From today’s “Opinion Journal Political Diary”

"We have a tough dogfight going on in South Carolina," John Edwards told voters at a rally on Sunday. Well, yeah, the race is close, but a dogfight it ain't. Messrs. Edwards and John Kerry, who's running a few points behind in the latest polls, have been conspicuously uncritical of each other in the run-up to Tuesday's important vote. Mr. Kerry obviously has chosen to ignore the advice of a multitude pf pundits and isn't pouring in time and money in an effort to knock his putative rival out of the race. While Mr. Edwards talked himself hoarse on Sunday as he went around South Carolina, Mr. Kerry kicked back and watched the Super Bowl in.... North Dakota?

It all goes to reinforce an impression that the deal is done and Mr. Edwards will be Mr. Kerry's VP pick. The two were already trading notes on stopping Howard Dean as far back as Iowa, and their near-canoodling backstage at recent debates was widely noticed. Mr. Kerry, of course, will make an effort in South Carolina that's more than token but less than all-out, conveniently avoiding a clear test of his power to draw black votes, which will be crucial to any Democratic nominee's chances in the fall. Perhaps that's a problem he's now counting on Mr. Edwards to fix once he's on the ticket. True, Mr. Kerry expects to do well in Missouri on Tuesday too, and Missouri has a large black vote. But he'll owe his victory there to pure media bounce, since the state was all but written off by his campaign and others until Dick Gephardt dropped out less than two weeks ago.
--Holman W. Jenkins Jr

My take: You heard it here first – Kerry’s VEEP is not going to be John Edwards as many think. It’s not going to be Wes Clark, that’s for sure. Despite quietly campaigning for the job, its not even going to be New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Nope, Kerry’s pick – should he fortunate enough to have to make one – is going to be former Senator Max Cleland.

Think about it – there could be no better pick. First of all, the media immediately announces to the world that the South is back in play. They’d fall in love with this triple amputee with a sharp wit.

Also, assuming that in many ways this election is going to be a referendum on whether President Bush has made us safer or not, what would make a better running mate for this Vietnam hero – turned anti-war protestor, than another Vietnam hero, this one in a wheelchair? Talk about instant credibility!

Granted, I still think they’re going to get their butts handed to them (unless someone challenges Bush from the Right), but a Kerry/Cleland ticket would be as strong a pair as the Dems could muster this election.


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