as too inexperienced for the job, despite several terms in Congress as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Tomorrow: Potential Democratic Veeps