Since neither ticket-balancing nor an appeal to the South seems high on the Kerry agenda, what took so long to pick Edwards? Organized labor was pressing hard for Gephardt, who had a good personal relationship with Kerry. However, Kerry's real affection seemed directed toward Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, whose support (through his wife, Christie) helped save him in Iowa's critically important caucuses. Vilsack attracted Democrats who, looking at Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, wanted a governor on the ticket.
However, political problems were posed by both Gephardt and Vilsack. Survivors of the Dean movement, cool enough toward Kerry by himself, would be frozen by Kerry-Gephardt. The fact that Kerry-Vilsack would have put two Roman Catholics on the ticket was daunting to some Democrats. But, according to Kerry advisers, Vilsack's problem was a resume that does not go beyond the borders of Iowa, a handicap in debating Vice President Dick Cheney about the war against terrorism. A fourth contender, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, was seriously considered but rejected for being a little too quirky.
The irony is that Kerry, who disdained ticket-balancing in picking Edwards, probably would have gone for Sen. John McCain for the ultimate balanced ticket in the impossible event that the Republican would say yes. McCain, who is hawkish, pro-life, pro-nuclear power and anti-trial lawyer, voted the ADA line on only seven of its 20 selected votes in 2003 (a 35 percent liberal rating). John McCain would have been the first vice president since LBJ in 1960 to influence a presidential election's outcome. John Edwards will not.