Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Bridesmaid Should Never Upstage the Bride (or Yet another reason Romney Lost)

The reason bridesmaid dresses are so ugly is to make the bride appear that much more beautiful by comparison.  A bridesmaid should never be more attractive than the bride in any given wedding.

In my life I've witnessed five elections that were lost, at least in part, due to the vice presidential candidate upstaging his/her running mate.

1)  In 1984 former vice-president Walter "Fritz" Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate.  Ferraro was a better spoken and more dynamic candidate than Mondale.  

2)  In 1996 Bob Dole chose Jack Kemp as his running mate.  Kemp and Dole had actually run against each other in the 1988 Republican primary (with then VP, George H.W. Bush soundly defeating them both).  Kemp was a more dynamic speaker than Dole, he was charismatic where Dole was a bit wooden.  He had a Reagan-esque passion in everything he did that Dole seemed to lack.  Going up against a very popular and charismatic (not to mention pre-Lewinskygate) Bill Clinton, this pairing was a recipe for disaster.

3)  Don't ask me how it happened but in 2004, the rather wooden Lurch-esque John Forbes Kerry won the Democratic nomination for president.  I was baffled throughout that whole election cycle.  Prior to the Iowa caucus it seemed Howard Dean was the shoo-in for the nomination.  There was a strong grass-roots campaign for him leading into that caucus (arguably that grassroots campaign was the template that Obama used to catapult himself to the presidency and succeed where Dean had failed).  Before the whole Rielle Hunter mess, John Edwards was EASILY a more attractive candidate than John Kerry.  He was better spoken and he inspired a Kennedy-esque youthful enthusiasm among his supporters that I don't think Kerry was capable of doing even on his best days.  Kerry choosing Edwards was a huge mistake.  His own running mate actually made him a less attractive candidate than he might otherwise have been.

4) Sarah Palin... need I say more.  This case was a little different than the previous three...  Sarah Palin most definitely upstaged John McCain but for all the wrong reasons.  That VP pick caused some of his lukewarm supporters to question his decision making abilities and inevitably jump ship.  Sarah Palin was and is a decent and charismatic speaker... but public speaking and charisma alone can't make a president.  She was supremely ill-suited to the job and I'd argue her VP run cost her her job as governor of Alaska as well.  When she was governor people were coming out of the woodwork suing her... Some of the lawsuits may have been legitimate, but many were not.  Those lawsuits were inevitably too great a distraction (not to mention financial burden) for her to continue effectively executing the office she'd been elected to hold.  Incidentally, shortly after she resigned, many of the suits against her were dropped and/or dismissed.

5)  Paul Ryan is a more articulate speaker than Mitt Romney.  He is a Jack Kemp acolyte and shared with Kemp (and Reagan) a courage of conviction that Mitt Romney lacked.  Given his background he was far more in touch with the middle class than Romney, and in an election following a huge bailout of banks and the auto industry where the perception (rightly or wrongly) of many voters was that America had been screwed over by the wealthy who (thanks to their golden parachutes) were laughing all the way to the bank Paul Ryan should have strengthened the Romney ticket, but due to some of his gaffes, Ryan instead just made Romney appear that much more out of touch (by comparison).  I liked Romney in 2008, he ran from the middle, as the moderate that he actually IS not the neo-con far-right tea partier he had so desperately tried to pander to in the primaries.  Maybe Paul Ryan would have complemented a more moderate 2008 Romney.  Instead, Ryan's courage of conviction created a perception (some would argue, he shined the spotlight on) a 2012 Romney's lack of conviction.

All this being said, this is no harbinger of future elections.  I'm only in my mid 30s and five presidential candidates have made this mistake in my relatively short (thus far) lifespan.  That tells me this is a mistake that presidential candidates are yet to truly learn from.

I'm no fan of Joe Biden, but I can't argue that he was/is a brilliant choice for Obama.  There's no way he could or would outshine Obama and he makes a great "bulldog"-- he goes after the opposition and says things that there's no way Obama could ever get away with saying without being completely eviscerated by the opposition.  Democrats may hate me for this but I see him as somewhat Agnew-esque in that respect.  And I don't think Agnew-esque Alliteration would sound out of place coming from Biden.  It's only a matter of time before he refers to the GOP as "nattering nabobs of negativity" in much the same way Agnew referred to the press under Nixon's watch.

If the Republicans get nothing else from the 2008 and 2012 election, they should use Obama's VP selection of Biden as a clinic on finding the RIGHT running mate for the selected nominee (whomever that ends up being).  Given how much the Latin-Americans broke for Obama, I forsee Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, Florida senator Marco Rubio, or New Mexico governor Susana Martinez as players in the 2016 presidential race.

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