Names for the Democratic Suicide Club. Sen. John...


May 11, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

TWO NEW names for the Democratic Suicide Club. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa hinted this week that they may run for president.

Rockefeller told moderate Democrats at a meeting in Cleveland that "the door [to the presidential campaign] is open and I'm looking." Harkin told liberal Democrats at a meeting in Des Moines that he was "doing some things" about a 1992 bid for the presidency.

Okay, let's reach into Theo's Bag of Presidential Trivia and see what chance they have. Hmmm. Uh-huh. Aha. None. Iowa and West Virginia both lost population between the last two Census counts. No state with a net loss of population has ever produced a president.

It's pretty obvious why. A growing, prosperous country does not want to be led by the product of the politics of Losersvilles. Americans want a president trained in the politics of growth, one whose experiences and thought processes would be relevant to the nation's.

The bad news for the Democrats is that so many of their potential nominees are not from true growth states. Mario Cuomo from New York? Paul Tsongas from Massachusetts? Nope. Both those states grew 1980-1990, but at a slower rate than the nation as a whole and will therefore lose electoral votes beginning in 1992.

Not since the Civil War has a state that lost electoral votes in the most recent Census produced a president. Unless you consider Dwight Eisenhower a New York (1952 legal residence) pol or a Pennsylvania (1956) pol. I sure don't.

Another hot prospect for the Suicide Club is Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Let's see if the trivia bag has anything about such as he. Yep. He has no chance, either. Growth or no growth, Arkansas is too small. It has only six electoral votes. We haven't had a president from a single digit electoral vote state since Franklin Pierce in 1856. The average electoral vote of the state of the president in this century is 31. No surprise. Running a big country takes some experience at politicking in a big state.

Parties seldom even nominate hick staters for the presidency. When they do -- look out for falling rocks! Alf Landon of Kansas (9 electoral votes) in 1936, Barry Goldwater of Arizona (5) in 1964 and George McGovern of South Dakota (4) in 1972 were buried in the three worst landslides of the modern era. Tribal memory of that is probably the real reason Democrats didn't nominate Gary Hart of Colorado (8) or Joe Biden of Delaware (3) and why Republicans didn't nominate Bob Dole of Kansas (7) in 1988.

I personally would like to see Senator Rockefeller nominated -- but in 1996. My dream presidential election would be Democrat Rockefeller versus Republican former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. Du Pont IV (who has his eye on '96). Rockefeller IV versus Du Pont IV! Proving once again the great "log cabin" promise of America -- that even the humblest child can dream of becoming president.

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