It's Veepstakes time again, and with the Democratic ticket a foregone conclusion, attention is naturally focused upon Republican candidate Bob Dole's running-mate-to-be. Out here in Dustbury, there has been some suggestion that Oklahoma governor Frank Keating might be tapped for the number-two slot. Much of this is wishful thinking, another manifestation of the state's ongoing longing for some sort of national image besides Tom Joad heading down old 66. But it's not outside the realm of possibility that the Dole campaign might look to Keating for Vice-President, which makes it all the more urgent that I explain why this would be a lousy idea.

1. Frank Keating will not help with the electoral vote.
Although the GOP is only just starting to reach parity with the Democrats in terms of actual voter registrations in this state, not even the most crazed Democratic pollster believes his party can carry Oklahoma; the last Democrat to pick up the Soonerland electoral votes was LBJ in 1964, and he was the first in sixteen years. Bob Dole could pick Beetlejuice for his running mate and still get Oklahoma's meager eight (soon to be seven) votes.

2. Frank Keating has no national or even regional constituency.
A few of you dialing in might have wondered, "Governor who?" You're not alone. Apart from the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, Keating has stayed clear of the national spotlight, and his contributions to governors' conferences and such have been essentially nil.

3. There's nothing you can get from Frank Keating that you can't get elsewhere.
The Oklahoma GOP was overrun by the Christian Coalition early on, and while support from the Coalition is vital to the Republican effort, there are plenty of politicians with more clout or visibility that are also owned by the Coalition, and they would bring far more to the Republican presidential ticket.

4. Frank Keating is something of a doofus.
Imagine, if you will, Dan Quayle Lite. This is Frank Keating in a right-wing nutshell; he has all of Quayle's propensity for gaffes and blather, with none of Quayle's mostly-genial good humor about it all. The only thing that has kept Keating out of Jay Leno's monologue so far is his complete lack of national recognition (item #2, q.v.).

"Still, Dole could do worse," your humble scribe murmurs, images of, say, Vice-President Dornan suddenly emerging from the black pit of his subconscious. And indeed he could. Dole's campaign up to now hasn't offered too many flashes of brilliance, after all. Then again, even this potential cloud possesses a lining of some semi-useful metal; a Dole-Keating ticket, if successful, would at least serve the noble and worthy purpose of getting Feckless Frank out of here two years ahead of schedule. I suppose it's too late to sign up as a state delegate.

Update, 3 August 1996:

Since this went up, speculation has shifted away from Governor Keating in favor of Senator Don Nickles. While the political differences between the two are small, and while Nickles is not likely to be a major asset to the Republican ticket either, he's definitely an improvement over Keating.

For one, while Keating mortgaged his soul to the Religious Right, Nickles didn't have to he was already there in right field, well in advance of their latter-day machinations. Everything I've seen tends to indicate that Nickles actually believes their stuff, which gives him a couple of points for integrity that wouldn't go to an opportunist like Keating.

For another, Nickles doesn't screw up. I can think of only one pronouncement he's made that he might regret his 1980 campaign statement that people (like his opponent) should not serve more than two terms in the Senate. Of course, Nickles is now on his third term. Apart from his questionable commitment to term limits, though, the Senator hasn't had to resort to large-scale backpedaling, uncommon enough these days.

And finally, Nickles is not likely to become an object of ridicule, which has to be worth something to all those beleaguered GOP stalwarts out there.

The Vent

27 July 1996

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 Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill