With July approaching, it’s open season for political
forecasting, and the national punditry has commenced the wave of
chatter and conjectures that inevitably precedes election time. The
prevalent question among these commentators: Who will Kerry select
as a running mate? Thus far, analyst speculation has complicated
the matter, producing a chaotic jumble of potential candidates
ranging from Hillary Clinton to John McCain. Each expert uses the
to-be-announced status of the presidential ticket to expound his
convictions on how to best tip the boatload of swing voters into
Democratic waters.

Initially, the bulk of the media pointed to Sen. John Edwards
(D-N.C.) as the frontrunner for the slot. The Edwards camp
maintains the young and vibrant politician will aid Kerry in the
South, while simultaneously bringing a new progressive enthusiasm
to the campaign. However, a brief recollection of the breadth and
depth of President Bush’s massacre below the Mason-Dixon Line
in 2000 should quickly dispel these misapprehensions. The president
won every Southern state but one — New Mexico —
carrying substantial margins of victory in the majority of them.
What’s more, if the Democratic primaries serve any predictive
value, even if Kerry has a shot in Dixie, Edwards won’t be of
much help to him. While Edwards may enchant some fence-sitters, the
majority of the region will promptly cast their ballot for
“W.”

Well, if not Edwards, than who? There are those convinced that a
reputed foreign policy figurehead would comfort voters
disillusioned by the wealth of finger-pointing and uncertainty
surrounding Sept. 11 and the arduous military campaigns that
followed. These pundits stand in the corners of Indiana Sen. Evan
Bayh, one of the Democratic Party’s more hawkish members, and
Gen. Wesley Clark, one of the party’s up-and-coming
personalities. While a pick like this is a convenient way to
bolster Kerry’s defense against the Bush campaign’s
onslaught of national security rhetoric, its effectiveness at
securing electoral college votes remains suspect. There is no
evidence to suggest that a vice president strong on defense issues
would alter state voting margins. More plausibly, a national
security pick would increase Kerry’s voting share, but at the
same time, diffuse it.

Perhaps it is the Dick Gephardt proponents who have found the
golden ticket? Unlikely. Even if mollifying an apprehensive labor
front would be helpful, there is no reason for Kerry to assume that
he can’t do it alone — e.g. the Iowa primary. Or maybe
it is the Bill Richardson advocates who have the right idea? Nah.
Although New Mexico’s Latino governor would help secure his
home state, Richardson is unlikely to unify an infamously divided
national Latino electorate. As a case in point, if not one Latino
had voted in the 2000 election, the results would have been
virtually the same. Indeed, instead of accommodating dispersed and
divisive cleavages of the voting public, it is essential to pick a
runningmate that will directly translate into electoral college
votes.

Enter Sen. Bob Graham of Florida. Aside from his positive
reputation as a key player in the contentious deliberations over
prewar intelligence and a well-established luminary on Capitol
Hill, Bob Graham has spent four decades as a civil servant in
Florida, rising to become one of the state’s most esteemed
public icons. He has served two terms as a state representative,
two more as a state senator, two terms as Florida’s governor
and is in the process of completing his third term in the U.S.
Senate. If there is one person who can swing Florida back to the
Democrats, it’s Graham.

Irrefutably, the magnitude of a victory in the Sunshine State
would be immense. Florida holds 27 electoral college votes —
that’s 10 percent of the total votes needed to clinch the
race. In fact, if Kerry won Florida, he could spot Bush Vermont,
Wyoming, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, Alaska and both Dakotas
and still come out on top. However, much as it may pain me to cede
so much influence to a state that has effectively made its
southernmost tip into a theme park, in 2004, Florida’s winner
will most likely be the next president of the United States.

Singer is a member of the Daily’s editorial board and
an LSA sophomore.

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