Dream or Nightmare Ticket?

Democrats should note that presidential election history is full of odd alliances that ended well.


The conventional wisdom now is that the Democrats will never get the so-called dream ticket of Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama. In fact, some regard it as perhaps a nightmare ticket.

Don't be so sure.

There is no doubt the two contenders for their party's nomination have played rough and even nasty. Their marathon race has produced enough acrimony to make many Democrats shudder to think the party is kicking a sure thing after eight years of failure by George W. Bush.

Consider, however, the Kennedy-Johnson ticket in 1960, when all the smart money said LBJ, the powerful Senate majority leader from Texas, would never run with a young backbencher from Massachusetts. Further, their campaign for the nomination was contentious.

Johnson campaigned hard against John F. Kennedy for his youth, his inexperience, and his lack of leadership. (That does sound familiar this year.) LBJ's supporters even quietly passed the word that Kennedy's Addison's disease was a serious problem.

Most of all, the Democrats in the South were more worried about Kennedy's Roman Catholicism. House Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas, LBJ's closest ally, thought the Bible Belt would surely revolt and he would lose Democratic House seats in November.

Yet Johnson surprised his followers when he said "Yes" to Kennedy's offer in Los Angeles. Some liberals were outraged, but Kennedy knew he needed some electoral votes in the South, especially Texas. He was right. The ticket won a close contest and carried the Lone Star State, if barely, over Richard Nixon.

In 1996, GOP Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas picked former Rep. Jack Kemp of New York as his running mate, even though Dole had often ridiculed Kemp's devotion to supply-side economics. The two were hardly friends in Congress. It was another odd couple, even though it lost to incumbents Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

In 1964, GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater picked the obscure Rep. Bill Miller from upstate New York. Goldwater said he did so because the irascible Miller "drove LBJ nuts." It was a strange reason, and the ticket was buried in a Johnson-Humphrey landslide.

The Democratic ticket this year of the aforementioned last two standing may sound absurd in April. But after a long spring and perhaps early summer, it may sound more reasonable.

Bill Clinton reportedly told some superdelegates this week that Obama simply couldn't win in November. Johnson said the same about Kennedy nearly a half century ago.

Keep that in mind, Democrats.