WASHINGTON -- After failing to attract an established politician, Ross Perot announced last night that he has chosen Pat Choate, an economist who has long supported protectionist trade policies and who once collaborated with Perot on a book, as his vice-presidential running mate.
In a half-hour paid television appearance, Perot introduced Choate, 55, to viewers as "a friend and trusted adviser of many years." Perot, who opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement, claimed his new running mate was the only major economist in the country who fought it, too.
"Pat Choate is well-known in Washington," said Perot, who is running as a political outsider. "He knows the system as few do, he knows what's wrong with it."
Last night's announcement concludes what was becoming an increasingly embarrassing situation for the Texas billionaire.
Perot, whose support in national polls has been stuck in single digits for more than a month, had reportedly reached out to mainstream politicians in search of a running mate but had been rebuffed.
Potential nominees who said no included Reps. Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, and Linda Smith, a Washington Republican, and David L. Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma and a former governor and U.S. senator.
By contrast, Choate is an author, commentator and Perot loyalist who, like Perot, has held no elective office.
Choate, who earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Oklahoma, has argued that foreign competition is costing Americans millions of jobs because of lower wages abroad. He co-wrote a slim book with Perot in 1993 called "Save Your Job, Save Our Country: Why NAFTA Must Be Stopped -- Now!"
Although Choate is not well-known outside of Washington and is not expected to provide any immediate political boost to Perot's campaign, the choice received good marks from Perot's rival for the Reform Party nomination, former Gov. Richard Lamm of Colorado.
Lamm said Choate would add credibility to the party, raise the level of debate in the campaign and serve as a worthy opponent for his rival vice-presidential nominees, Al Gore and Jack Kemp.
"Pat Choate will make them address issues that will otherwise be unaddressed, and he will do it with conviction and passion," Lamm said last night in a telephone interview. "It's not a home run politically, [but] it's a clean single in terms of the fact that [Perot] was able to get somebody of substance to join him."
In an interview last night on CNN's "Larry King Live," Choate said he looked forward to a campaign focused on such issues as reforming the Social Security system and the Internal Revenue Service and generating jobs.
Choate appeared smooth and prepared during the program, a (( marked contrast to Perot's 1992 running mate, Adm. James B. Stockdale, a scholar, former Vietnam POW and war hero who seemed uneasy on television.
Asked if he was ready to be president, Choate said: "Quite literally, the problems that we face in this country have been created by our experienced, elected officials, and they don't have a good record. I wouldn't do it unless I [didn't] think I could do an outstanding job."
Choate, who grew up in Maypearl, Texas, has written six books. They include "America In Ruins" (1981), which addressed the nation's declining infrastructure, and "Agents of Influence" (1990), which asserted that overseas lobbyists were trying to influence American policy.
Despite Perot's poor showing in the polls -- just 5 percent of registered voters who responded backed him in the latest New York Times/CBS poll -- Choate said he was convinced the tycoon and self-styled populist could be elected in November.
"I absolutely know this ticket can win," said Choate, who lives in Washington with his wife, Kay. "If the American voters will follow their conscience rather than the polls or the media, Ross Perot and Pat Choate will be moving to Washington in 1997."
Pub Date: 9/11/96