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2004 Ruminations: Considering a vice president

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Although such contemplation may appear premature, particularly following a strong showing by Sen. John Edwards in the Wisconsin primary, ruminations are already turning to vice presidential potentials and strategies for determining the Democratic ticket. While Dick Cheney has been slowly transforming from asset to potential liability for President Bush as the Republican campaign gears up, the steady string of primary and caucus victories by Sen. John Kerry has positioned him as the leading presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. It has also opened up a preliminary discussion of potential running mates.

Certainly, should he earn the right, Kerry would not pick a vice president from the Northeast, which necessarily excludes both Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman. Dean, realistically, has shown very little electability, which is a quotient beyond his talent for organizing and the motivating of particular constituencies. Dean's graceful withdrawal from the race, one that nonetheless projects his movement forward, may serve his main motivation of removing President George W. Bush from office.

John Edwards, who the country knew little about before his run for president, has presented himself very well and deserves credit for marching onward. For that reason, plus the fact that he has led an honorable and gallant campaign on the primary trail, positions him as a serious contender for the vice presidential spot should he fall short of gaining his party's nomination - which remains an uphill climb to be sure. If the South is the region to reach, it should be Edwards, but it could be also veteran Senator Bob Graham, from Florida, the swing state that made and broke the last election against Al Gore and ushered in the Bush presidency.

We are also most intrigued these days with the potentials of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Hispanic with excellent Indian relations and substantial international experience as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Elected in 2002 as governor of the most populous Latino and Indian state in the union, the articulate Richardson won by the largest margin of any candidate in four decades. In New Mexico, after nearly two years in office, he upholds a solid reputation as a doer who works diligently to fulfill his promises. He has improved education, cut taxes and is credited for strongly stimulating a high-wage economy.

His operatives will brag about Richardson's development of a statewide water plan and his passion for enforcement against DWI, domestic violence and sex crimes. He is equally active in health care, is implementing a creative school reform plan and emphasizing renewable energy and clean energy technologies for the state.

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A former U.S. Energy Secretary and congressman from New Mexico for 15 years, Richardson was nominated four times (1995, 1997, 2000, and 2001) for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thus he is an internationally distinguished statesman, a past energy tsar, a congressman and a Latino with long and active roots in the Southwest.

If New Mexico is not a particularly large state to attach to the Democratic fold, Richardson - the Latino politician, would instantly resonate with the largely Democratic Latino/Hispanic base, fastest growing minority in the country. The Latino/Hispanic sector is a highly coveted voting base. The Bush Republican Party has an aggressive strategy for going after this growing vote. The president is among the major politicians (his brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush led in this) to speak Spanish to Latino audiences for several sentences at a time. The Bushes have principally courted the Cuban-American vote in Florida, which is conservative but as divided as any other constituency and joined with other Caribbean populations in the Taino recovery movement now emerging in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

Then there is the Mexican-American and other Meso-American and South American populations of origin now with whole communities in this country, which constitute growing voting sectors in U.S. elections. These are largely Democratic, less affluent than the Cubans and even more likely given to Democratic bread-and-butter issues.

A factor to watch, we believe, is the growth of mutual relations by many North American Indians with Mexican-Americans, Guatemalan immigrant communities and other U.S. Latinos who carry significant American indigenous ancestries and are increasingly established, institutionally and personally, in North America. A tribal American Indian and Latino/Hispanic alliance has great potentials, we believe, and could in time emerge as the core element of a new American multi-cultural political coalition.

It makes us wonder about Gov. Bill Richardson and his chances to be chosen for the vice-presidential spot. It appears a candidacy rich with a political personality that could perhaps address that completely American and patriotic population represented by Latino/Hispanics, American Indians and the great overlapping ethnicity now emerging in the American political scene.

Then, too, Bush may well reconnect with his core Republican constituencies and finesse another election to victory.

This year, much is up for grabs.