The Reform Party Veepstakes

A paradox of political conventions is that they are beehives of political gossip where there is precious little to gossip about. We already know who the presidential and vice-presidential nominees will be. We already know what the platform will say. We already know the speaker lineup. What to discuss? Chatterbox imagines much speculation will focus on who Al Gore will select as his running mate; he’s set to announce his choice Aug. 8. But contemplating whether Gore will pick Tom Harkin or Bob Graham or John Kerry or any of the other half-dozen Democrats whose names have been bandied about is getting a little tedious, no?

A livelier question is: Who will Pat Buchanan and/or the Reform Party select to be the Reform Party veep nominee? According to the Associated Press, this week’s Republican convention is the first in 32 years that Buchanan won’t attend. Instead, he’ll be at the beach in Delaware, getting ready for the Reform Party convention, to be held Aug. 10-13 in Long Beach, Calif. (Although the Reform Party has had a lot of rococo infighting this week over nominating procedures, Buchanan now appears to have the presidential nomination sewn up.) One question bound to occupy Buchanan’s mind is whom he should run with.

According to an online poll conducted by,  Pat Choate is the person most widely expected  to get the vice-presidential nod. Choate is a former Reform Party chairman, and in 1996 he was party nominee Ross Perot’s running mate. But Choate, whose son recently died of cancer, told Chatterbox, “I’m definitely out in this race.” Choate sees Alan Keyes and Oliver North as vice-presidential possibilities. Keyes is highly favored in the poll, and his presence on the ticket would certainly help Buchanan allay fears that he’s a racist. But, Reform Party Chairman Gerald Moan points out, Keyes is probably too much of a free-trader for Buchanan. To this Chatterbox must add that if Buchanan really is a racist, he probably won’t want to run with a black man (though it would be fun, under that scenario, to see the Reform Party handcuff Buchanan and Keyes together, like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones).

Moan says he hasn’t heard any buzz lately about who the Reform Party candidate for vice president will be. When pressed, though, he concedes that Buchanan and North “have a relationship.” (They worked together in Ronald Reagan’s White House.) Moan also observes that Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Ron Paul, R-Texas, are popular among the Reform Party rank and file, as are former Democratic Sens. Sam Nunn and David Boren. The SpeakOut poll also turns up John McCain, but “based on his shadow reception last night,” Moan says, “I doubt if McCain will be a possibility.” Chatterbox finds that judgment too harsh (he doesn’t imagine Buchanan would be received all that warmly either by Arianna Huffington’s Philadelphia salon des refusés). Still, it seems doubtful that McCain (or, indeed, anyone else on this list) would be interested. This compels Chatterbox to consider Buchanan enemies Jesse Ventura and John Hagelin, who may or may not be interested, but who at least have the advantage of lacking unbreakable ties to the Democratic or Republican Party. There’s also the option of selecting another loudmouth TV personality. This just might be the new challenge that Kathie Lee Gifford is looking for.