The race to be the next Dick Cheney | TahoeDailyTribune.com

The race to be the next Dick Cheney

Kirk Caraway

One of the things that Republicans and Democrats can agree on is that Dick Cheney is the most powerful vice president in history. And because of the precedent he has set, it also means that extra attention should be paid to who will be filling Cheney’s spot come January 2009.

There are no current presidential candidates out there who would admit that they are running for the second spot. But there are some fairly obvious choices among the fields on both sides, and it offers a different way to look at the presidential race.

Let me start with the Democrats. First, let’s strip out the candidates whose names would never appear on the second line of the ballot. You can count out Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Neither one would accept being VP. Neither would possible candidate Al Gore.

Then you have Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. No candidate in their right mind would offer them the VP spot. Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd are long shots who don’t have anything they can bring the ticket.

Then you have Barack Obama. He has a good shot at winning the nomination, but could also be VP. Clinton would never pick him because there is already too much bad blood between them, and I’m sure she is thinking that a Clinton/Obama ticket is more diversity than America could take right now.

But if Edwards were to win the nomination, there would be pressure for him to diversify the ticket. Obama would be on his short list, along with Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat who has proven she can win in a red state.

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And then there’s New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

I really like Richardson. He’s a middle-of-the-road candidate, a Westerner who understands that government isn’t the answer to every problem. His experience as a congressman, cabinet secretary, U.N. ambassador and governor makes him the best-qualified candidate for president, hands down.

He is also unique in that he is Hispanic, which is the fastest-growing voter block in the country, but he’s still perceived by White America as one of them. He doesn’t have a Hispanic name, and he doesn’t fit the stereotype of what too many Americans think of as Hispanic. It’s sad to think that racism is still a prevalent part of America, but it is, and it can flourish in the privacy of the voting booth. Richardson is a non-threatening bridge between political cultures, like Tiger Woods was to golf.

There’s a chance Richardson could break through and win the nomination, but right now he’s looking better as a choice for VP. He would certainly be on the top of the list for any of the possible nominees. If Clinton wins, I’d almost guarantee that Richardson will be her running mate. And if Obama wins, he will want someone with Richardson’s experience to back him up.

If I were a betting man, the best pick for the entire 2008 elections would be that Bill Richardson is elected as the next vice president. Who his boss will be is still up in the air.

The Republican field is more difficult. Overall, the field is pretty weak as far as the primaries go. There are no rock-star conservatives in the race, which is why actor/lawyer Fred Thompson is getting ready to take the plunge. This confusion makes it hard to get a good read on where they will end up next year.

I don’t think John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani would accept the nomination for vice president. And it’s highly doubtful the winner would choose either Libertarian Republican Ron Paul or the anti-immigration activist Tom Tancredo to be on the ticket.

That leaves a very crowded field that keeps getting larger.

Newt Gingrich keeps toying with the idea of running for president, but it seems to me he’s angling to take over where Cheney leaves off, as the man working the controls of power behind the curtain.

The real question about Gingrich is which candidate would want him on the ticket? It would have to be someone more interested in the title of president than the power that goes with it. Romney and Fred Thompson fit somewhat in that category.

Sen. Sam Brownback or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee might be good choices for a candidate like Giuliani who is worried about the Christian conservative vote. It’s hard to picture Giuliani and Brownback in the same room, but stranger pairings have happened before, like John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

If I had to pick, I say Huckabee has the best shot among Republicans of becoming vice president. But I wouldn’t give him any better odds than I would the Cincinnati Bengals to win the next Super Bowl.

We’ll have to wait until next summer to see how this all plays out.

– Kirk Caraway is editor of nevadapolitics.com, and also writes a blog on national issues at kirkcaraway.com.

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