Group Working for Bipartisan Presidential Ticket


In a sparse office in the infamous Watergate building, the only sound is the quiet key-tapping of two 20-something political novices bowed over their computers.

They are the workhorses of a grassroots campaign to achieve the unimaginable -- the election of a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2008.

In the cramped room next door, a couple of political dynamos of the 1970s hold a meeting about how to raise funds for the effort, which is called Unity08.

It is an unlikely partnership -- on one end of the table, Doug Bailey, founder of the political pulse-meter "The Hotline" and former advisor to Gerald Ford, and, on the other end, Gerry Rafshoon, who helped mastermind Jimmy Carter's defeat of Ford in the 1976 election. They are strange bedfellows with a common goal -- to take American politics back to the center.

Their ambitious idea to elect a bipartisan ticket was hashed out on an October evening just before the 2005 elections. They were joined by Hamilton Jordan, the other half of Carter's savvy strategy team, who, years later, became known for his adept management of Ross Perot's presidential campaign.

During the meeting, the mix of Democrats and Republicans came to the conclusion that the two-party system has so fractured the country that the most important national issues are being sidelined by divisive "wedge" issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.

"Washington has become so polarized, so divided, it concentrates so much on bickering and arguing and blame game politics that it never addresses what are the crucial issues in front of the country," Bailey said.

He laments that issues such as healthcare, Social Security and energy independence are not being addressed.

Unity08's organizers may have the experience and connections to get the initiative off the ground, but they are depending on a modern Internet phenomenon for its success. They plan to hold the first online presidential convention, which will essentially be a nationwide online primary to elect a ticket.

The technology and logistics are still being worked out, but the voting process would not be that different from "American Idol." More than 50,000 delegates have already signed up at the Unity08 Web site. Any registered voter can participate without leaving their current party affiliation.

According to the Web site, the "unity ticket will consist of a woman and/or man from each party running for president and vice president, or by independents who assemble a Unity team from both parties."

While the voting rules have not been solidified, the general plan is to have convention delegates vote for a combined ticket, with each candidate for president choosing a running mate before balloting begins.

Names such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Chuck Hagel have been thrown out as sought-after Unity ticket nominees. But organizers insist they don't back a particular candidate, and no one has yet to announce a bid for the ticket. Ultimately, this may come down to the delegates drafting nominees, who might then be convinced to run for the presidency.

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