On June 7, Hillary Clinton clinched the requisite number of delegates to become the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. Obviously, this was a historic occasion, the first time that a major party has chosen a woman to be their standard-bearer. In this capacity, Hillary Clinton’s next big task will be to select a running-mate. This is of no small importance; it’s a window into their decision-making ability and their judge of character. For the fourth and final time before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I have ranked her ten most likely running mates. Realize, of course, that this list is far from comprehensive and it’s entirely possible that her veep pick isn’t on here.
Within the next two or three weeks, I hope to outline the most likely contenders for Donald Trump’s running mate. That, of course, is a much dicier prospect, given the erratic nature of his campaign, the fact that virtually anybody in the Republican Party could theoretically balance this ticket in some way, and the likelihood that top contenders may have asked not to be considered.
- Tim Kaine: Everything we know about Sec. Clinton suggests that her decision-making is careful, focus-tested, and anything but spontaneous. With this mindset, Tim Kaine might become the vice-presidential pick purely by virtue of checking off the most boxes: He’s been a governor, he’s presently a senator on both the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, he’s from a swing state, his replacement in the Senate would be picked by a Democratic governor, and he’s a devout Catholic who speaks fluent Spanish. More than that, he’s got the right temperament and is likely to be a good team player who makes few headaches for campaign management.
- Elizabeth Warren: An awful lot hinges on whether Bernie Sanders concedes graciously and how receptive his supporters are to a Hillary candidacy. If Team Bernie is reticent, Elizabeth Warren could be a potentially excellent olive branch to the progressive/social democrat wing of the party. She’s got a genius for explaining complicated economic ideas in laymen’s terms, and she’s a strong consumer advocate in ways that will connect with middle-class and suburban voters. Due to some unusual rules in Massachusetts, Republican Governor Charlie Baker will get to pick her initial successor, but there will be a special election not long after, in which Seth Moulton or Joseph Kennedy III would be prohibitive favorites. The question is: does she want it? Warren would lose a lot of independence as a vice-president when she could be a ringleader for congressional progressives and be re-elected to the Senate indefinitely.
- Jeff Merkley: Only one other sitting senator has endorsed Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and that’s Oregon senator Jeff Merkley. He’s a solid retail politician, a left libertarian skeptic of national security overreach, and would be replaced in the Senate by a Democratic governor’s selection. If Hillary wants to pick someone formally aligned with Sanders without having to pick Sanders himself, Merkley would be a fine choice.
- Sherrod Brown: Brown, the only person to appear in all four versions of this list, ought to be a slam-dunk: he’s an economic populist, a free-trade critic, and a scrappy stump-speaker. He’s endorsed Hillary but would easily appeal to a lot of Sanders people. And best of all, he’s from the all-important swing state of Ohio. It’s a dream ticket, except that Kasich is governor of Ohio and would get to appoint Brown’s replacement through the 2018 midterms. Given how narrow the control of the Senate might be, is that a risk Hillary will want to take? Another consideration is this Politico article which suggests that Bernie feels betrayed by Brown endorsing Clinton, and would not recommend him as a veep if Hillary asks for his input.
- Al Franken: To be honest, this is who I would pick. Franken is sharp, comfortable with the media from his long tenure on SNL, and his barbed rhetoric would give plenty of red meat to the base. Perhaps the most efficient way to defeat Trump is with humor and pointing out his absurdity, and this comedian can perform that function like no other. Franken is also a far better senator than anybody has suspected, and won re-election handily in 2014.
- Xavier Becerra: Julian Castro, according to rumor, is not quite in the running any longer. Too eager for the job, not enough hard experience. While organizing candidates by racial background is problematic in some ways, Becerra in many respects took Castro’s place on pundits’ lists. Becerra is a solid, policy-wonk congressman from the L.A. area, and was on the “Supercommittee” that tried to resolve the debt impasse. He’s disciplined, workmanlike, and – noticing a pattern here- unlikely to embarrass Clinton. Few would be better prepared to counter Trump on immigration: Becerra represents one of the most immigrant-heavy districts in the nation; and what better way to show the human consequences of Trump’s demagoguery by having an actual son of immigrants on the ticket? And he’s every bit as qualified to be vice-president as another key congressional wheel, Paul Ryan, was four years ago- which makes the inevitable charges from the GOP that this is a “pandering pick” all the more ridiculous.
- Tom Perez: There has been a great deal of beltway buzz about Perez, who would be an unconventional choice. He’s never won an elected office before, but his tenure as Secretary of Labor has won high praise from policy wonks. Perez has signaled sympathy and support for Black Lives Matter and other identity-fused accountability movements, and his background gives him a chance to be a good voice for working families. According to this Politico article, “my strong guess,” one White House aide said, “is that if you took a straw poll of staffers here about who they’d pick for the ticket, Tom would do very well.” As one of the most important voices in President Obama’s second-term domestic agenda, Perez would be a compelling choice to win over voters struggling in a plutocratic job market. Both Perez and Becarra have the added benefit of not being senators, and therefore not having to worry about a seat falling- in the short or long term- to the opposition party.
- John Hickenlooper:My blog’s single most faithful follower, Jared, is in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s corner. History, however, is not. Democrats almost never choose governors as vice-presidential nominees. Ed Muskie was the last, in 1968, and he hadn’t been a governor in ten years at the time! In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to 1924 to find the last time the Democrats picked a sitting governor for the vice-presidential spot: William Jennings Bryan’s justly forgotten brother (and Nebraska guv) Charles Bryan. Hickenlooper is fun, roundly successful, and has a quirky past running a brewery before becoming mayor of Denver. But he’s generally considered more of a free-trade guy- a big no-no for Bernie Bros. And his recently released autobiography was refreshingly candid but full of damning vignettes, including youthful drug use and going to see Deep Throat with his mother in the Seventies (!)
- Cory Booker: Booker is in the same position as Warren in the sense that a Republican would get to pick an immediate successor, but a special election- where Democrats are prohibitive favorites- would take place before the 115th Congress ended. Booker is also in the same position in the sense that another northeastern senator might not be the best balance. Booker is hard to pin down. He’s one of the more neoliberal members of the Senate, and even at one point argued that Democrats should tone down their criticism of Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital in 2012. Well-rounded, he’s on all the right committees and has a good balance of executive experience and an understanding of national issues. Yet, he’s a young face in a party whose great figures are getting old, great at using social media, and he is legendarily great at constituent services. As mayor of Newark, famously shoveled one elderly constituent’s walk after she sent him a tweet! If Hillary wants to groom a successor, Booker is a good choice. If she wants a pick that will make Bernie’s supporters swoon, she’d best look elsewhere.
- Amy Klobuchar: She’s a distant 10th and the most remote choice by far on this list. But I wonder if what this ticket needs is a dollop of Midwestern decency. I recently finished Klobuchar’s memoirs, and I was struck by her command of policy, her sense of humor, and a refreshing authenticity that didn’t require a media persona. She’s just a good, hardworking, fundamentally competent moderate progressive. Klobuchar has won two landslide elections in Minnesota, a blue-leaning swing state. If anybody but Hillary were on top of the ticket, Klobuchar would be the prohibitive favorite as running mate.
And there you have it! Are there any prospects that you believe I’ve left out? Would you have ranked them differently? Let me know in the comments below.