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Gore/Graham '00

Today on her blog, the Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard made note of Mark Shield's recent column, If you could change one thing, Al Gore... where Shield's suggests that if he had to do it all over again, Vice President Al Gore would have chosen Florida Senator Bob Graham to be his running mate, not Joe Lieberman.

While Shields' piece is more of a rant against about Lieberman, the Gore/Graham question is an interesting one and certainly has provided plenty of parlor discussion among Democrats in Florida over the years.  It is also a worthwhile place to think about the role of the VEEP pick---or in the case of Florida in 2010, who Sink and McCollum pick to be their running mates.

In the case of Graham, I am convinced that Gore/Graham would have won Florida by a sizable (at least by Florida standards) margin.  I'll admit that could be colored by the fact I am a huge Bob Graham fan, but looking back to 2000, I think it is a fairly defensible argument.  Graham was (and still is) one of the most popular public figures in the state and had just come off a 20-plus point re-election margin in 1998.  Watching the way Graham was still received on the trail for Obama, I have no doubt that he easily would have energized South Florida Democrats as much as Lieberman ,and even if his inclusion on the ticket was only worth a little upstate and along I-4, Gore/Graham would have carried the state by 2-3 points and gone on to the White House.

But alas, he went with Lieberman, a decision at the time that was lauded for bringing new energy to a troubled ticket.  And at the time, it may well have been the right pick.  On August 7, 2000, when Gore named Lieberman, Gore was down double-digits in most polls, and not many considered Florida to be much in play (Gore didn't start running TV ads until late September 2000).  But Lieberman did provide a bounce and by the end of the August, the race was essentially tied.   Would Graham have provided the same bounce?  Who knows. 

It gets even more fun when you speculate what would have happened if Gore/Graham had won. 

The same question could be applied to Palin.   In the rear view mirror, was she the wrong pick for McCain?  Most people would say yes.  But the other question-was she the right pick in the moment is harder to answer?  Like a lot of folks, I shook my head the morning of her announcement, but without question, she lifted the ticket in a way that its hard to imagine a Pawlenty, Crist or Romney could have.

Over the next few months, we get to play this parlor game in Florida.  Does Sink need help in South Florida, would an upstate candidate help her knock a few points away from McCollum, or does she need to think about a seasoned legislator who can help her govern.  What about McCollum?  Does he need a moderate woman to balance the ticket, does he need someone in central Florida to counter Sink's strength, or should he pick a non-political type to blunt criticism that he is a career politician in a potentially bad year for incumbents?  And of course, my favorite question:  does any of it matter?

For Gore, in retrospect, that answer is definitely yes. 


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