Al Gore has chosen as his running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman – the first Jewish selection for vice president on any major-party ticket.
And a University of Tennessee political scientist says the pick and the timing of the announcement could boost Gore’s presidential bid.
Dr. Bill Lyons says announcing the choice a week before the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles could halt momentum for presidential candidate George W. Bush from last week’s Republican Convention.
“The announcement a day early tells you something, that the Gore people were not about to let one more day of momentum build up with Bush and Cheney,” Lyons said. “They want to seize it right now and try get the attention with the vice presidential pick that goes right into the convention and think they can get a lot to get their own bounce and counteract the advantage Bush has gotten over the last couple of weeks.”
Lieberman was the first Democrat to chastise president Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Lyons says that could help distance Gore from the scandal.
“The choice of Lieberman is a very good one. He is well-respected, he’s got statures, he’s well known,” Lyons said. “The comments he made earlier during the Clinton scandal problems can help separate Gore from Clinton in ways that he needs, but not hurt him by seperating him from good things like the economy. So I think it was a wise choice.”
Lyons says that not since John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960 as the nation’s first Catholic president has religion been such an issue on a presidential ticket.
“The choice of Lieberman and his being an Orthodox Jew points out that somebody is willing to take a more bold step, and points out to the Jewish community this is a real point of pride, much as John F. Kennedy’s presidential nomination in 1960 was to the Roman Catholic community.
“So I see an upside to it and not a downside to it. I also think that It may help him in some key states, especially New York where there is a large Jewish vote and the election could be close.”
Lieberman beat out five other finalists: Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts; House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
Gore plans to announce the selection Tuesday in Nashville,