Wanted: a dissenting running mate

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Who says a politician can't be all things to all people?

Some used to try to achieve it by balancing the party ticket geographically.

But since the rise of single-issue politics, a phenomenon that has hurt many an office seeker in recent years, the concept of ticket balancing appears to be taking a new turn.

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In Minnesota, for instance, a state with sizable socially conservative Roman Catholic and Lutheran populations, the two leading Democratic candidates for governor have managed to cover both sides of the controversial abortion issue through their choices of running mates.

Warren Spannaus, who has angered some conservatives by his pro-abortion stand and support for tight handgun controls, has chosen a lieutenant-governor teammate who happens to oppose abortion. By contrast, former Gov. Rudy Perpich, a candidate who is against legalized abortion, has chosen a lieutenant-governor teammate who supports it.

Here in Illinois, Gov. James R. Thompson, the Republican incumbent who supports the Equal Rights Amendment, made it known to voters (who choose top state office seekers individually) that his choice for lieutenant governor was Illinois House Speaker George Ryan, who happens to be a staunch opponent of the ERA.

''It's part of the historic effort to balance the ticket, but it's a sign of the continued fragmentation of political parties and the intensity of feeling now generated around a single issue,'' says Diel Wright, a University of North Carolina political scientist.

''It used to be that candidates built a reputation in the party as conservative, moderate, or liberal, and that it applied to a broad range of issues across the board. Now you don't have that,'' he says.

''It's a time when you can no longer wave the banner of your party and expect to command voters across the board,'' agrees Paul Vick of the Duke University Center for the Study of the Governorship and State Policy. ''The rise of single-issue movements makes it more and more difficult for a candidate to be 'right' on all the issues.

''No matter how you answer questions on gun control, abortion, and nuclear power, you face a large, well-organized constituency that you've just offended.''

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