Posts Tagged ‘veepstakes’

Twice before, I’ve posted my ten top candidates for Hillary Clinton’s running mate, on the not-unreasonable assumption that she will be the Democrats’ nominee.   And here is my third, and probably penultimate, installment (I’ll try to write one last edition in June or July when the convention nears and when we’ve seen more trial balloons floated that could telegraph her thought process.)

Sanders has had a very good run, but I don’t believe he will win the nomination. Generally, he’s had his best luck in states with caucuses (not too many left, and they tend to be small states) and states with extremely white populations (which doesn’t help in larger, more diverse, delegate-rich states like California, New York, or Illinois.) But he’s inspired a great many people to engage in politics. I hope Sanders supporters will stay in the game and continue to be a force in the Democratic Party and national politics more generally in the years to come. I’m hopeful that a strong speech by Sanders in Philadelphia this summer will convince them to campaign for Hillary just as hard as they would have for him. Moreover, Sanders has fulfilled his destiny, in the sense that while his candidacy was always far-fetched, he succeeded in pushing Clinton to the left. And what’s more, he’s done it in ways that make it undesirable to shift toward the center in the general election. As it currently stands, Hillary’s come out against the TPP and it’s more likely than not that her running-mate will be an olive branch to the Bernie Bros.

One change is that I have not one but three (well, two and a half) potential female running mates lined up for Secretary Clinton.  Every once in a while, I hear someone say that our country “isn’t ready” for that kind of thing. Why is it that an angry, racist billionaire with no political experience becoming president is plausible, and a ticket with two qualified women is not? Let me put it this way- since women earned the right to vote nationwide starting in the 1920 election, there have been 24 presidential elections. With two major parties, and two spots on each ticket, that’s a total of 96 “spots” on a presidential ticket since then. Of those 96 spots, only two were held by women: Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008- and both were in the less prestigious vice-presidential spots. Or to put it differently, 46 out of those 48 tickets were all male. Why is one all-female ticket so ridiculous? With 20 female senators, a large handful of female governors, and no shortage of female cabinet members and congresswomen, there’s never been a more qualified batch of female vice-presidential prospects for a presidential candidate to choose from.

In past installments, I set out a number of rules that increasingly don’t make sense any longer: no New Englanders, no women, nobody over 60. The last few months have tossed out the rulebook of conventional wisdom, and the Trump candidacy made a monkey out of almost every political pundit both famous and obscure. So now- these requirements are no longer on the table. Oldsters, Yankees, and other women could very well provide the right temperamental and ideological qualities to the ticket.

  1. John Hickenlooper: Hickenlooper was suggested by longtime Northumbrian reader Jared. And for a long time, I didn’t take his prospects seriously, largely for superficial reasons (I didn’t think two white candidates both north of 60 would work.) But the more I look at Hickenlooper, the more I like him. As the Sanders candidacy has shown, one doesn’t have to be young to resonate with younger voters. And Hickenlooper won in Colorado in 2010 and 2014- two disastrous years for Democrats- suggesting that he could help Clinton’s shaky prospects in the Centennial State. Under Hickenlooper, Colorado voters legalized marijuana use, and the governor also signed important gun control bills into law. He also ran a brewery in his earlier days, giving him both small-business experience that independents love while paradoxically burnishing his hipster credentials. In terms of exuding competence, bringing a swing state into play, and generating appeal to Sanders supporters, Hickenlooper is the complete package.
  2. Sherrod Brown: Brown has made a career for himself as a scrappy populist with disheveled hair, traits that should recommend himself to Bernie fans.  Although Brown recently endorsed Hillary, picking him telegraphs to the Bernie Bro that their concerns have been heeded, and views such as theirs will have a voice in a Clinton pt. II administration.  As a known opponent of monied interests and having a strong blue-collar background, he has the anti-establishment chops that Hillary may need to generate extra enthusiasm.  Running for re-election in 2012, Brown ran significantly ahead of Obama in Ohio, which may very well recommend him as a avenue to win the mother of all swing states.  The only real drawback is that John Kasich (who himself may factor into the Republican ticket- especially if there is a contested convention) would get to pick his successor.
  3. Elizabeth Warren: At times, I am tempted to see streaks of misogyny among Sanders supporters’ treatment of Sec. Clinton. Sometimes that actually does happen, and lots of Bernie Bros that I know personally have deep problems with female authority or toxic relationships with their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends that they tend to project onto Hillary. And yet, many of them love Elizabeth Warren for her no-nonsense approach to breaking up big banks and rewriting the special privileges the rich and well-established enjoy in our tax code.  Warren has become a darling, a heroine, to those who see deep inequalities in our political and economic system that stack the deck against working families. If Clinton wants a game-changer, a Warren vice-presidential pick would certainly accomplish that.  Massachusetts currently has a Republican governor, but state rules mandate a special election to determine who will ultimately fill the remainder of the term.
  4. Julian Castro:  If you want a new face that can change the political calculus, this one is it.  He was mayor of San Antonio, he gave the keynote address at the 2012 convention, and is currently getting some federal experience as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  He has youth, he has charisma to burn, and now has both executive and federal experience.  Moreover, he could be a long-term investment on making Texas and Arizona, with large numbers of Hispanic youths, purple states down the line, although this may not happen in the 2016 election.  The only problem- and his reason for dropping since the last ranking- is my realization that the San Antonio mayoralty is somewhat symbolic, and involves relatively little day-to-day governing.  In other words, Castro’s readiness to serve as president may come into question–but we’ll see how he does at HUD.
  5. Gary Locke:  Also returning to this list is Gary Locke, a man with a splendid resume who accentuates competence.  He won’t take any swing states off the map for Hillary, but has proven himself capable many times over as governor of Washington, Secretary of Commerce, and most recently as Ambassador to China.  His apparent dutifulness and even dullness show sparks of life, such as when he allowed Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng to seek refuge at the American embassy in Beijing, and flying economy class on his flights.  He would also make history as the first Asian-American on a major party ticket.
  6. Amy Klobuchar: She’s won two commanding victories in Minnesota, a state Republicans want to win badly.  She consistently receives stellar approval ratings in an age of widespread dislike of government.  And she now has a book out, The Senator Next Door, that has been very well received, and is viewed in some quarters as a clarion call for humbler, more responsive government officials.  She’s made remarkably few enemies and is part of the refreshing culture of teamwork that thrives among women in the Senate.  And senators from Minnesota have made some great vice presidents in the past, as evinced by Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.   Ironically, if a man was the presidential candidate, Klobuchar would be a no-brainer to join the ticket, but she won’t get the nod if Clinton dismisses out of hand the idea of a female running mate.
  7. Mark Warner: Warner’s stock has fallen considerably, going from an odds-on favorite to a more remote possibility. Essentially, the decline in his fortunes is due not to any missteps on his part, but a change in the calculus of a Clinton victory. Right now, Hillary’s problem isn’t being seen as “too liberal,” but “too neo-liberal” if that makes sense- the sense that she is too tied to vested interests, and too tied to foreign trade deals that hurt domestic blue-collar workers.  One of the more moderate Democrats in the Senate, Warner strikes all the wrong notes, as someone who became a millionaire in the cellular phone industry. He also demonstrated a surprising glass jaw, winning re-election in 2014 by a shockingly low margin against a hack of an opponent. Still, as an otherwise popular governor and senator from an important swing state, Warner is too good on paper to ignore.
  8. Al Franken: Humor is the best way to take down Trump, and watching Franken read  mean tweets about his endorsement of Hillary shows his razor-sharp wit.  While he has cast his lot with Clinton, he has the same anti-establishment tenor that has bolstered the Sanders campaign. He won re-election in 2014 by a wide margin in a bad year for Democrats. And while he could have been a joke candidate, his already-keen political analysis has become greater from his eight years in the U.S. Senate, making him a viable vice-presidential candidate.  Especially with Trump as the most likely nominee at this point, why not pick another- for lack of a better word- entertainer- except one with actual experience in governing?  This is one SNL veteran who is most definitely ready for prime time.  Like Klobuchar, Franken would be replaced in the short term by Minnesota’s DFL governor, Mark Dayton.
  9. Jack Reed: Another guy who violates my rules: he is relatively old (almost 70) and is from New England.  What makes Reed different is his military service: the man was a West Point cadet, and has reportedly been asked to serve as Secretary of Defense for the last two vacancies and may have been on Obama’s shortlist for the vice-presidency at one point.  Reed is a no-nonsense, constituency-oriented man who would make mincemeat out of a careless Republican opponent in the vice-presidential debate.
  10. Republican Surprise: This final pick isn’t so much in favor of a particular person so much as a general strategy.  If someone truly dangerous gets the GOP nomination, it’s not hard to see a number of more moderate, good-governance Republicans peeling off from their party and supporting Clinton, no matter how painful it may be for them. This option is out if Rubio or Kasich somehow pulls off the nomination.  But if a demagogue like Trump or an unlikable jackass like Cruz gets it, this becomes a real possibility. I’d peg Susan Collins or possibly Brian Sandoval as two candidates. Sandoval, of course, was floated as a trial balloon for the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court; he is a very effective and often quite moderate governor of Nevada. And Hillary would probably kill to have a moderate, pro-choice, Medicare-expanding Hispanic Republican governor of a key swing state on a ticket with her.  Collins is also an option. It’s another all-female ticket, but Collins is probably the most moderate Republican in the Senate, is disgusted with the Tea Party, and is on good terms with Clinton. (Hillary actually threw her a bridal party when she got married a couple years ago.)  Moreover, Collins is a respected voice on foreign policy, and if Clinton wants to accentuate the dangers of putting foreign policy novices in the White House, a Collins nomination could do wonders.  The optics aren’t ideal- two Northeastern, senior-citizen women who voted for the Iraq War- but politics isn’t about working in ideal situations. The only question is- would the Maine senator even consider it?

So, if you have kept track, we have four new additions to the list (Hickenlooper, Warren, Franken, and Republican Surprise). That means four individuals from my previous list are out.  I dropped the following from the list:

Ron Kind: An implausible pick to begin with, I wasn’t happy with his vote to keep Syrian refugees out of the country.  At any rate, he would be a better candidate for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 to take down Scott Walker on his quest for a third term. He’s proven he knows how to get votes in the Badger State outside of Madison and Milwaukee, a trick few Democrats in that state have mastered.

Tammy Baldwin: It’s just too risky to let Wisconsin governor Scott Walker appoint her successor. But it would be groundbreaking to have the first openly LGBT person on a major party ticket, to say nothing of another all-female ticket possibility.

Michael Bennet: He was a tempting possibility, for sure.  He’s a 51-year-old senator from a key swing state (Colorado), and his emphasis on education would appeal greatly to the demographic Bill Clinton’s ’96 campaign targeted successfully: soccer moms. But Bennet will probably face a competitive race for his Senate seat in 2016, and it could create problems if he had to run for both offices at once. (You can get away with it if your seat is very safe, like Biden’s in ’08, but not when you are running in a hotly contested swing state.)  Moreover, his pedigree is a little too professional, from the Ivy League background to the fact that his brother runs The Atlantic.  In an environment where Ted Cruz’s eligibility is questioned, the fact that Bennet was also born outside the U.S. may be an issue Hillary just doesn’t want to deal with.

Evan Bayh: A moderate’s moderate, Bayh is exactly the sort of professional, central-casting candidate the 2016 electorate is rebelling against on both sides of the aisle.  A scion of a political family with a lobbyist wife, it’s hard to see the upside to Bayh at this stage, even if Indiana was a winnable state.

What do you think? Anybody I left off? Do you think my reasoning is sound? Let me know in the comments below.


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Way back in March of 2014, I posted on who I thought nominee-presumptive Hillary Clinton’s best running mates might be.  Here we are more than 18 months later, exactly one year away from the presidential election, and maybe 8 or 9 months away from Hillary having to make this decision for herself.  As a recap, back then I suggested:

  1. Mark Warner (former senator from and governor of Virginia)
  2. Evan Bayh (former senator from and governor of Indiana)
  3. Julian Castro (mayor of San Antonio)
  4. Brian Schweitzer (former governor of Montana)
  5. Martin Heinrich (senator from New Mexico)
  6. Tim Kaine (former senator from and governor of Virginia)
  7. Michael Bennet (senator from Colorado)
  8. John Lynch (former governor of New Hampshire)
  9. Sherrod Brown (senator from Ohio)
  10. Tim Roemer (former congressman from Indiana)

What a difference 18 months can make in the world of politics.  Some choices were weak ones to begin with (Roemer, Lynch).  Some prospects have compromised their chances in some way (Schweitzer gave a truly bizarre interview where he implied that Eric Cantor was gay.)  And some new figures have emerged on the scene.

Here are a few considerations that altered my thinking between now and then:

  • The unexpected grassroots momentum of Bernie Sanders.  I knew Hillary would face some competition for the nomination, but I was genuinely surprised at how robust Sanders’ campaign turned out to be.  The hashtag-generating, email-circulating, borderline-trollish behavior of the “Berniebro” notwithstanding, Sanders has successfully pushed Clinton to the left, and demonstrated that democratic socialism was no longer a fringe belief system, but a viable perspective that deserves a seat at the table.  In terms of the veepstakes, that means Clinton cannot pick a “Blue Dog” Democrat as her husband once did with Al Gore.
  • The disastrous 2014 and 2015 elections.  They wiped out the party nationally, particularly in places that might not vote for Democrats on a presidential level, but remained viable on a state or local level.  West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas- dirt poor states which had high numbers of registered Democrats as recently as 2008- just keep getting redder and redder.  This should focus Hillary’s meta-strategy on not just winning but creating a strong ticket nationally, one that can replenish the bench.  Her party will, 10 years from now, need congressmen and state assemblymen, and state attorneys general in 2016 if it wishes to offer compelling candidates in the future.
  • Sit down for this one, ’cause imma blow your mind.  I think it is possible that Hillary might pick a female running mate.  That’s right.  If we pick apart her aforementioned problem about seeming too safe, too much of a known quantity, unable to really inspire people, the prospect of the first all-female ticket on a major party would shatter that preconception.  Some people might think that America isn’t ready for that, or some nonsense.  Since women gained the right to vote nationally, there have been…let’s see here…24 presidential elections, and with two major parties, that’s 48 presidential tickets.  46 of them have been all male.  2 of them had one woman in the less prestigious vice-presidential spot.  There are now dozens of qualified female candidates, more than ever before in American history.  Don’t give me any of this nonsense about America being “ready” for an all-female ticket.
  • Secretary of State Clinton also has to navigate the directions her opponents have gone.  The sideshow that the Republican nomination has become, where at one point the leading three candidates had never held elective office before, means that the Democrats have to not just generate excitement but run on professionalism and competence.  Anecdotally, I remember an old co-worker of my dad’s who hated liberals, but just felt he had to vote for Obama in 2008 because of Sarah Palin’s manifest incompetence and birdbath-deep knowledge of the issues.  That kind of “better the devil you know” thinking can actually help wrack up not only wins but majorities. Even if someone saner like Rubio or Bush is nominated, Clinton’s ticket has to accentuate the “do you really what to put these guys in charge?” mentality.  So, there are no true “Hail Marys,” no generals, no career businessmen, and nobody who is a novice to the art of governing.
  • If at all possible, insofar as Hillary is looking for senators, she will probably prefer those who serve in states with Democratic governors, and thus will be replaced- at least temporarily- with Democrats.
  • Other than that, the basic calculus is in place: avoid oldsters and avoid north-easterners.
  1.  Sherrod Brown: Brown has made a career for himself as a scrappy populist with disheveled hair, traits that should recommend himself to Bernie fans.  Although Brown recently endorsed Hillary, picking him telegraphs to the Bernie Bro that their concerns have been heeded, and views such as theirs will have a voice in a Clinton pt. II administration.  As a known opponent of monied interests and having a strong blue-collar background, he has the anti-establishment chops that Hillary may need to generate extra enthusiasm.  Running for re-election in 2012, Brown ran significantly ahead of Obama in Ohio, which may very well recommend him as a avenue to win the mother of all swing states.  The only real drawback is that John Kasich (who is himself a strong vice-presidential contender for the Republicans) would get to pick his successor.
  2.  Michael Bennet: As disastrous news swept the Democratic party from nearly all corners on Election Night, 2014, John Hickenlooper’s narrow re-election as governor of Colorado made me think: “this is great for Michael Bennet.”  Although Bennet is running for re-election in 2016, if he is somehow picked and somehow wins both the presidential race and his Senate race, a Democratic governor would choose his replacement.  Anyway, Bennet is young, from an important swing state, and has a key trait that assisted the Clinton-Gore ’96 campaign: soccer moms.  That is, Bennet’s stock in trade is in education, having once been the Denver Superintendent of Schools.  Michael Bennet is a figure made to appeal to suburbanites who might favor Republicans on fiscal issues, but are appalled by the global warming denialism and conspiratorial mindset.
  3.  Mark Warner: A Warner vice-presidency will stick a sock into the mouth of those who argue that Democrats are bad for business.  The former cellular executive proves that left-leaning politics and financial success don’t contradict, and his experience as a governor and senator of a major swing state complete what looks like a great resume on paper.  His story could provide a compelling counter-narrative if someone like Bush or Rubio picks someone like Carly Fiorina as a running mate.  On the other hand, Warner dropped the ball a bit as the keynote speaker at the 2008 DNC, and ended up having a surprising glass jaw in his re-election in 2014.  He was expected to win handily even in a terrible year for Democrats, and ended up prevailing by less than a percentage point.  To be sure, 2014 had terrible turnout, but it has turned Warner into something less than the surefire winner he was a short time ago.
  4.  Amy Klobuchar: She’s won two commanding victories in a state Republicans want to win badly.  She consistently receives stellar approval ratings in an age of widespread dislike of government.  And she now has a book out, The Senator Next Door, that has been very well received, and is viewed in some quarters as a clarion call for humbler, more responsive government officials.  She’s made remarkably few enemies and is part of the refreshing culture of teamwork that thrives among women in the Senate.  And senators from Minnesota have made some great vice presidents in the past, as Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale would agree.   Ironically, if a man was the presidential candidate, Klobuchar would be an odds-on favorite to join the ticket, but she won’t get the nod if Clinton dismisses out of hand the idea of a female running mate.
  5.  Gary Locke: Making his first appearance on my veepstakes list is Gary Locke, a man with a splendid resume who accentuates competence.  He won’t take any swing states off the map for Hillary, but has proven himself capable many times over as governor of Washington, Secretary of Commerce, and most recently as Ambassador to China.  His apparent dutifulness and even dullness show sparks of life, such as when he allowed Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng to seek refuge at the American embassy in Beijing, and flying economy class on his flights.  He would also make history as the first Asian-American on a major party ticket.
  6. Julian Castro: If you want a new face that can change the political calculus, this one is it.  He was mayor of San Antonio, he gave the keynote address at the 2012 convention, and is currently getting some federal experience as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  He has youth, he has charisma to burn, and now has both executive and federal experience.  Moreover, he could be a long-term investment on making Texas and Arizona, with large numbers of Hispanic youths, purple states down the line, although this may not happen in the 2016 election.  The only problem- and his reason for dropping since the last ranking- is my realization that the San Antonio mayoralty is somewhat symbolic, and involves relatively little day-to-day governing.  In other words, Castro’s readiness to serve as president may come into question–but we’ll see how he does at HUD.
  7. Tammy Baldwin: Talk about a slam dunk for winning leftist enthusiasm.  Baldwin, the junior senator from Wisconsin, is one of the more progressive members of the Senate, where she will have served for four years as of 2016, after several years in the House beforehand.  She would also be the first LGBTQ person on a presidential ticket (well, openly anyway, depending on your conclusions about James Buchanan.)  If you want to make cynical young people in cities care enough to vote, this would be a strong pick.  And having an opponent of same-sex marriage- a near-certainty no matter who the Republicans pick- have to look Baldwin in the eye during the vice-presidential debate could make for some compelling television.  Although Baldwin’s ascendency to the vice-presidency would mean the onerous Scott Walker appointing her replacement, perhaps Hillary will think the risks are worth the rewards, and that Baldwin’s seat won’t determine control of the Senate.
  8. Ron Kind: If we are looking at Wisconsin anyway, let’s turn to the House.  Kind has consistently won in the blue-collarish, mostly rural 3rd district of Wisconsin covering LaCross and Eau Claire- the kind of wavering Democratic voters Hillary must be eager to shore up.  His work as a football player and an ally of William Proxmire, the senator from Wisconsin who famously gave out Golden Fleece Awards for excessive government spending, could make him an appealing candidate.  And he still has more experience in Congress than fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan had in 2012.
  9. Evan Bayh: All right, fine.  Bayh breaks most of the rules I set out, including no dorky-looking Blue Dogs and the obvious rule against two dynasties on one ticket.  But it is hard to find fault with his talent for winning landslide elections in a red state; even Bill Clinton said that one day he looked forward to voting for Bayh on a presidential ticket.  And the poor guy has had his heart broken by Gore, Kerry, AND Obama, according to some accounts the second-or-third choice each time.  He lacks charisma, but if you are Hillary, a flair for avoiding controversy and unwanted attention is probably more desirable.  Nevertheless, this will not excite the grassroots; Bayh went directly to the Fox News Analyst circuit after retiring from the Senate in 2010, and his wife is a corporate lobbyist.  Still, for heartland wholesomeness, Bayh is hard to beat, and since he isn’t a senator anymore, you don’t have to risk forfeiting a seat.  (His father, Birch Bayh, is also one of my heroes, and is the only surviving senator who voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.)
  10. Jack Reed: Another guy who violates my rules: he is relatively old (almost 70) and is from New England.  What makes Reed different is his military service: the man was a West Point cadet, and has reportedly been asked to serve as Secretary of Defense for the last two vacancies and may have been on Obama’s shortlist for the vice-presidency at one point.  Reed is a no-nonsense, constituency-oriented man who would make mincemeat out of a careless Republican opponent in the vice-presidential debate.

And Tim Kaine, Martin Heinrich, and Jeff Merkley just narrowly miss out.  What do you think?  Am I off my rocker, or have I forgotten someone important?  Let me know in the comments below- and I hope to do another one of these for the Republican nominee— once we have a better idea who that nominee is!

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Oh, 2016- we just can’t quit you.  At least now, we can refer to things like the 2016 Olympics and the 2016 presidential elections as occurrences taking place next year.  We are still a year away from the first primary elections, and as they currently stand, they are  likely to be more interesting on the Republican side of the equation.  While Hillary Clinton’s path to the nomination won’t be quite the coronation many expect, I believe her chances of being the Democrats’ choice are very, very good.  With the Republicans?  Things are a bit up in the air.  I think there are maybe a solid seven people who could conceivably be nominated as things stand now: Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Mitt Romney, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio.  Out of the seven, Bush seems like the front-runner.  Nearly every candidate has severe drawbacks, from low name recognition, to poisonous civil rights stances, to Bridgegate, to losing the election last time.  And despite public wariness with putting a third Bush in the White House within thirty years, he is best poised to collect money from the important donors, avoid saying stupid shit, and wear down primary opponents by attrition.  Bush is probably the most likely to survive the grueling modern Republican dilemma of needing to be conservative enough for the bloodthirsty primary voting crowd, while not scaring off the general voting public.

When I wrote up my top ten running mates for Hillary, there were some guidelines to which I adhered.  I thought her ticket would be poorly balanced by a woman, a Northeasterner, and another person north of 60.  For Jeb, there are a couple of disqualifiers as well.  First- no scions.  If your daddy was a well known political figure, you’re out.  Second- no other Floridians; it is bad balance and still a bit constitutionally dubious.  Sorry Marco.  And…that’s about it!  He may or may not pick a woman, and Florida is such a weird state that just about anywhere else in the country offers regional balance.  Even the South.  (Fun fact- if nominated, Jeb Bush would be the first person on a Republican ticket to be both born in the South and an officeholder from the South.)  As a consequence, all kinds of races, ages, philosophies, and geographic regions are present here.  Being from a swing state is definitely a bonus, but by no means required.  I also think it unlikely that he will pick an opponent from the Republican primaries, at least partly because all of the main candidates are poor temperamental fits for one another, with the exception of Kasich.

I included very few GOP hardliners, though, and for this reason.  I think part of the reason John McCain and Mitt Romney lost their elections came from picking a running mate that scared the electorate in some way, either Palin’s dopey and inartful revival of the Culture Wars, or Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare, which almost certainly cost the Romney campaign the state of Florida.  So, while many of these figures are conservative by any fair definition, many are not bitter-enders or hardliners.  No amount of Tea Party enthusiasm or base-rallying can make up for scaring independent voters who aren’t in the bag yet.

As a hardcore 31-year-old McGovernite, I will probably not vote for a ticket with any of these people on it.  Just the same, here are my best objective guesses for Jeb Bush’s most suitable running mates.

1.  Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Very few people are talking about the veepstakes yet, but when they do, it will be interesting to see if Rodgers’ name comes up as a possibility.  Rodgers is the congresswoman from the state of Washington’s Spokane-centered fifth district.  Presently, she is the chair of the Republican House Conference, the only woman in a Republican congressional leadership that is notoriously white and male.  She will not help Jeb win the Evergreen State, but her work on the presidential ticket could help considerably in other ways.  Rodgers has been reasonably successful at parrying the charges of a Republican war on women, both in the office she holds and in the language she uses.  Since Barack Obama won partly on a massive “gender gap”, that isn’t insignificant.  Rodgers also offers poise, reliability, and message discipline.  She’s a good solider willing to do what it takes for her party to prevail, and won’t go rogue to advance her own career.  That’s exactly what every nominee wants to see in a running mate.

2.  John Kasich: Because of its reputation as a swing state among swing states, being the governor of Ohio seems to automatically warrant some chatter about becoming vice-president.  Kasich narrowly beat the incumbent, Ted Strickland, in 2010.  In supposedly the closest swing state in the country, Kasich overcame some dreadful first-term poll-numbers, reinvented himself as a thoughtful, conscientious pragmatist, and was re-elected overwhelmingly, with over 60% of the vote.  And Kasich has some real accomplishments to run on: Ohio’s recovery has outpaced the rest of the country, an especially impressive feat in a state that is the buckle of the Rust Belt.  He can help reframe the Republicans’ rhetoric about poverty, a toxic leftover from the Reagan years.  “I’m concerned about the fact that there seems to be a war on the poor,” he once said.  “That if you’re poor, you are somehow shiftless and lazy.”  Quite a turnaround from Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47%, no?  So far, it’s just wind; few of Kasich’s policies have demonstrably helped the poor, but the rhetoric will raise eyebrows.  The Republicans’ path to 270 electoral votes will be extremely difficult without Ohio this year.  In fact, the Republican Party has never once won the presidency without carrying Ohio in its 160 years of existence.   A Bush-Kasich ticket might put the two most lucrative swing states off the table for Democrats.

3.  Kelly Ayotte: No doubt about it, New Hampshire is the friendliest territory for Republicans in New England, the bluest region of the country.  In this atmosphere, Ayotte has thrived, serving a strong tenure as the state’s attorney general and easily winning election to the Senate in 2010.  Since then, Ayotte has confidently staked out center-right territory.  She is not on the Cruz cruise, but one would be foolish to confuse her with New England moderates Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe.  Ayotte is a hawkish foreign policy and armed services specialist, and her work with McCain and Graham on immigration nicely complement Jeb’s own views.  While Congress at large has floundered these last four years, the women of the Senate have earned a reputation for listening to one another and moving ideas forward, and Ayotte could bring these accomplishments to the table.  And, of course, she comes from a legitimate swing state, one that Obama carried by only 5 points in 2012.  One hiccup: Ayotte is up for re-election to the Senate in 2016.  People have run for lesser offices while running for the vice-presidency before: Lieberman for his Senate seat in 2000, Biden for his Senate seat in 2008, Ryan for his congressional seat in 2012.  But it is an unfortunate complication.

4.  Brian Sandoval:  Sandoval is the governor of Nevada, recently re-elected in a clean landslide.  In many ways, Sandoval is the perfect candidate.  He is Hispanic, he is just the right age at 51, and he can bring Nevada’s 6 electoral votes back into play for the GOP.  More impressive than these factors is his solid record of accomplishment; he is widely considered one of the best governors in the United States.  Under his governorship, the unemployment rate has gone from a worst-in-the-nation 14% to a much better 8% and falling.  He has also mindfully avoided staking out ideological points: he has accepted the Medicare expansion, and his record on abortion- not so much pro-choice as a more libertarian pro-autonomy stance- can help win over independents.  He has instituted an intriguing education reform, all with a Democratic state legislature, that now includes merit pay.  However, one significant drawback is that a Bush-Sandoval team has no meaningful foreign policy experience.  That will matter if it comes to governing, but with such a toxicly anti-Washington electorate, will this even matter?  Also- I wonder whether Sandoval even wants it.  I think it is an even-money bet that Mark Warner would have been Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008 if he didn’t commit to running for the Senate.  Sandoval has the same choice- run for Harry Reid’s extremely vulnerable Senate seat in 2016, or hold off for the vice-presidency?

5.  Susanna Martinez:  Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, is often mentioned as the kind of person who might be the Republican vice presidential choice in 2016.  Her biography seems like a panacea for the demographic sinkhole the Republican party is wandering into: a relatively young Hispanic woman governing an important state.  She and the state legislature have turned the state’s deficit into a surplus, all without raising taxes.  New Mexico is just barely winnable for Republicans in the general election in the best of circumstances.  George W. Bush won it in 2004, and lost it by a whisker in 2000.  Obama carried New Mexico by more than ten points in both elections, and it seems to have gone from a genuine swing state to a fairly deep shade of blue.  If Republicans want New Mexico’s five electoral votes, Martinez is probably their only realistic chance of getting them.  For all of this, I still wonder whether Martinez is a better candidate on paper than she would be in real life.  She is alleged to be sharp-tongued and acerbic, qualities that, unfairly, will not redound to the benefit of a female candidate.  In a way, she is similar to Chris Christie:  mouthy former prosecutors who govern a blue state, alternately working well with opposition leaders and butting heads with them over principle.  One further consideration: Sandoval or Martinez would mean a Republican ticket with two Catholics, a gobsmacking development for a party with historic ties to country-club Protestantism.

6.  Mike Pence:  Here’s the dilemma each presidential nominee faces when choosing a running mate: a governor will give you executive leadership and usually bipartisan credentials.  But being in Congress, while less popular, provides crucial experience in foreign policy and how Washington works.  Mike Pence, an influential Indiana congressman and presently the Hoosiers’ governor, could give you both.  He hasn’t racked up an especially right-leaning record in Indiana, partly because his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, already slashed the budget and enacted right-to-work legislation, the first state in the Rust Belt to do so.  Where do you go from there?  He has strong support in institutional conservatism, both Koch Brothers fiscal conservatism and “values voters.”  In terms of communication, his talk radio pedigree will help galvanize the ditto-heads (he has been called “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”) Pence’s team has called him a “process of elimination candidate” for the presidency, but Pence’s faithful partisanship could make him a strong contender for the second spot on the ticket as well.  This is especially so if circumstances force Jeb to move right, rather than left, such as a contentious primary battle with a more conservative challenger.

7.  John Hoeven:  The Great Recession hit many of us hard.  For all of its severity, North Dakota weathered the recession better than any other state, a situation that makes for some fine talking points.  While the nation as a whole nearly had double-digit unemployment during the depth of the recession, North Dakota’s never approached 5%.  Nowadays, it hovers between 2-3%.   This could spell good news for John Hoeven, two-and-a-half term governor and first-term senator from the Peace Garden State.  If the Keystone pipeline becomes a major issue during the 2016 election, Hoeven could give a great deal of credence to the “drill, baby, drill” crowd, citing North Dakota’s economic miracle.  Indeed, the lucrative Bakken oil fields have created a multitude of high-paying jobs, which in turn have bolstered the state’s service sector as well.  This is, of course, a bubble, and like all bubbles it will burst.  For now, though, the numbers are looking fine.  A conservative who won’t scare independents off, Hoeven’s ten years of executive experience, six years in the Senate, and impressive Ron Swanson mustache will brush aside any questions that he isn’t ready.  Besides, he continues the weird trend of running mates who have represented only a small area- either one solitary congressional district or a three-electoral-vote state: Palin (Alaska), Biden (Delaware), Cheney (Wyoming), Paul Ryan (Wisconsin’s fightin’ first), Jack Kemp (New York’s fightin’ 38th), and Geraldine Ferraro (New York’s fightin’ 9th) and even George H. W. Bush (Texas’s fightin’ 7th). Seriously- isn’t that strange?  Since 1984, only four running mates (Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, Dan Quayle, and John Edwards) directly represented more than perhaps a million people.

8.  Tom Cotton:  In 2014, the race between Congressman Tom Cotton and incumbent Mark Pryor Cotton for the Senate seat from Arkansas was expected to be a dramatic nail-biter.  Instead, Cotton bulldozed over Pryor, scion of that ~other~ Arkansas political dynasty, by seventeen points- a margin similar to Democrat Blanche Lambert Lincoln’s defeat in 2010 for Arkansas’s other Senate seat.  Cotton, a 6’5″ Iraq war veteran with two Ivy League degrees also presents a compelling personal narrative, and would protect Jeb Bush from discontent from the Republican Party’s increasingly conservative base.  The man oozes the conservative definition of patriotism, even campaigning for his Senate seat in a camouflage-colored bus.    In a way, he hearkens to an earlier time when an Ivy League education and military service often went hand in hand (a worldview that John Kerry, a man Cotton might view as an enemy, encapsulated.)   Called a “conservative superstar” by The Atlantic, Astonishingly, you’d have a GOP ticket susceptible to charges of being “too cerebral” (a criticism that was never an issue with George W. or Sarah Palin on the ballot.)  This doesn’t work in it’s favor- Cotton is also a hard-edged ideological conservative- more than anyone else on this list actually- and his devotion to Heritage Foundation dogma has lead him to take academic, but still troubling, stances.  As the Atlantic article notes, “Cotton also was the only Arkansan to vote for a budget drafted by the Republican Study Committee that would slash spending, voucherize Medicare, and raise the eligibility age for Social Security to 70.” Elsewhere, his on record saying that the Founders were wise to limit democracy.  Including in Senate races like the one Cotton prevailed in just a few months ago.

9.  Todd Platts: Chances are, you probably have never heard of Congressman Platts.  He is now a judge on the York County Court of Common Pleas.  That may seem like a resume that’s not exactly vice-presidential, but for twelve years, he represented a congressional district in south-central Pennsylvania.  He left in 2013, wanting to spend more time with his family (and this appears to be genuine; I know everybody else says it for other reasons, but with Platts, this is probably true) and because he supports term limits.  Platts stands out for his everyman appeal.  He commuted three and a half hours most days Congress was in session to help give his family a steadier life in PA.  Consistently, Platts has stood for good governance over ideological conservatism, a stance which is typified by his love of films like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”  Like many Republicans, he voted for war in Iraq and in favor of offshore drilling, but also took less popular stands within his own party, favoring McCain-Feingold campaign reform and voting to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  When he left Congress, a Democrat colleague told him “I just want to thank you for your friendship and your leadership. You have approached issues with judicious analysis. You have avoided strident headlines. You’ve avoided bitter partisanship, and I think you are a model that many could learn from.”  In all, he is a Main Street Republican (that is, a relative moderate), which may or may not be what Jeb needs.  That means forfeiting tea party zeal in an attempt to win over middle American voters in a tough election against a formidable opponent.  Now, I don’t actually think Todd Russell Platts is the ninth most likely Republican running mate.  But someone like him might be just the shot in the arm Jeb needs.  The buzz from picking this relatively humble and unassuming man currently serving as judge on a low-level court and tapping him for the vice presidency has a kind of Cincinnatus feel, and could be an unexpected game-changer.

10.  Rob Portman:  I originally had Condi Rice listed as #10 before crossing her off.  Too tied to the George W. Bush administration, and despite her calm, her intelligence, and her foreign policy credentials, it is just too big a risk to run with someone who has never once run for political office before.    Instead, what about Ohio senator Rob Portman?  Here’s why.  You get economic heft; Portman was the head of the Office of Management and Budget during the Bush 43 administration, and was part of the ill-fated supercommittee that attempted, without success, to resolve a budget impasse a few years ago.  You also have debating chops; Portman is routinely chosen to play the Democrat when Republican candidates prepare for debate.  He is credited with being able to anticipate and articulate Democratic talking points well, while eerily channeling Obama, Edwards and other figures.   But Rob Portman offers two other strong advantages.  Firstly, he is, like Kasich, a popular figure in all-important Ohio.  Secondly, he became one of the first GOP senators to endorse same-sex marriage, on account of his son, who identifies as gay.  Same sex marriage is a losing battle for the GOP, and the possibility of a Supreme Court decision making it legal across the country makes hardline opposition even more untenable, especially as it continues to poll ever more favorably.  Portman offers you a way out- and it is virtually the only issue where he departs from conservative orthodoxy.  Even better, you get to frame his departure as one of family values- what is more honorable than sticking up for your son at the expense of the party line?   On the other hand, you get some baggage as well- being George W. Bush’s OMB guy may not communicate economic prowess, given that this team was dumb enough to cut taxes during a protracted and expensive war.  Portman is also a poor choice if populism becomes an issue, and if Hillary picks a barnburner like fellow Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, he could be in real trouble.  Like #3 and #7 on my list, Portman will be placed in the awkward position of running for a Senate re-election and the vice-presidency at the same time.

Five honorable mentions: former Secretary of State Condi Rice, South Dakota senator Jon Thune, former Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuno, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

What do you think?  Did I miss anyone?

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We are not yet at the 2014 midterm elections, and already election fever is sweeping the country- for 2016, of course.  Among the Democrats, the question is simply: will Hillary run, or won’t she?  I would guess, for a multitude of reasons, that she will, but if I am mistaken, there isn’t a very exciting back bench of candidates: Andrew Cuomo? Kirsten Gillibrand?  Elizabeth Warren?  Martin O’Malley?  For Republicans, the situation is even more confusing: there are more than a half dozen people who could conceivably walk away with the nomination as it appears at this time: Chris Christie could recover from (or be exonerated from) the scandals surrounding his office, but don’t count out TEA Party favorites Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Midwestern governors Scott Walker and John Kasich, or Floridians Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

The only prediction I am comfortable making is this: 2012 will be the last time in the lifetime of anybody reading this in 2014 that we will see any major party put forth a ticket of two white men.  Romney-Ryan will be the last.  And we are certainly never going to see a major party put forth a ticket of two white Protestant men (the Bush-Cheney ticket will be the end of that line.)

But suppose conventional wisdom holds, and Hillary Clinton does, in fact, become the Democrats’ 2016 presidential nominee, and consequently, the first woman to be nominated by a major party for the office of president?  Now, I love, love, love the “veepstakes” as they are sometimes called, so my natural follow-up question is: “who does she pick for a running mate?”  While the Democrats may not have many other obvious nominees for president, their bench is actually pretty good for running-mates.  Mindful of this, I am going to start by ruling out a number of demographics.

I.  No Women: I hate to say this.  I wish it were not so.  I just do not think that the United States will respond well to an all-female ticket.  That’s a shame, because there has never been a greater crop of potentially excellent female vice-presidents.  So, many apologies to Amy Klobuchar, Maria Cantwell, Tammy Baldwin, Christine Gregoire, Tammy Duckworth,  and Janet Napolitano.

II.  No African-Americans.  Again, I hate to say this.  I wish it were not so.  But after Barack Obama, the public is likely to regard this as “yesterday’s news”.  So, sorry Deval Patrick and Cory Booker.

III.  Be mindful of age.  Hillary will be 69 years old on election day, 2016.   With this in mind, it is unlikely that she will pick a senior citizen to run with her.  Over 65s will have some strikes against them, then.  We might eliminate two capable governors, John Kitzhaber of Oregon (suggested by my friend Sam) and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, former Governor and China ambassador Gary Locke, and some senators- most notably Bill Nelson from the crucial swing state of Florida.

IV.  Region.  Hillary may have been born in the midwest and been first lady of a Southern state, but she last held office in New York, and in the public eye, she is still associated with the northeast.  You can categorically rule out a New York running mate, and severely cast doubt upon other northeasterners.  This presents the biggest problem to Martin O’Malley, the liberal and generally successful governor of Maryland.  Maybe when Nixon picked Agnew in 1968, Maryland could be construed as a border-South state, but no longer.

and finally, V.  No “Hail Marys.”  Hillary will likely start out the prohibitive front-runner, and she will run a cautious campaign (though hopefully not as ruinously cautious as her 2008 bid.)  But this means that she will likely pick a “known quantity”, someone who has run for office at least once, so generals, businessmen, and OPFs (old public functionaries) are probably out.  You are going to want to run with someone who has withstood campaign scrutiny.

So, I am left to conclude that Hillary Clinton’s running mate will probably fit this profile: a male Democrat, in his 50s or early 60s on election day, from the Midwest, Southwest, or a relevant swing state, has no well-known vices or scandals, and has most likely served as a senator or governor in some capacity.  With this in mind,  I would construe Hillary’s running mates to be, in rough order of likelihood:

1.  Mark Warner:  (Profile: Governor of Virginia from 2002-06, Senator from Virginia, 2009-present)  At this early stage, Warner should be considered a solid front-runner.  He remains very popular in Virginia, a state that is a key part of any path to 270 electoral votes.  If you want to win over independent voters, Warner isn’t a bad choice.  He was CEO of a cellular company, and wins points for thriving on two Republican talking points: “creating jobs” and “balancing budgets.”  Warner has made astonishingly few enemies, shows restraint and poise at every turn, and is both the safest and most qualified choice on this list.

2.  Evan Bayh:  (Profile: Governor of Indiana, 1989-1997, Senator from Indiana, 1999-2011).  Bill Clinton once said, “I hope and expect that some day, I will be voting for Evan Bayh for president.”  That may not happen, but he could be voting for him as his wife’s running mate.  According to all sources, Bayh was the silver medalist in Obama’s vice-president search, ultimately losing to Joe Biden.  Under ordinary circumstances, Indiana is barely a swing state; Obama won by a tiny margin in 2008 but lost the Hoosier State by a country mile in 2012.  Evan Bayh, a popular moderate, could swing Indiana back into the blue column in a close election.  Bayh comes, though, with a few minuses that Warner avoids.  He is notoriously uncharismatic, retired from the Senate in disgust in 2010, worked as a FOX News contributor, his wife is a lobbyist, and comes from a political family in a race with one scion too many (although heaven knows I love his dad, ERA-author Birch Bayh.)  Still, it is hard to beat a governor-senator with no real ethical blots on his record.

3.  Julian Castro:  (Profile: Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, 2009-present.)  After a guy named Barack Hussein Obama II gets elected president, all concerns about a politicians’ name can be safely considered alarmist.  The riskiest pick of the top 10, but it is also a high-reward choice.  Castro, only 39, delivered a remarkable  keynote speech in 2012 about what it means to be American.  In contrast to the current modus operandi in much of Texas, Castro has emphasized investment in the future: he has encouraged a pre-K program in San Antonio, and is marketing it as a “brainpower city,” a place of ideas, not just low taxes and shabby working conditions.  The question, though, is one of suitability: we’ve never put a guy whose highest elected office was mayor on a major ticket.  (Although, in earlier times, McGovern considered Boston mayor Kevin White and Walter Mondale considered then-San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein.)   The correct retort, of course, is that as mayor of San Antonio, one of America’s ten biggest cities, Castro represents more people than Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Joe Biden, or Paul Ryan did in their offices.  Stick that in your Alamo and smoke it.  If he’s picked, look for Republicans to attack his mother for being a part of (gasp!) Latino activist group La Raza.  I don’t think Castro will turn Texas blue in 2016 unless Republicans pick an absolute train wreck, but if the party is interested in purpling the state, more national exposure for someone like Castro is the first step.

4.  Brian Schweitzer: (Profile: Governor of Montana, 2005-2013).  Schweitzer just finished a remarkable turn as governor of Montana for eight years, not only surviving, but thriving in territory unfriendly to Democrats.  His populist demeanor made him one of the best speakers at the last two Democratic conventions.  Few have successfully deflected Obamacare criticism into legitimate arguments about how expensive treatments are in a private health care market.  Seriously- go read this interview over at Slate.  Yet, unlike many governors, he has a healthy degree of experience abroad, having worked on multiple continents as an irrigation developer.  His pro-gun background and visceral dislike of Washington D.C. may attract a different and unexpected set of potential voters.  On the “con” side, many wonder why he didn’t run for the 2014 open U.S. Senate seat, which he could have easily won.  I suspect he will run in the 2016 presidential nomination against Hillary, get his name out there, challenge her from both a conservative and populist perspective, and use this exposure as leverage onto the ticket.

5.  Martin Heinrich:  (Profile: Congressman from New Mexico, 2009-2013, Senator from New Mexico, 2013-present.)  Heinrich is another relatively young guy, only 42 years old, and by 2016, he will have four years in the Senate and a few terms in the House under his belt.  Heinrich is a relative moderate, especially on gun issues, and while New Mexico can now be considered more of a blue state than a swing state, picking him serves as insurance in case the Republican nominee picks New Mexico governor Susanna Martinez.  If he gets passed over, he has nothing to worry about; it is entirely possible he will still be in the Senate 25 years from now.

6.  Tim Kaine:  (Profile: Governor of Virginia, 2006-2010, Senator from Virginia, 2013-present.) If Mark Warner gets hit by a truck or something, there’s always Tim Kaine.  Kaine is truly a poor man’s Warner- a former governor and senator of Virginia who lacks Warner’s crossover appeal to independents and business background.  He won his elections by a small margin, while Warner won his in landslides.  Still, there’s something there; if Bayh was Obama’s second choice for running-mate, Kaine is widely rumored to have been his third choice.

7.  Michael Bennet: (Profile: Senator from Colorado, 2009-present)  I thought about putting Ken Salazar in this spot, but ultimately, his record raises too many questions, and nobody wants to be the head of the Department of the Interior during the Deepwater Horizon mess.  Instead, why not the guy who replaced Salazar in the Senate?  Bennet, who will be only 52 in 2016, checks a lot of boxes.  He is from a swing state where Hillary is polling a little worse than expected, and he was one of the few vulnerable Democrats to survive in 2010.  His background is in education (he was once Superintendent of Denver-area schools), an area where Republicans are vulnerable, and can be helpful in wooing the vote of the demographic that Bill Clinton called “Soccer moms.”

8.  John Lynch:  (Profile: Governor of New Hampshire, 2005-2013).  Lynch breaks two rules I just set forth: he is from the northeast and he will be 65 on Election Day.  But hear me out: New Hampshire is, by its own admission, a little bit different from the rest of New England, a “Live Free or Die” state, which apparently means no helmet laws and welshing on bridge-building agreements with Vermont.  John Lynch was perennially one of the nation’s most popular governors, and has a reputation for republican (small “r”) simplicity and appeal.  His reputation for low taxes and transparency will appeal to many independent voters, and he also helps out in the only state in New England that cannot be guaranteed for Democrats in a close-ish election.  As a businessman, he succeeded not only financially, but on grounds of justice as well: he made sure his employees were well-payed and had retirement plans.  The only problem is his lack of a national reputation or profile: he has rarely done national talk shows or dealt with the national media, which might lead to Palinesque difficulties in acclimating to a presidential level of scrutiny.

9.  Sherrod Brown:  (Profile: Senator from Ohio, 2007-present.) No Republican presidential candidate in the history of the party has won without the state of Ohio in his column, and Brown, under the right conditions, could help take that state out of contention.  Brown, elected twice from the state of Ohio, the mother of all swing states, the state that could have made President Gore or President Kerry, would help Clinton with old-style Democratic voters.  By this, I mean that Brown is an economic populist, not a mountain state “green energy” guy or someone who can win over new demographics.  But, not unlike Joe Biden, he can slow the Democrats’ hemorrhaging of the working-class white vote.  Depending on how far to the center or left Clinton runs, Brown can be a reassuring sop to Democratic party advocates, and he will energize the base if “moderate Hillary” is what emerges in the campaign’s early stages.  Still, his reputation as one of the Senate’s most liberal members may not do much beyond preaching to the choir.

10. Tim Roemer: (Profile:  Congressman from Indiana, 1991-2003, Ambassador to India, 2009-2011).   As events of the last few days in Ukraine have demonstrated, you can’t have too much foreign policy and national security chops on the ticket.  Roemer was instrumental in the creation of the Homeland Security Department and co-chaired the 9/11 Commission.   Aside from that, he spearheaded the creation of Head Start and Americorps, and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who did tenures in these programs won’t forget it.  However, he was a staunch critic of NAFTA, a signature achievement of Bill Clinton’s presidency, which could cause problems with Hillary.  But perhaps the biggest liability with Roemer is his social conservatism, and opposition to abortion.  If the Democrats want to demonstrate they are a “large tent” party, though, a Roemer selection would telegraph that sentiment clearly.

So, what do you think, gentle readers?  Am I missing anyone?

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Given my interest in vice-presidential selection, it would be churlish of me not to weigh in on Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running-mate.  First of all, congratulations to my friend (and hopefully frequent Northumbrian commentator) Tony, whose first choice made it on the ticket.  As a Biden partisan throughout the 2008 cycle, I know well how good it must feel to have someone you admire a great deal show up on the ticket.

I’ve been mulling this selection over, reading relatively little so far, so that my initial impressions aren’t influenced by the “Slate-sphere”, the conventional wisdom of snarky stay-at-home bloggers.  In no particular order, here is my first draft of thoughts, unfiltered by hindsight or, for that matter, serious reflection.

  • This is a bolder pick than I was expecting.  Despite whatever I wrote earlier, my “spider sense” was inclined toward someone like Rob Portman, who would reflect the kind of campaign Mitt Romney has already run– conservative in both senses of the word, economically free market/socially patrician, but also risk-averse.  If Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty were safe mutual bonds as running mate prospects, Paul Ryan is a high-risk, high-reward junk bond, a possible grand slam but a potential detriment as well.  A curiosity, given than Mitt has, so far, been the anti-McCain, with measured responses and maneuvering winning the day over the capricious hail-mary passes that marked the Arizona senator’s campaign.
  • What this means is that you have a ticket that says, in James Carville’s immortal phrase, it’s the economy, stupid.  You have a businessman and a pro-business policy wonk on the ticket.  Whatever else they may have done, that will be the impression it leaves.  In a bad economy that may get worse before it gets better, that is a powerful and logical strategy.  This isn’t a game-changer along the lines of John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin.  Palin’s selection radically altered the calculus of McCain’s broad strategy, giving him a feisty hockey mom, but also taking away his ability to criticize Obama’s comparative inexperience.   As I said in my earlier veepstakes post, a Paul Ryan choice is doubling down, not balancing, the ticket.  Romney’s emphasis is on the economy and with Paul Ryan on the ticket, it takes what Mitt Romney has been saying for the last 16 months, underlines it, bolds it, and sets it in 48-point Garamond font.
  • What the Ryan pick doesn’t do is make up for Romney’s weaker points as a candidate.  After a trip abroad that included a disastrous visit to England, Romney’s foreign policy credentials have been questioned, and Obama outpolls him when the question is, “who is the better commander in chief?” There’s no natural candidate for evangelicals to rally around or get excited about– although Ryan is much more socially conservative than any version of Mitt Romney, that’s not how Ryan marketed himself as a politician for the last decade.
  • Most problematically of all for the Romney campaign, this selection doesn’t make up for what I believe to be Romney’s greatest barrier to election, his unlikability.  His favorable/unfavorable ratings are low, and perilously low among independents.  Much of this comes from a public perception that he lacks “the common touch”, that he lacks sympathy or empathy with, the average American.  Ryan has similar problems, and it won’t be difficult at all for the opposition to paint him as an Ayn Rand-reading theoretician, gleefully cutting funds to the poor between visits to the gym.  Remember how the 2008 campaign centered so neatly on narrative– Obama, with the father from Kenya and the mom from Kansas, Biden, the senatorial winter lion whose family was taken from him when he was only 30, McCain, the POW who endured 5 years of hell in Hanoi to become a respected reformer, and Palin, who delivered a child she knew would have a severe developmental disability.  Romney-Ryan doesn’t have that kind of narrative power; just one guy who grew up super-rich and another guy who grew up so-so rich.
  • This will hinder Romney in crucial Florida, with its high population of elderly voters.  Medicare and Social Security are commonly called the “third rail” of American politics– if you touch it, you will get electrocuted.  With an unpopular Republican governor, Rick Scott, already in hindering the state, a tough state to win just got progressively tougher.  Ditto with economically lefty and socially righty states like Iowa.  Conversely, the pick may help in economically righty and socially lefty states like New Hampshire.  Wisconsin, the state that was closest in the 2004 election (yes, closer than Ohio) becomes once more a legitimate swing state.
  • Which reminds me, running against the Ryan budget was a lucrative strategy for Kathy Hochul, who won a Republican-leaning district near my old grad school on a campaign that emphasized “Save Medicare” in a 2011 special election.  Those incumbent and challenging Republicans further down on the ballot may have difficulty positioning themselves with respect to Ryan’s budget.
  • It is pretty rare that a sitting congressman is chosen for a running mate.  In the past century, only two– Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and William E. Miller in 1964 were selected.  A bad omen, since both tickets went down to ignoble defeat, though not necessarily because of the running mates.
  • Given that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and Paul Ryan is a Catholic, this is the first major-party ticket in U.S. history without a conventional Protestant– astonishing, given the WASPish quality that has long characterized the GOP.
  • It is also the first time that Catholics are competing with one another for a national office– as Joe Biden is also Catholic.  This is not a superficial similarity.  In a way, this is a battle between two very distinct versions of contemporary Catholicism.  In Biden’s corner is the social justice wing, in Ryan’s the cultural warrior wing.  Biden has drawn church criticism for his permissive position on abortion, Ryan for planning a budget that kneecaps the poor and elderly.   It will be interesting to see how Catholics, both the very observant and those of the cafeteria variety (I prefer my own term, fish-fry Catholics, those who are culturally Catholic but do not tow the Vatican line), navigate the choices they have this election.

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One of my proudest moments– professionally, personally, whatever– was successfully pulling off a wager with my friend Sam.  In June of 2008, we agreed that if Barack Obama picked either Joe Biden or Evan Bayh as his running mate, I’d get a steak dinner.  If he picked anybody else but those two or Hilary Clinton, he won.  (Choosing Hilary was, in our estimation, a game-changing situation after their contentious primary season battle, and that scenario would be considered a tie.  That is, we’d go out for steak, but on Dutch treat.)

The nature of Mitt Romney’s choices are a bit different.  First of all, no immediately obvious choice commends itself.  And there aren’t too many people out there who wouldn’t provide balance for Mitt.   No Northeastern Republicans (there are so few left nowadays anyway), and no Mormons, but nearly everybody else works in terms of balance.  So, I wish to project a list of who I believe to be the likeliest Mitt Romney running mates.  (Interestingly, this list is one of the only ones in recent memory that did not have anybody else seeking the presidency this year- T-Paw’s brief candidacy excepted.  This may be partly because the primaries and debates were an international disgrace, with multiple Singaporean students asking me in frightened tones, “are these guys for real?”)

Anyway, here are my rankings for Mitt Romney’s veepstakes, ranked by likelihood rather than soundness of the decision.  My decisions are based on the idea that 1) Romney is not temperamentally suited to rolling the dice with unwieldy or unexpected choices, a la McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin.  The choice is more likely than not to be steady, boring, va… oh, fine.  I’ll just say it.  He’s probably going to pick a white guy.  4 or 8 years from now, the GOP bench will be replete with potential candidates who break out of that paradigm, but many of these are, in 2012, just a little green.  Romney is probably going to want somebody who holds up in prime time and won’t fall apart in their first nationally televised interviews.

  1. Marco Rubio (Senator from Florida):  If he wants it, I can’t see how it isn’t his.   With a compelling (if chronologically sketchy) backstory, and coming from the ultimate swing demographic in the ultimate swing state, I’m sure there are many pushing Romney to go alliterative with Rubio.
  2. Mike Huckabee (Fmr. Governor of Arkansas):  He’s not generating much buzz.  But as I see it, Huckabee gives you three advantages.  1) he is likeable, amiable, and will make you laugh– intentionally (these traits don’t apply to very many on this list) 2) He will shore up social conservative support (although all signs suggest this won’t be a “family values” election), and 3) He’s been out of office since 2006, so he hasn’t had to make any damning decisions in a bad economy.
  3. Bill Frist (Fmr. Senator from Tennessee):  Another guy not being talked about, but I’m going to take a chance with some of my picks, and hope I can bring out the “I told you so” lines afterward.  Frist can be a sympathetic character, given his medical background, and his leaving the Senate in 2006 suggests ambitions for higher office that did not yet pan out.  In terms of governing, having a former Majority Leader on hand could be very useful.
  4. Bob McDonnell (Governor of Virginia): Gives you a grounding in evangelical Christianity, but not in a creepy way, brings you closer to locking in a close state.  The trouble, though, is that Virginia  elects governors the year after the pres. election and prevents them from having consecutive terms– thus, like Kaine in 2008, one is stuck picking a potentially good candidate who nonetheless only has three years in office so far.
  5. Bobby Jindal (Governor of Louisiana) He bombed the 2009 reply to the State of the Union address, but this young converted Catholic and the most prominent Indian-American politician in the country could well be the pick.  He certainly escaped the Hurricane Katrina fallout that befell his predecessor, Kathleen Blanco.
  6. Paul Ryan (Congressman from Wisconsin):  Whether he likes it or not, Paul Ryan is already Mitt Romney’s running mate in an allegorical sense.  The 2012 election is likely to be a contest between Obama’s Keynesian stimulus-based vision of economic recovery, seeing the federal government as a helping hand, and Ryan’s vision of the government as a bloated beast that needs to be tamed and starved.  He’s presented a budget which I suspect many will like at first glance, but will have deep reservations about when they begin to understand it more fully.  Everybody wants smaller government until a program they depend upon is cut.  If Mitt wants to double down on his economic message, though, Ryan is a compelling choice.
  7. Condoleezza Rice (Fmr. Secretary of State): I am skeptical of the rumors suggesting that the Former Secretary of State is in the running for this job.  While almost certainly the most well-liked member of Bush 43’s team, and while she brings undeniable foreign policy heft to the ticket, I can’t see this happening.  Rice is not ambitious for higher office to most observers, she would be a novice on the campaign trail, and many of her views on social issues are incongruous with her party.  But adding her would seem a stately choice, one that didn’t seem to pander to any demographic, despite her being both a woman and a racial minority.
  8. Rob Portman (Senator from Ohio):  At one point considered by John McCain, Portman may get his chance in 2012.  His appeal is chiefly from his state– he gives you a chance to pick up another huge swing state.  But he’s only been a senator for two years, was on the failed Supercommittee, and was George W. Bush’s budget guy.  Very few candidates in the past two generations have chosen someone primarily for his ability to deliver one state, and I have a tough time seeing Romney follow suit.
  9. Chris Christie (Governor of New Jersey):  The anti-Romney.  If Mitt needs someone who can stay on message and won’t generate the occasional headline of controversy, Christie’s not his guy.  The question is what to do with the “white ethnic”– blue-collar guys who aren’t sure about Obama, but are reluctant to vote for Romney because he looks and acts just like their boss’s boss.   Here Christie could be a godsend.  He might not make New Jersey red on election night, but his appeal could spill over to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other places in the Great Lakes area.  And you couldn’t ask for a better attack dog who will allow Romney to stay above the fray.  A few demerits– bad regional balance (Two Eastern Seaboard guys), only 3 years in high office, and he has been attracting negative press as of late.  Will voters find his sometimes boorish behavior a sign of a mercurial man unfit for the line of succession, or a badly-needed tonic of “straight talk”?
  10. Kelly Ayotte (Senator from New Hampshire):  Any other candidate but Romney would have meant the Granite State would be sown up for the Democrats.  Now, NH is competitive, and Ayotte would probably give you its 4 electoral votes.  (Don’t laugh– NH was only one percentage point or so from tipping the election to Gore in 2000….)  Ayotte is young, has a strong law and order reputation, and has already demonstrated her effectiveness as a Mitt Romney surrogate.  It’s bad regional balance, though, and picking a young attractive brunette with only 2 years in high office may very well seem like Sarah Palin redux.
  11. Tim Pawlenty (Fmr. Governor of Minnesota):  I’m just not feeling the Timster.  He’s already, in some respects, a literal “poor man’s Romney”.  Governor of a blue state, rejected McCain vice-presidential pick, not quite conservative enough to satiate the party’s hardcore base.  He failed to get traction in his brief run at the presidency, yet he was the second or third most competent figure in the room at the early debates (depending on your feelings about Jon Huntsman.)  It’s not exactly consequential- but his physique is similar to Romney’s, his hair is similar to Romney’s, he just sort of looks like Mitt’s half-Polish nephew.  He’s probably qualified to be vice-president, and would probably be loyal and effective in that office, but in terms of getting to 270 electoral votes, I don’t see what T-Paw brings to the table.
  12. John Thune (Senator from South Dakota):  I got a chance to watch Thune up close in 2006 at the opening of the George McGovern library in South Dakota.  He quickly grabbed my attention as someone to look out for in the future– unfailingly conservative without making damning statements that would haunt him later, handsome in a nondescript prairie sort of way.  He’s a heavy wheel on the Armed Services Committee, shoring up one of Romney’s weaknesses.  On the other side of things, he was a lobbyist before his turn in Congress, and his ties to The Family, the secretive Christian K-street fraternity that spawned adulterers Mark Sanford and John Ensign, may be more trouble than they are worth.

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It has been a joy to read comments by my internet-friends Jim and Jared.  Both considered, in response to my last post, the effects of vice-presidential choices on a candidate’s fortunes.  So, given how much buzz over Mitt Romney’s running-mate is circulating over the internet, I thought that it might be fun to explore the “short lists” of the other candidates of the modern era, starting with 1960.  By “short list”, I mean the penultimate list, as far as we can tell, of running mates considered before a final choice was made.  So, I do not include wild “long-shot” suggestions considered by a candidate’s team that were ultimately rejected as risky or unrealistic (i.e. a Reagan-Ford “Dream Ticket” in 1980, McGovern considering Walter Cronkite in 1972, George H. W. Bush looking at Clint Eastwood in 1988, etc.)

In some cases, the number is as low as 3, in some cases as high as 7. Sometimes, it is easy to figure out the shortlist– in 1976, for example, Jimmy Carter announced his shortlist to the public, and made known his meeting with the contenders.  In other cases, their shortlists are open secrets, or revealed to the public after the fact.  (Dukakis, for instance, baldly stated who was on his shortlist in a recent interview.)  In other cases, more guesswork is involved– Nixon in 1968 comes to mind, given his notorious secrecy.

And you can divine a certain strategy or an array of options before each candidate.  Obama’s 2008 choices vacillated between experienced-but-unpredictable (Biden), great resume but boring (Bayh), and new faces to reinforce the change theme (Kaine).  Mondale in 1984 seemed to desperately want a candidate who was not a white man– hence a number of female and minority candidates.

Note also how balance plays a role.  Carter exclusively looks at non-Southerners and non-Governors with foreign policy credentials.  Dukakis looks to the Sun Belt, while Ford goes for younger, fresher faces not tied to Watergate.

So, here are the lists.  In most cases, the winning choice is listed first.

If you feel like commenting– who would you have chosen?

Barack Obama, 2008:

  • Joe Biden (Senator from Delaware)
  • Evan Bayh (Senator and Former Governor, Indiana)
  • Tim Kaine (Governor of Virginia)

John McCain, 2008:*

  • Tim Pawlenty (Governor of Minnesota)
  • Mitt Romney (Former Governor of Massachusetts)
  • Joe Lieberman (Democratic Senator from Connecticut)

John Kerry, 2004:

  • John Edwards (Senator from North Carolina)
  • Dick Gephardt (Congressman from Missouri)
  • Bob Graham (Senator and Former Governor from Florida)

George W. Bush, 2000:*

  • John Danforth (Former Senator from Missouri)
  • Frank Keating (Governor of Oklahoma)
  • George Pataki (Governor of New York)
  • Tom Ridge (Governor of Pennsylvania)

Al Gore, 2000:

  • Joe Liberman (Senator from Connecticut)
  • John Edwards (Senator from North Carolina)
  • Dick Gephardt (Congressman from Missouri)
  • John Kerry (Senator from Massachusetts)
  • Evan Bayh (Senator and Former Governor from Indiana)

Bob Dole, 1996:

  • Jack Kemp (Congressman from New York)
  • John McCain (Senator from Arizona)
  • John Engler (Governor of Michigan)?
  • Tommy Thompson (Governor of Wisconsin)?
  • Tom Ridge (Governor of Pennsylvania)

Bill Clinton, 1992:

  • Al Gore (Senator from Tennessee)
  • Harris Wofford (Senator from Pennsylvania)
  • Bob Kerrey (Senator from Nebraska)
  • Bob Graham (Senator and Former Governor from Florida)
  • Lee Hamilton (Congressman from Indiana)

George H. W. Bush, 1988:

  • J. Danforth Quayle (Senator from Indiana)
  • Lamar Alexader (Former Governor of Kentucky)
  • George Deukmejian (Governor of California)
  • Pete Domenici (Senator from New Mexico)
  • Tommy Thompson (Governor of Wisconsin)

Michael Dukakis, 1988:

  • Lloyd Bentsen (Senator from Texas)
  • John Glenn (Senator from Ohio)
  • Dick Gephardt (Congressman from Missouri)
  • Al Gore (Senator from Tennessee)

Walter Mondale, 1984:

  • Geraldine Ferraro (Congresswoman from New York)
  • Dianne Feinstein (Mayor of San Francisco)
  • Henry Cisneros (Mayor of San Antonio)
  • Lloyd Bentsen (Senator from Texas)
  • John Glenn (Senator from Ohio)
  • Michael Dukakis (Governor from Massachusetts)
  • Tom Bradley (Mayor of Los Angeles)

Ronald Reagan, 1980:

  • George H. W. Bush (Former CIA Director, U.N. Ambassador, Congressman)
  • Paul Laxalt (Senator and Former Governor of Nevada)
  • William Simon (Former Secretary of the Treasury)
  • Howard Baker (Senator from Tennessee)
  • Richard Lugar (Senator from Indiana)

Jimmy Carter, 1976:

  • Walter Mondale (Senator from Minnesota)
  • Ed Muskie (Senator and Former Governor of Maine)
  • Frank Church (Senator from Idaho)
  • Peter Rodino (Congressman from New Jersey)
  • John Glenn (Senator from Ohio)
  • Henry “Scoop” Jackson (Senator from Washington)
  • Adlai Stevenson III (Senator from Illinois)

Gerald Ford, 1976:

  • Bob Dole (Senator from Kansas)
  • Anne Armstrong (Ambassador to Great Britain)
  • Tom Connally (Former Secretary of the Treasury and Governor of Texas)
  • Howard Baker (Senator from Tennessee)
  • William Ruckelshaus (Former Attorney General)

George McGovern, 1972:*

Richard Nixon, 1968:

  • Spiro Agnew (Governor of Maryland)
  • John Volpe (Governor of Massachusetts)
  • Thurston Morton (Senator from Kentucky)
  • Howard Baker (Senator from Tennessee)
  • Robert Finch (Lt. Governor of California)

Hubert Humphrey, 1968:

  • Edmund Muskie (Senator and Former Governor of Maine)
  • Fred Harris (Senator from Oklahoma)
  • Terry Sanford (Governor of North Carolina)

Barry Goldwater, 1964:*

John Kennedy, 1960:

  • Lyndon Johnson (Senator from Texas)
  • Stuart Symington (Senator and Former Air Force Secretary from Missouri)
  • Henry “Scoop” Jackson (Senator from Washington)

Richard Nixon, 1960:

  • Henry Cabot Lodge (U.N. Ambassador and Former Senator from Massachusetts)
  • Walter Judd (Congressman from Minnesota)
  • Thurston Morton (Senator from Kentucky)
  • Fred Seaton (Secretary of the Interior)
  • Jim Mitchell (Secretary of Labor)

*To clarify the missing lists and exceptions:  I cannot for the life of me find Barry Goldwater’s “shortlist”, and most of the anecdotal evidence suggests he picked RNC Chair and Niagara County, NY congressman William E. Miller because “he got up Lyndon Johnson’s craw.”  For McGovern, through the primaries, Ted Kennedy was his first and only choice, and was devastated when he would not join the ticket for the sake of the party.  People who rejected to join the ticket included Ed Muskie, Hubert Humphrey, Gaylord Nelson, Walter Mondale, Reubin Askew, and Abraham Ribicoff.  When all these turned him down, he narrowed the choice to Tom Eagleton and Boston mayor Kevin White.  In 2008, by all accounts, Palin was not one of the finalists, but was chosen by McCain at the last minute in a high-risk, high-reward strategy that will give future political analysts something to mull over for years.  As the recent book “The Angler” suggests, Dick Cheney was in charge of George W. Bush’s vice-presidential search committee, and may conducted the search in such a way that he could argue that all the candidates were flawed, and he ought to be considered instead.

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