The Lieberman Choice (posted August 7, 2000)

Al Gore's announcement of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman as his vice presidential choice puts in place the last key element of this fall's presidential campaign. Well-respected in Washington circles as a man of principle and integrity, Lieberman gained fame in 1999 by being one of the first prominent elected Democrats to criticize President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. His colleagues attest that Lieberman is an individual who will help Gore on the crucial dimension of values and ethics, sure to be an issue this fall with Gore's past involvement in campaign fundraising problems.

A moderate in personal ideology, Lieberman signals Gore's emphasis on being a New Democrat, not an old-fashioned liberal. Gore will follow the Clinton model in campaigning to the center and assuming liberals will vote for him rather than Green party candidate Ralph Nader.

In geographical terms, the Lieberman selection is a surprise since Gore is expected to do well throughout the Northeast and Lieberman is largely unknown in the crucial Midwestern and Southern border states that are the battleground areas. The choice adds further evidence to the theory that traditional ticket-balancing in geographical terms is dead and that presidential nominees look for running mates who match up in political more than geographical dimensions.

With Connecticut having a Republican governor and Lieberman's seat up for election this year, Republicans will have an opportunity to win a seat that otherwise would have been a safe Democratic seat.

Lieberman furthermore stands to make history by being the first Jewish vice-presidential or presidential nominee of a major party. Look for Lieberman to show that religion is not a barrier for Jewish candidates in the same way that Kennedy proved that point for Catholics.