Sunday, November 14, 1999

George W.-George V. ticket? It's possible




BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Here we go again. From about this time four years ago, right up to the Republican National Convention in San Diego, Mr. Voinovich — then Ohio's governor — was thought to be (and, in fact, was) on the short list of potential running mates for Bob Dole's ill-fated presidential bid.

        Then, Mr. Voinovich, having had nearly two decades as Cleveland's mayor and Ohio's governor under his belt, was seen in some Republican quarters as the perfect anti-Beltway counterpoint to Mr. Dole's image as a crafty old legislator who became dazed and disoriented whenever he set foot off Capitol Hill.

        The senator, the idea went, needed a policy-wonk governor, although, in the end, he picked an policy-wonk ex-jock in Jack Kemp.

        This time around, it may be the governor (of Texas, that is) who needs a senator — which is what Mr. Voinovich is now — who is also a policy wonk.

        So, the Voinovich Watch is back to square one.

        More and more, Mr. Voinovich's name comes up in the world of Washington punditry and Republican cigar clubs as a good fit for George W. Bush, if Mr. Bush's money and name can keep him on track for the GOP nomination until the Republicans meet next July in Philadelphia.

        Mr. Bush blew into Mr. Voinovich's hometown of Cleveland on Thursday for an hour or so. There, in a classic act of carrying coals to Newcastle, about 250 supporters gave the Bush campaign $1,000 each to be in the presence, if only for a few moments.

        The candidate did nothing to discourage speculation about bringing Mr. Voinovich on to the ticket, calling him a “good man” and a “good friend” and emphasizing his experience both in the statehouse and Senate.

        Now, when it comes to potential vice presidential running mates, every presidential candidate — particularly one who is a front-runner and has $50 million-plus in the bank — is like the sailor with a girl in every port.

        Wherever the candidate happens to be at any given moment is likely to be where a running mate is located — some local politico whose name can be dropped, setting off a titillating buzz that makes the locals think that, for the moment at least, they are important, that they matter in the grand world of presidential politics.

        Sometimes, though, they're right.

        After all, no Republican president — from Abe Lincoln right through to George W.'s daddy — has been elected president without winning Ohio. Mr. Voinovich's presence on the Republican ticket might mean a few percentage points for the GOP and make the difference.

        If the Texas governor is seen as a lightweight when it comes to policy, it might help to have the ultimate policy wonk along for the ride. “Theories of Zero-based Budgeting”would be the senator's idea of a good summer read.

        We would be willing to bet that Mr. Voinovich could not only name the president of Taiwan, he could tell you his shoe size.

        And if W.'s reputation as the ultimate frat boy, the Bluto Blutarsky of American politics, starts to catch up with him during the campaign, it might be nice to have the world's oldest altar boy by his side.

        When it comes to personal style, nobody can beat George Voinovich for good old-fashioned dull.

        Back in 1996, at the National Governors' Association meeting at a swank Puerto Rican resort, many of the statesmen in attendance spent their evenings poolside, doing the limbo while balancing rum-and-Cokes on their heads. Not our George. He went fishing once, spent his evenings reading in his hotel room, and spent most of the day telling reporters how disgraceful it was that the governors were frittering away their time in such posh tropical surroundings.

        So, although the Bush list of potential runnings mates must still be measured in feet, not inches, Voinovich-for-vice president is not the fantasy it might seem to some.

        After all, after eight years of Al Gore, this country ought to be used to having a vice president with no rhythm. And you know he'll never try to do the macarena.

        E-mail at hwilkinson@enquirer.com.

       



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