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Dick Morris: Now
or never for Hillary

Dick Morris, columnist and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, says Sen. Hillary Clinton must be John Kerry’s running mate this year if she ever hopes to be president herself one day.

In a column published in the Hill newspaper, Morris analyzes the history of presidential elections and said it’s imperative for the senator from New York to get on the Democratic ticket this year.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

“If Kerry wins in 2004, he will very likely seek re-election,” Morris writes. “The last time a president served four years and didn’t try to succeed himself was back in 1880 and the president was Rutherford B. Hayes. So, unless Hillary wants to try to mount the first successful challenge to a presidential renomination since Gene McCarthy forced Lyndon Johnson into retirement in 1968, she will have to sit out the 2008 contest.”

Should Kerry be re-elected in 2008, his vice president likely will become the party’s nominee in 2012, like Al Gore was in 2000. If that person wins the 2012 nomination, as history suggests, Morris writes, “that means that Hillary would be out in the cold until at least 2016 and, if the Democrat won and was re-elected, until 2020. She’ll be 73 by then.”

If Kerry were to lose re-election in 2008, his vice president would be the favorite for the top spot in 2012, Morris points out.

Continues Morris: “If Bush is re-elected, Hillary doesn’t need to have been on Kerry’s ticket. She can still prevail in 2008 over Kerry’s defeated vice presidential nominee. After all, neither Ed Muskie in 1972, Bob Dole in 1996 nor Joe Lieberman in 2004 was able to convert a losing bid for vice president into a successful race for president (two of the three weren’t even nominated).

“But if Kerry wins and another person is vice president, how will Hillary keep fresh until 2012? In the Senate while all the Democratic action is at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue? And how will she compete with a sitting vice president who has all the resources of the White House at his disposal and eight years to build up his momentum?”

Morris says the VP spot is Clinton’s for the taking, saying, “For [Kerry] to spurn the former first lady would be to cause a schism in the party. He’ll be pulling knives out of his back for the entire race.”

And what if Bush wins this year? “A close defeat wouldn’t hurt her,” Morris says, “and, if Kerry wins, it will be her only way to become the second President Clinton.”

Speculation about a Kerry running mate began in earnest last week after the Democrat’s strong showing on Super Tuesday. Names mentioned for the spot besides Clinton include Florida Sen. Bob Graham, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Kerry primary opponents John Edwards and Wesley Clark, California’s Sen. Diane Feinstein, Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. Mary Landrieu and even retiring NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw.

Kerry remained mum about potential partners last week, describing it as a private and personal process, Fox News reported.

“I wouldn’t just begin to throw names around,” he told a Florida television station last Wednesday, adding that he wants someone capable of assuming the commander-in-chief position if need be, and someone he gets along with.

The presumptive Democratic nominee chose Jim Johnson, a prominent Washington Democrat, to begin his selection process and vet potential nominees. Johnson, vice president of a merchant-banking firm, once worked for former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Mrs. Clinton laughed out loud – twice – when asked about the possibility of running for vice president last week.

Here is the dialogue between Lou Dobbs, host of CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” and the New York senator:

DOBBS: Senator, one last question. Do you want to be vice president?

CLINTON: (LAUGHTER) No. I’m having a great time being senator, and talking to you about an issue that I care deeply about.

DOBBS: Let me put it another way. Are you open to the idea?

CLINTON: (LAUGHTER) You know, that is totally up to the nominee. And I don’t think I would ever be offered. I don’t think I would accept. Obviously, I want to do everything I can to see John Kerry elected president.

DOBBS: Do you think you would be helpful in that role as vice presidential candidate?

CLINTON: I think I could be helpful in my role as senator. I think I can do a lot to help people focus on the strengths of our candidate and the weaknesses, frankly, of the opposition. You know, we now have evidence, it’s no longer speculative, about what this administration means for our country at home and abroad. And I think we’re going to be able to make a very convincing case.

The Kerry camp has been vague about when it might announce a running mate.

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