Sabato's Crystal Ball

Veep Update! Best Kerry Choice Is Evan Bayh

Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics March 3rd, 2004

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

Take a look at the Crystal Ball’s latest analysis of John Kerry’s likely choices for vice president and the table of other possible Veeps.

Look at our new Kerry Veep leader: Indiana U.S. Sen. and two-term Gov. Evan Bayh. Why? All the buzz today is about John Edwards filling out the Kerry ticket. But Edwards is very unlikely to win his home state of North Carolina in November; he cannot bring any other Southern state to the table either; his National Journal ratings are now almost as liberal as Kerry’s, so he cannot moderate the liberal Kerry; the personal chemistry between Kerry and Edwards is not strong; Edwards would outshine Kerry as a stump campaigner by a mile, and the Veep cannot outshine the Prez candidate during the campaign; and finally, Edwards brings no complimentary strength in the critical fields of national security and the economy to the ticket.

So what about Evan Bayh? While currently a senator, Bayh brings the executive experience Kerry lacks as a highly successful governor. Bayh is a modest – even humble – individual who would never try to outshine the presidential nominee. Bayh’s image is perfect: from his picture-charming young family to his boyish demeanor that belies a lengthy and highly successful political career. Bayh is one of only two or three Democrats in the country with the political strength to turn a Bush Red state into a Democratic Blue State (though granted, it won’t be easy). Bayh is cut out to carry the battle to the one big non-Southern state that Bush absolutely, positively MUST carry in order to win: Ohio. Bayh’s Midwestern sensibilities and sensitivities get the Democratic ticket the early upper hand in the economically hard-hit Buckeye State. Remember: if Bush loses EITHER Indiana OR Ohio, he will almost certainly be joining his father in the Hall of One-Term Presidents. Finally, and quite importantly, Bayh can do something for Kerry that Edwards and many other Democrats on the Veep finalist list cannot do: help to moderate the Massachusetts liberal. National Journal’s recent ratings that put Kerry at the top of the Senate’s liberal caucus, put Bayh smack-dab in the middle of the Senate. Moderation runs through Bayh’s veins; how else could a Democrat win repeated landslides for governor and Senate in conservative Indiana? It’s early, and with a shrewd choice such as Bayh, Kerry could define himself as more moderate than his voting record really deserves. A Bayh pick? And very early – during March or April? Daring! And necessary for a challenger who has to roll the dice to oust an incumbent, whatever the early polls say about his chances.

(From time to time, your Crystal Ball will make the strongest possible case for a Veep candidate, just as we have done above for Sen. Evan Bayh, so on to the next contest: the battle to be named the vice-presidential nominee!)