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The Importance of Passing on Gephardt

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Reluctant as I am to disagree with both Atrios and my co-bloggers, I think Yglesias is pretty clearly right here:

…as I’ve been discovering, Washington insiders not on the AFL-CIO payroll don’t like Gephardt either. He’s the congressional leader who congressmen don’t like; the labor ally who union members don’t like; the insider who insiders don’t like; the Missourian who Missourians don’t like; in short — a very poor choice. What’s more, a dare say he wouldn’t be a very good president of the United States, which is something that ought to factor into the decision-making at some level.
Now to be clear, a Kerry-Gephardt ticket would still be worth supporting. It doesn’t matter very much who the vice president is, and a Kerry-Gephardt administration would be a damn sight better than a Bush-Cheney or a Nader-Camejo administration. But still, it does matter. These things are worth doing right, with “right” spelled “E-D-W-A-R-D-S” in this instance. If you’re running for president, you owe a broad duty to nation, world, and party — you’re personal comfort is not the top priority.

The last point is particularly important. David argued earlier this week that if Kerry picks Gephardt, it must be based on solid empirical evidence. I seriously doubt it, partly because state-by-state polling data before the candidates have started to run nationally doesn’t mean much of anything, and particularly because it’s virtually impossible to make a plausible case for Gephardt over Edwards or Sebelius or Nelson. The only thing Gephardt has going for him is his home state, but since he’s never won state-wide office that’s basically irrelevant. On the other had, he’s run two comically inept Presidential campaigns, and his last run showed amazingly bad political instincts–flip-flopping to positions that were actually less popular than the previous ones. Putting the man most responsible for the blank-check Iraq war bill on the ticket is a gift to Ralph Nader. What evidence could suggest he’d be a better candidate than the other major candidates? And if you want to argue that horse-race considerations are trivial and/or unknowable, on the merits he looks even worse.

Moreover, the news stories emphasize Kerry’s personal comfort level and the importance to Kerry of having a confidant as a running mate. I agree with Yglesias that this is just unacceptable. Like the last JFK to run for the Presidency, he needs to suck it up and pick the best candidate. I really don’t give a shit if he’d like to have a beer with John Edwards. That’s not going to be much consolation if Bush wins another narrow race.

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