Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Dole’s VP `short list’ includes McCain


The Arizona senator matches up politically with his friend Dole and projects an image of being able to assume the presidency.

With just three weeks to go before the Republican National Convention in San Diego, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is considered among the front-runners in the GOP vice presidential sweepstakes.

The choice will ultimately be made by Bob Dole, who counts McCain as a close personal friend, political confidant and ideological twin.

“John McCain is genuinely on the short list,’ said Mike Hellon, Republican national committeeman for Arizona. “He not only meets all the qualifications, but he has the confidence of Bob Dole.’

Dole will turn 73 next week. Because of his age, many political observers believe he should select a running mate who is capable of stepping in as president from day one. McCain appears to fit the bill better than most others under consideration.

“When it comes to knowledge and consistency on international policy and a strong national defense, there is nobody in this country that is more qualified than John McCain,’ said Hellon.

McCain would bring other assets to the ticket. He is a media-savvy campaigner with a proven ability to attract Democratic voters.

However, political considerations and geography are working against a McCain vice presidential candidacy. Arizona has just eight Electoral College votes and has gone for the Republican in every presidential election since 1948.

Bunny Badertscher, a GOP political consultant from Tucson, believes Dole will choose a candidate who hails from a more populous state that is rich in electoral votes.

“Selecting McCain just doesn’t make a lot of sense politically,’ she said. “Dole needs to do something to shore up bigger population states than Arizona.’

In the view of Badertscher and Hellon, Dole’s campaign might get a bigger boost from the selection of a Midwestern governor, such as John Engler of Michigan or George Voinovich of Ohio.

Besides gaining support in a large industrial state, Dole might also attempt to use the selection to broaden his appeal among certain constituencies. For instance, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge not only comes from a state with 23 electoral votes, but he is Catholic to boot. Dole could try to close the so-called “gender gap’ by choosing a woman, such as New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman.

“I would bet John McCain would end up somewhere in a Dole administration, but I think it is far more likely he would be selected as secretary of state or secretary of defense than as vice president,’ said Badertscher.

“When the dust settles, I don’t think John McCain will be the nominee,’ said Hellon. “Bob Dole needs some political help from his vice presidential candidate that John McCain is not in a position to provide.’

Chuck Coughlin, a public affairs consultant who worked as finance director on McCain’s first senatorial campaign in 1986, believes Dole’s choice of a running mate will send a clear, early signal about his chances to compete against Clinton in the November election.

“I think the Dole camp is thinking seriously about McCain as vice president and that he would bring a lot to the ticket,’ Coughlin said. “He’s a hell of a campaigner, he’s good on his feet, he likes going into battle and, make no mistake about it, Dole has a tough battle ahead of him.’

Coughlin said the close relationship between Dole and McCain, who jumped on the Dole bandwagon after serving as chairman of the failed presidential bid of Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, could prove to be a decisive factor in the selection.

“There is a high degree of trust and respect between Dole and McCain,’ said Coughlin. “It was remarkable to me that just one week after John (McCain) left the Gramm campaign, he was at Dole’s side in South Carolina during a presidential debate.’

Last month, when Dole left the Senate to become a full-time presidential campaigner, McCain paid tribute to Dole, calling him “an American hero’ and a “statesman.’

McCain and Dole have much in common.

“In many ways the two men are alike,’ wrote Lars-Erik Nelson in a column in the New York Daily News. “Both are war heroes. Both are pragmatists. Both have strong appeal across party lines and have led bipartisan coalitions in the Senate. And both have a biting wit and an acid tongue.’

A pairing of McCain, a decorated Navy pilot who spent five years in a North Vietnamese POW camp, with Dole, who was wounded and paralyzed while serving in World War II, might serve to remind voters of Clinton’s avoidance of military service.

“In a demonstration of national service, the Democrats couldn’t touch the combination of Dole and McCain,’ said Coughlin. “They would make Clinton and Gore look like a couple of Boy Scouts.’

McCain’s career has not been without controversy, however. He was among those senators implicated in the Keating Five savings and loan scandal, which could be used as negative campaign fodder.

“There isn’t anybody who is perfect,’ said Hellon. “There is nobody under consideration who doesn’t have some baggage.’

Like Powell, McCain says he doesn’t want the vice presidential nomination. Unlike the retired general, McCain does not rule out becoming Dole’s running mate if asked.

“If the nominee of the party looks you in the eye and says, `I need you,’ it would be arrogant and presumptuous to refuse,’ said McCain in a telephone interview Wednesday.

McCain, whose current term runs through 1998, would not have to step down from the Senate to run for vice president. But the Phoenix Republican said he has told Dole that he would prefer he tap someone else for the ticket.

“John Nance Garner (who served two terms as President Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president) described the office as not being worth a bucket of warm spit, but I hold the office in higher regard than that,’ said McCain.

“It is certainly prestigious and would be a wonderful opportunity for some. However, I believe I have reached a position of importance in the U.S. Senate, where I have an impact on a broad range of issues.

“It is no minor aspect in all of this that I want my children to grow up in Arizona,’ he said.

In contrast to McCain, several of the vice presidential contenders are actively campaigning for the job. A Voinovich supporter produced a 12-minute video touting the Ohio governor’s accomplishments, which was distributed to 1,500 influential Republicans, including Dole.

Engler has made repeated trips to Washington, D.C., and has used his position as head of the Republican Governor’s Association to flood the nation’s capitol with complimentary press releases.

Badertscher believes McCain has taken the correct approach concerning the vice presidency.

“One of the rules of the game is not to appear too excited,’ she said.

Dole aides have reportedly said the former Senate majority leader is not fond of the vice presidential campaigning.

McCain, who is among a handful of close Dole advisers, has already assumed an active role in the former Kansas senator’s presidential bid. He stood in for Dole at a Monday meeting in Denver of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic lobbying group.

A longtime supporter of bilingual education and an opponent of “Official English,’ McCain drew protests from La Raza delegates when he said the United States has an obligation to control its borders.

“He (McCain) is more candid than most people in high levels of politics,’ said Hellon. “People have no difficulty figuring out where he is coming from. He is not as disingenuous as a lot of people in public office.’

Dole, who opposes abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother, has tried to placate both sides of the abortion issue by including a plank in the party’s platform that includes an expression of tolerance for those disagreeing with the GOP’s anti-abortion stance. Activists on both sides of the abortion debate are also attempting to sway Dole’s selection of a running mate.

“Pat Buchanan has been marching around saying he will take his people and go home if Dole doesn’t choose a person who is absolutely right-to-life,’ said Badertscher. “Dole is also being told he will lose the women’s vote just as George Bush did if he doesn’t make some accommodation to pro-choice Republicans.’

Whitman is an outspoken supporter of abortion rights and her selection would stir up dissent among anti-abortion forces. McCain’s position on abortion is similar to Dole’s.

Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, state chairman of Dole’s presidential campaign, predicted the likely GOP nominee would pull a surprise and pick the woman governor from New Jersey as his running mate.

Woods, speaking Wednesday at an Arizona Republican Caucus luncheon in Phoenix, conceded his prognostication was not based on inside information.

“I’ll say he picks Christine Todd Whitman,’ Woods said. “I say that based upon virtually nothing.’

Recent public-opinion polls show Dole running as much as 24 percentage points behind Clinton, increasing the pressure on Dole to not just play it safe with his vice presidential selection, but to choose someone who could shake up the race.

Polls indicate that Powell could provide a jump start to Dole’s candidacy, but McCain and other Dole boosters have come to believe Powell means it when he says he is not interested in being included on the ticket and would turn it down if offered.

Dole supporters, while concerned about his lagging behind Clinton in the polls, maintain the race has not yet begun and Dole can make up the difference.

“The news commentators would like us to panic because here in July we’re down in the polls,’ Woods said. “Well, that’s not really much of a read on history. People have been down in the polls over and over and over again at this point in time and come back to win.’

“I’d rather not have to make up more than 20 points, but it can be done,’ said Hellon. “California Governor Pete Wilson was more than 20 points down and came back to win. President George Bush was 17 points behind Michael Dukakis at this time in 1988 and Governor Fife Symington was more than 20 points down a couple of times and came back to win.’

McCain said Dole’s vice presidential pick should not only appeal to Republicans, but also “to those that make the difference between winning and losing campaigns.’

However, he added that the selection of a vice president sometimes “brings you to the person who might not necessarily help you the most, but hurt you the least.’

Potential contenders

Potential contenders (in no particular order) to become the vice presidential running mate of Republican Bob Dole:

* Michigan Gov. John Engler

* Retired Gen. Colin Powell

* New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman

* Arizona Sen. John McCain

* Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge

* Carrol Campbell, ex-governor of South Carolina

* Dan Lungren, California attorney general

* Ohio Gov. George Voinovich

* Dick Cheney, former Bush administration Defense secretary

* Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar

* Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson

* Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

* Ohio Congressman John Kasich

* Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar

* Florida Sen. Connie Mack

* James Baker, former Reagan and Bush administration official

* Donald Rumsfeld, former congressman and chief of staff to President Ford

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service