When Washington Post op-ed columnist Michael Gerson was introduced to Governor Bill Ritter last month during a climate-change expedition in the Norwegian Arctic, he must have been impressed. Gerson today writes in the Post that Ritter, a Democrat, would make a decent vice president for Barack Obama. Gerson, a senior fellow at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, doesn’t put in the word for Ritter because Colorado is hosting the August 25-28 Democratic National Convention. Rather, Gerson notes that Ritter “has one of the most compelling stories in American politics” and is also staunchly opposed to abortion.
Gerson writes of Ritter:
One of 12 children abandoned by an alcoholic father, he began working in construction at the age of 14 to support his family. He helped care for a disabled brother who died at age 6 — an experience that, he says, taught him “the intrinsic value of life.” He worked for years to reconcile with his estranged father, sometimes playing cards with him and his friends at the Salvation Army. As a prosecutor, he worked to steer nonviolent drug offenders toward treatment instead of prison. As governor, he has been a strong but responsible environmentalist. Recently, he has found himself in the middle of a messy fight between labor unions and businesses but has tried to broker a peace.
The editorial came as a surprise to Ritter spokesman Evan Dryer, who later emailed the op-ed to the media. In a brief phone interview, Dryer said any talk of Ritter as a vice presidential candidate resides in the land of “hypotheticals.” Obama has not contacted the governor about the possibility. “He has not been asked,” Dryer says. “He loves being the governor of Colorado.” The Obama campaign did not immediately respond to a query for comment. Colorado is a battleground state, and Ritter’s office is playing a critical role in helping to raise funds for the Denver 2008 Host Committee, which is millions of dollars short of what it needs to throw the big bash that officially launches the presidential contest. Gerson also named Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia as a vice-presidential possibility, noting several similarities with Ritter. Both, for example, spent time as Catholic missionaries in developing countries. Unlike Ritter, there’s been speculation beyond op-ed pieces that Kaine is on Obama’s short list. But Ritter is “more authentically pro-life than Kaine” and has been much more consistent about it–therefore, less vulnerable to political attacks by critics. And to Gerson that’s the bottom line that gives Ritter the edge. Should Obama choose Ritter, it would be “revolutionary,” he writes.