Dean's failed bid opens door to Kerry/Clinton
As long as Dean was favored to get the nomination, Hillary likely wasn't interested in the second slot on the ticket. With the Vermont governor almost certain to go down to a massive defeat, Hillary probably wanted no part in the ensuing carnage.
But now that the Democrats have a real chance to win, it makes all kinds of sense to offer her the nomination and for her to accept it.
Very few vice-presidential candidates can actually win votes for the top of the ticket: Hillary can. She is the most popular Democrat in the nation. And a woman vice presidential candidate – particularly Hillary – would electrify the Democratic base and guarantee a huge turnout. It would transform a campaign into a crusade.
The voters she'd alienate? Already voting for Bush. And much as they might like to, they can't vote against Hillary more than once (one hopes).
Just as no presidential nomination in the 1970s was complete without a ritual offering of the VP slot to Ted Kennedy, so it is quite likely that whether Kerry, Edwards or Clark wins the nomination, he'll pick up the phone and call Hillary.
Why should she accept?
First, it's a free shot on goal. She doesn't have to give up her Senate seat to run. If she wins, she's vice president. If she loses, she's still U.S. senator from New York until she has to run for re-election in 2006.
But the big reason Hillary should run is that the Democrats might well win in 2004. If a new president takes office in 2004 – and runs for a second term in 2008 – Hillary will have to keep fresh for eight years, a hard task in the best of times.
In the Senate, she would be, at best, an onlooker as the action moves to a Democratic White House. But as vice president, she would have the on-deck circle to herself and would be the presumptive nominee in 2012.
Remember that of the past 18 major-party presidential nominees, eight have run first for vice president (Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Mondale, Bush, Dole and Gore).
If Hillary doesn't run for vice president on the Democratic ticket in 2004, the person who does will be a strong candidate against her in 2008 if the ticket loses and a presumptive favorite in 2012 if it wins. She doesn't need the competition.
Should Bush win re-election, it will likely not be by the massive margin by which he would probably have defeated Dean. There would be no shame for Hillary in running for vice president on a ticket that narrowly lost.
In a sense, Hillary has already served as vice president and found it both enjoyable and rewarding. During the first two years of Bill's first term, she was a de facto chief of staff. But for the remainder of his White House tenure, she was, in effect, another vice president, roaming the world, speaking out on issues she cared about, and raising money for the party. It's not a bad job.
But Hillary has one other good reason to say yes: Rudy Giuliani. If the former mayor runs against her for the Senate seat in '06, polls indicate that she would face a very, very tough fight. Her first race against Rick Lazio would be a cakewalk next to a battle against Giuliani.
Rudy may run against Hillary – even though he'd rather be governor – in order to accumulate points with the Republican faithful so that they consider him for president in 2008.
Giuliani's pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-affirmative action, pro-gay-rights positions won't endear him to the GOP right wing. But knocking off Hillary might engender the forgiveness he needs.
So, if Rudy might run, wouldn't it be the better part of valor to get out of the way of the charging bull and run for vice president instead?
(E-mail Dick Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org)