His Eyes On Bigger Prize A Shoo-in For 2nd Term, Guv's Open To Veep Bid

Posted: December 19, 1997

HARRISBURG — Gov. Ridge, if re-elected to a second term next year, says he will ``probably not'' pledge to serve all four years.

In a year-end interview yesterday, Ridge said that although it was ``unlikely'' he would be a national political candidate in 2000, ``I don't want to rule out that option.''

The governor was widely reported on a short list to be Bob Dole's running-mate in 1996. Dole ultimately picked Jack Kemp.

Ridge said yesterday he had no plans to seek the presidency in 2000 but would be open to a vice-presidential bid if offered.

``There's always a possibility,'' Ridge said.

``I have not yet been nor do I intend to be spending much time in Iowa or New Hampshire,'' Ridge said, referring to states with the earliest presidential primaries.

But the governor made clear his intent to be available should a presidential nominee seek him out for the second spot on the national ticket.

Asked specifically if he would not rule out a vice-presidential bid, Ridge said, ``Correct.''

Ridge, 52, has been mentioned as a potential running-mate with Texas Gov. George Bush Jr., who also faces re-election next year. Like Ridge, Bush is seen as a prohibitive favorite to win a second term.

Bush and Ridge know each other and have spent time together, including some vacation time last summer. Ridge said yesterday there was no discussion of sharing a national ticket with Bush, then or since.

Some pundits say a Bush/Ridge ticket offers youngish, progressive Republicans, two of the biggest states and geographic balance.

Others say Ridge and Bush are too moderate to win enthusiastic national GOP backing, and could have trouble with the conservative wing of their party.

Ridge also said yesterday he thinks Philadelphia has ``an excellent chance'' of hosting one or both national political conventions in 2000.

He noted Mayor Rendell's efforts to lure both parties to town and said, ``we will do everything we can to help him with Republicans.''

Meanwhile, former Democratic Lt. Gov. Ernest P. Kline, long mentioned as a potential Ridge opponent next year, said yesterday he will not be a candidate in 1998.

And House Democratic Whip Ivan Itkin of Pittsburgh immediately issued a call for party unity. Itkin and Montgomery County lawyer Phil Berg are the only announced Democratic candidates for governor.

``Ernie Kline's announcement gives all state Democrats one more compelling reason to galvanize and unite behind my candidacy. Pennsylvania Democrats are at such a financial disadvantage that we can't afford a costly primary fight or any further delay in supporting a uniquely qualified candidate to carry our banner next year,'' Itkin said.

Ridge will end the calendar year with $5 million raised for his re-election. The State Democratic Committee has reported a current balance of $39,173.

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