Hobson's Choice: Lieberman or Ridge?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Aug 19, 2008 11:51 AM
As he moves toward making a veep selection, John McCain's head will do battle with his heart.  And, by most accounts, his heart appears to be with Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge.  Mind you, neither selection makes sense to me strategically, but anything is possible.

In fact, I just got off the phone with one prominent conservative leader who tells me, "I do think all signs point to Ridge."  My source's rationale is that he believes the McCain folks put Ridge on the Sunday Morning talk shows this week specifically to say he would support McCain's positions as vice president.  He also notes that Pennsylvania pro-life groups have begun putting out word that Ridge was a fine governor.  And he says (as we all know), McCain personally likes Ridge.

Joe Lieberman has three attributes conservatives ought to like:  He's a strong supporter of the war on terror, a defender of the culture, and was a vocal critic of Bill Clinton's peccadillos.  You could also argue that, unlike Ridge, Lieberman is a safer pick for conservatives because he has zero chance of ever becoming a future GOP nominee.  Conversely, Ridge would become the successor.  By this logic, given a Hobson's Choice between the two, you might assume conservatives would favor a Lieberman selection. 

... But I've found very few conservatives who would make this argument.  In fact, I have been astonished to find that most conservatives I talk to do not strongly oppose Tom Ridge.  For example, even Tony Perkins -- a prominent social conservaitve who heads the Family Research Council -- has vocally opposed Ridge -- but not in an overly-forceful manner. 

The bottom line is that the vast majority of conservatives I've talked to are not overly concerned about a Ridge selection.  Some don't believe he is a realistic pick, but the ones who believe he is likely say he will follow the George H.W. Bush model of a loyal VP. 

So why do most conservatives favor Ridge over Lieberman?  One argument is that modern-day "conservatives" are really more partisan than they are ideological.  But a better argument is that most modern-day conservatives are not going to be hung up on a single hot-button issue, even though I would argue it is perhaps the fundamental issue.  When looking at their overall records, Ridge would be more likely to lead as a conservative, and I think that's why most of the folks I talked to were somewhat surprisingly favorable to him...