The Second Coming

McCain as Kerry's no. 2? Don't be shocked if Bush tries to snatch him.

WASHINGTON, D.C.— June 9 is a key date in American politics. That's the day John McCain has to file if he's going to run for a fourth term as Arizona senator.

So far, all eyes have been focused on whether Kerry can persuade McCain to sign on as his veep on the Dem ticket. McCain has said over and over again he won't do it. But there's another possibility: If George Bush wanted to rescue himself from his current suicide dive, he could dump Cheney—whose negatives are substantial—and select McCain as his veep. If he did that, John Kerry would vanish without a trace.

McCain is a political gold mine: fiscal conservative, campaign finance reformer, cancer survivor, war hero, beloved by Hollywood, great on TV, loves the environment, hero of many Democrats, and ensconced in one of the most important battleground states of the coming election. As Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly notes, "Bush barely won it in 2000, and Kerry is on the move there. The state's maverick political culture is shared by the neighboring Southwest battlegrounds of New Mexico and Nevada. Despite many spats with Arizona's staunchest conservatives, McCain is wildly popular there and would almost certainly deliver the state on Election Day."

Many Dems salivate at the thought of McCain's throwing a life vest to the barely awake Massachusetts senator. According to a recent CBS poll, running McCain with Kerry would boost the Dem plutocrat's standing by 14 percent. In a matchup last week, CBS News reported Kerry eight points ahead of Bush. The pundits are hunkered down watching every move by North Carolina's John Edwards. Naming Edwards, Kerry would pick up 10 points, with most people quickly nodding off.

Meanwhile, Bush continues to tank. The war is bad enough, but his strategy of trying to win by energizing his right-wing base is beginning to look plain silly. Kiss-assing the Christian right by condemning abortion, gay marriages, cloning, and stem cell research, and by promoting abstinence as sex education, may pacify the base, but it's always got to get something more it wants. And Bush's efforts to endear himself with fiscal conservatives by running up huge deficits to fight the war while preparing people to accept cuts in homeland security ($1 billion), education ($1.5 billion), and veterans' affairs ($900 million) have all the earmarks of a wacko at the helm. When Democrats used a White House memo to go after the president, the White House got really silly. "This memo is a process document only. It is a routine, normal part of the budget process," said J.T. Young, spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget. "It merely allows us to begin the process of putting together a budget. . . . It is not a decision document."

 
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