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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Podesta: Bush will Replace Cheney with Ridge

Posted by DavidNYC

I went to a Q&A with former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta this afternoon. He talked about a wide range of things, but nothing which veered very far outside the conventional wisdom - or at least, far from opinions which you've probably already seen expressed elsewhere. Of course, Podesta brings a level of nuance and insider knowledge few others have, which makes him eminently worth hearing.

Podesta did, however, make one bold statement. I asked about swing states (what else?) - specifically, which ones he thought were most vulnerable, for our team and theirs. He gave the sort of answers you'd expect: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, and so on. He also mentioned he was worried about Pennsylvania, which he said had been trending Republican over the years. But then Podesta dropped his mini-bombshell. He said he thought that Bush would replace Cheney with former PA Gov. and current Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

This would seem to be a smart move for Bush and a potentially devastating one for Democrats. Cheney gets Bush very little - if anything, he may be a net negative. (I'm talking politically - Bush still needs some behind-the-scenes puppet-master, and there's no reason to believe Cheney couldn't continue in that role even if he were not Vice President.) But Ridge, assuming he is still popular among Pennsylvanians, could turn the tide in that state and give Bush a big fat bundle of EVs.

Of course, I don't know whether Ridge is still popular at home. Outside of Karl Rove's bunker, I doubt there have been many polls conducted on this topic. But as I understand things, Ridge was pretty popular when he stepped down to take his current post. And while Bush has taken a lot of hits over his foreign policy, he still gets good ratings when it comes to fighting terrorism. So Ridge's present job as homeland security czar might give him a further aura of goodwill.

Anyhow, it'll be interesting to see how Podesta's prediction bears out. Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask a follow-up about when he sees this happening, but presumably it can't happen too late in the game. In any case, I sure hope it doesn't happen - I want to keep PA, and I want to see Johnny "Sunshine" Edwards wipe the floor with Darth Cheney in the VP debates.

UPDATE: A number of people have asserted that Ridge's apparently pro-choice views make him a non-viable because of the influence of the Christian right in the GOP. I'm not so sure about this. Joe Lieberman was forced to utterly disavow his support for vouchers (admittedly a somewhat less controversial topic) when Gore selected him as Veep, and I didn't hear any Democrats threaten to defect on account of this.

I think Ridge could easily have a similar "change of heart" and toe the administration line on the abortion issue. This sets him apart from, say, Rudy Giuliani, who is out-of-step with the GOP leadership on too many issues and could never be made to shut up.

Posted at 06:57 PM in Pennsylvania | Technorati


This is in anticipation of serious **** hitting the fan in Plame-gate, enough to drive Cheney out of office. That's the only way Cheney leaves.

Posted by: pontificator at February 18, 2004 07:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I have not heard anything from my admittedly limited sources in PA about Ridge getting promoted. I'll ask around.


Posted by: fester at February 18, 2004 07:20 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Sounds good, Fester. Sorry to scoop you guys - but I guess I just got a good tip!

Posted by: DavidNYC at February 18, 2004 07:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Ridge still has to take responsibility for the multi-colored M&M threat level that's been a consensus failure (not to mention nightly Leno-Letterman jokes), as well as all the other failures of the Homeland Security Dept on airport security, etc.

I don't see this as a big plus, nor does it fit with the desire of the WH to keep the door open for Jeb. Besides, dropping Cheney is a big minus for the hard right, as well as an admission of something going wrong (and they don't have the gene for it).

Posted by: DemFrom CT at February 18, 2004 07:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Absent Cheney getting pinned down over Plamegate or something I don't see this as very likely. But then, I don't know very much. This certainly could be in the works and I wouldn't know much about it until it got leaked somehow. But I doubt Podesta would be the first to know. That is what I find odd.

Posted by: seamus at February 18, 2004 07:43 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Just following up, the Post-Gazette has a column from its Washington Bureau chief that is stating that Cheney is definately (short of a heart attack) going to be on the ticket. I have asked a couple of people in the Pittsburgh circles if they have heard any rumblings. The Democrats that I heard from have heard nothing, and the Republican sources the most that they said was "It would be nice, but it is not happening," and also the Sargeant Schultz defense.... take it for what this is worth.

Posted by: fester at February 19, 2004 09:08 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Remember, Ridge is pro-choice. That doesn't mean Shrub won't pick him; it just makes things awkward, particularly if this Roy Moore 3rd party thing takes off

Posted by: Dave C at February 19, 2004 06:29 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Some more thoughts on Ridge as vp vis a vis abortion:

1) Here's an article (from the right) showing Ridge as pro-choice, in case anyone was unsure about that:


2) The Lieberman-vouchers comparison works in some ways, but doesn't in others. First, most Republicans will stay with GWB no matter what, just like most Dems stayed with Gore, regardless of his VP pick. But, on the other hand, the religious right is a much more powerful constituency than the teacher's unions, and abortion is a much bigger issue.

3) The big question I have about Ridge is this: if he works so well for Bush, why didn't he pick him in 2000? His popularity was high in PA then, and he knew it was going to be a close election, PA was a huge state in play, and Ridge could help him seem centrist on abortion, and they were friends (always a plus in Bushworld). What's different this time? I guess Cheney's more damaged, and Bush may try to play to his own strengths by going to someone in national security. But even still, the Repubs have to see downsides to Ridge (probably more than just abortion) for him to have been passed over in 2000. I just can't see what that is right now

Posted by: Dave C at February 20, 2004 03:32 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

As a resident of PA, I can certainly attest to Ridge's popularity here. I live in Philly and for those of you who know PA will realize that the adage: "Philly on end, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle" fits well for this state.

Nevertheless, Ridge left as a popular, thoughtful governor and no doubt continues to have considerable support here. But I would think that he'd be anathema to the Bush base because of his pro-choice stands.

Posted by: Paul L at February 20, 2004 04:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Wasn't GHW Bush pro-choice before he got picked for the Reagan ticket? Before my time, but I think he was.

Posted by: Drew Vogel at February 24, 2004 04:49 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think it would be a tremendous boon to Democrats if Bush chose Ridge. The Department of Homeland Security has been nearly useless and incredibly expensive. Putting it's Director on the ticket would tie this failure even more closely to Bush's campaign.

Posted by: Bill Rehm at February 25, 2004 02:41 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I've seen speculation that a loophole in McCain-Feingold would allow Cheney be the one to say "I approve this [incredibly negative] ad," and then be removed from the ticket at the last moment to be replaced by.....

Posted by: plunkitt at February 25, 2004 06:33 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment