Wednesday, July 07, 2004

On the Erstwhile VP Candidate

There is a historical parallel between this upcoming election and the 1900 election between McKinley and Bryan. McKinley, the encumbant, was respected for his policies but in public was a cold fish. One pundit of the time quipped that every hand that touched McKinley's became a Democrat. On the other side, William Jennings Bryan, a political firebrand best known for his "Cross of Gold" speech which called for radical economic reform to relieve the needs of farmers, was able to light up a room, but he sounded too often like a socialist. That simply wasn't going to fly. But the Republican party bosses were a little, okay, more than a little concerned, about Bryan beating McKinley. So what to do? To get rid of another problem in New York State, Thomas Platt, a New York Republican politico, pushed for a well-known local politician to become running mate to McKinley. Who is that erstwhile VP?

Teddy Roosevelt.

The Rough Rider himself was able to help the flagging campaign and bring about the re-election of McKinley, whom he didn't particularly care for. His running as VP was both a condition of Roosevelt's own ambition and the spirit of "taking one for the team." Of course, this all paid off for Teddy when McKinley is assassinated the next year.

It all sounds vaguely like our election with the roles reversed. The candidate challenger is the cold fish who needs a little boost in the public relations department. The encumbant is both liked and not trusted in the same breath. And whether or not, Edwards will help or hurt Kerry's chances remains to be seen. But I think we can put forward the rule: when you drag out the pretty boy, you know you are in trouble. Unless Edwards actually has something to bring to the table apart from good looks.

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