WASHINGTON — George W. Bush’s short list of running mates gets
shorter, as poor Al Gore’s long list seems to just grow longer and


Drudge Report
says Dubya has already settled on Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. Drudge, you’ll recall, was the first to call the Dole-Kemp ticket in 1996.

Keating wouldn’t exactly help Bush shore up big electoral votes in key battleground states like California.

But it would be a good move, nonetheless. For two reasons.

As a former FBI agent and U.S. attorney, Keating would be tasked with fixing all the security problems that have cropped up during the Clinton-Gore years. He’d also help Bush clean up the FBI and main Justice Department, two core agencies compromised by Clinton-Gore politics. They could ride that pro-security, pro-justice message into the White House.

Also, Keating isn’t Liddy Dole. A Bush-Dole ticket was my worst nightmare. A Bush or a Dole has been on every GOP presidential ballot since Watergate. Winning percentage: .500. Take away Reagan’s coattails: probably .000. Bush-Dole would be the confluence of mediocrity.

Meantime, things are looking pretty grim over at the Gore camp.

Bill Richardson, Gore’s Hispanic answer to bilingual Bush, is now a non-starter. He’s damaged goods after the latest shocking Los Alamos security breach. Turns out the Energy secretary, in the wake of the Cox report on Chinese espionage, spent more time on TV imitating someone who cared about tightening lab security than actually tightening it.

James Carville has floated Robert Rubin’s name as a Gore running mate. But that’s a pipe dream. Anything to keep hope alive among the Democratic base for someone, anyone, credible and classy after this scandal-plagued administration.

A lot of other names have been tossed around — Evan Bayh, Richard Durbin, John Kerry, Dianne Feinstein, Joseph Lieberman, Bob Graham — but none of them seriously.

Bottom line: Gore needs a running mate. Bad. Just a couple of weeks ago, 42-year-old Andrew Cuomo, the son, offered his services. Asked about Cuomo, Gore had to admit: “I don’t have a short list yet.”

At this rate, Gore may consider Bill Clinton, whose job-approval ratings are still running high, as his No. 2.

Don’t laugh.

Clinton, who will be the second-youngest chief executive to leave office, has made it clear he doesn’t want to leave — making him unique among the three other presidents constitutionally denied a third shot (Ike and Reagan, due to age, and Nixon, due to Watergate, likely wouldn’t have wanted to run again).

But there’s a loophole: Nothing in the 22nd Amendment prohibits a two-term president worming his way back into the White House as vice president (although the 12th Amendment may arguably close such a loophole).

“Gore-Clinton 2000.” Nah, it could never happen. Right?

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