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Of course, he's still running for president

By D. G. Martin
Posted Friday, July 2, 2004

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When John Kerry asked the crowd of 15,000 at last Saturday’s rally in Raleigh if they would let him borrow John Edwards for four years, they shouted back, “Eight, eight, eight.”

Edwards, views the vice presidential nomination, win or lose, as a stepping stone.

Kerry recovered quickly with something like, “How about 16?” He was recognizing that the crowd, like Edwards, viewed the vice presidential nomination, win or lose, as a stepping stone to an ultimate goal of having a North Carolinian in the White House for the first time ever.

Of course, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson had North Carolina roots. We can rightfully claim them, but, long before they were presidents, they had left us and called themselves "Tennesseans."

John Edwards will learn to say that he has his mind on “only one thing, helping John Kerry get elected President” just as convincingly as he said only a few months ago that he had no interest in the vice presidency.

But everybody knows.

Including John Kerry, who must have thought about it a lot, wondering whether Edwards’ ultimate goal would get in the way of Kerry’s achieving his goal.

Because Kerry kept his selection process very close to the vest, few people now know what his thought process was. But he must have taken recent history into account. The closest thing to a model vice presidential nominee is one who has already run hard for president, and, even though losing, has shown great strengths. In 1960, Lyndon Johnson, who like Edwards was runner-up to the ultimate nominee, was critical to John Kennedy’s victory. George H. W. Bush, also a runner-up in the nomination process in 1980, added important balance and strength to Ronald Reagan’s winning campaign. Also, Al Gore, although he did not seek the nomination in 1992, had already run for the presidential nomination, and his long-term goal was no secret to Bill Clinton, the presidential candidate who made him his running mate.

These three, Johnson, Bush, and Gore, were great vice presidential candidates because their ambition had already given them the experience of campaigning nationwide. They knew what they were doing, had their own followings, had practiced answers to all the standard questions, and were comfortable working the crowds 18 hours a day and gathering strength while sleeping on airplanes and buses. They had shown that they could stand the rigors of such work without cracking.

Charles Hamner, former head of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, once told me that the best place to find the most qualified candidates to be the business leaders of start-up biotech firms was from the ranks of those who had already tried and failed. Those whose businesses did not succeed always showed their true character, he said, and they learned real lessons. Their businesses may have failed for many reasons that had nothing to do with their leadership capabilities. These business leaders had failed perhaps, but failed in a way that prepared them for ultimate success.

So with Johnson, Bush, and Gore, their failures prepared them well to help others become president. Those pundits who say that it does not make much difference who is the vice presidential candidate should reevaluate the contributions of these three.

As John Kerry acknowledged last Saturday, John Edwards’ ultimate goal has not been put aside.

So much the better, he must be thinking, so long as Edwards is putting his great talents to work getting himself elected vice-president, and pulling the Kerry-Edwards ticket along with him.


D.G. Martin is the author of "Interstate Eateries" a handbook of home cooking places near North Carolina's interstate highways-available through "Our State" magazine (800-948-1409).

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