Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why Are Vice Presidential Candidates So Lame

Why are veep nominees so lame?

(From the Andrew Gelman at The Monkey Cage)

A few days ago Gelman blogged on the laughability of many vice-presidential nominees (John Edwards, Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, Aaron Burr, . . .) along with some hypotheses about what was going on. Jonathan Bernstein followed up with some thoughts of his own:

List A: Eagleton, Shriver, Dole, Ferraro, Quayle, Lieberman, Palin

List B: Mondale, (George H.W.) Bush, Bentsen, Gore, Kemp, Edwards, Biden

List B are Vice Presidential nominees who had previously run for president, at least a little; List A are those nominees who had not run for president before their selection for the #2 spot . . . just on quick inspection there sure seems to be an enormous gap between the two lists, no? I think everyone on List B was regarded as a decent pick; there certainly are no wash-outs. List A, on the other hand, is a disaster area . . . If anyone wants to do an empirical study, I’d suggest checking for the word “dump” with the various nominees. I think you would come up positive for most of List A, and negative for everyone on List B.

Bernstein concludes:

If a presidential nominee asked me for advise about Vice, I’d tell him or her to make a short list limited to people who survived a presidential campaign with their reputations intact. Anything else is asking for trouble.

Me: The thing is VPs are so often picked for the purpose of balancing a ticket. Another geographical area, old and young, right and left. Does this often leave us with a weak pool to draw from? Thoughts?


Todd Mason said...

The presidential candidate wants someone who will not only appeal to voters who aren't thrilled by the top of the ticket (hence Palin and Quayle, for example), but also someone who won't overshadow the top of the ticket (hence, Palin, Quayle, and Biden). Biden didn't manage to get through any of his presidential runs "intact," but was enough of an old hand to help Obama the young senator make a claim toward having some Experience behind him...much as the predecessor, a youngish Governor, tapped another old fool, I mean hand, to help his Experience gap. (BTW, Patti, still so sure the election was such a paradigm shift?)

Even Nader's running mate this last time out actually has a record of winning elections, which certainly "balanced" Nader's resume.

Fleur Bradley said...

I think veeps are chosen for their lame status: they're there to make the #1 guy look good. They're the ugly best friend a girl picks, so she's always the prettiest one.

Todd said...

Also, of course, Aaron Burr wasn't a veep nom, but a prexy runner-up, in our first Highly Questionable election, but sadly not our last.

Scott Parker said...

Ironically, List B didn't include LBJ, who ran for the nomination in '60 but lost. Todd makes a good point regarding the balancing aspect. Up until 1992, the balancing act was usually geographical. When Clinton chose Gore (both southerners, neighboring states) and won, I think the geographical balancing started becoming less important. Bush 43 certainly didn't pick Cheney for Wyoming's 3 electoral votes. Ditto for Obama and Biden (Deleware's 3 votes). With Palin and Edwards (04), you had the attack dog VPs noms, able to say things the guy on the top of the ticket couldn't say (but wanted to).

One could make an argument that Nixon in '52 was the first VP nom chosen because he brought something to the table. Prior to that, VP noms were after thoughts (except for the Dems in '44 who knew they were selecting the next president). LBJ was a classic balance. Same with Carter/Mondale and Reagan/Bush. Presidential history! Love it! I could wax on all day...

Charles Gramlich said...

I think Todd said it all.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The over-shadowing is an unfortunate aspect.
Fleur-that's so funny and true.
What did Nixon bring to the table, other than being a rabid anti-communist and appealing to that segment. I should put my husband out here since this is his field. But he says Truman would be in List One if he hadn't revived his reputation as President.