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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.