Don't Look Now, But Jerry Ford's Back

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You know it's a slow news day when former president Gerald Ford makes the front page of anything besides the Grand Rapids Golfer's Gazette. But the New York Daily News' "exclusive" bid Monday to transform the normally inconsequential chatter of a political nonentity into serious campaign fodder was questionable perhaps only in its placement.

While the article, "Ford Urges Bush to Select Pro-Choicer as Running Mate," could have easily been relegated to the editorial section, there's nothing wrong with the piece; the former president's logic is hardly out of left field (and what better pundit than he on the caprices of the vice-presidency?). Apparently Ford, found celebrating his 87th birthday at his Rocky Mountain vacation home, is convinced that a George W. Bush victory hinges on the governor's ability to find a "quietly" pro-choice running mate, like Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. Ridge's selection will appeal to moderate voters, Ford reasons, without alienating the party's substantial pro-life voting bloc. Besides, the 38th president muses on the specter of a right-wing defection, "Where else are they going to go?"

And of course, he's got a point. As every political science major knows by now, most pro-life Republicans aren't going to abandon the party in favor of, say, Buchanan, just to register a symbolic protest of Bush's vice-presidential choice. There'd be a few desertions, to be sure, but in general, political strategists shouldn't have a hard time convincing anyone that the time is right to show middle-of-the road voters that there's room in the GOP for social moderates — an approach whose potential benefits far outweigh the risk of leaving a few pro-life extremists high and dry.