The recent chatter since Mitt Romney has all but been served up the Republican nomination has begun to revolve around who he will choose as his vice-presidential nominee.
History has shown that voters tend to vote for the top of the ticket more than the ticket itself. However, there have been instances where a vice-presidential choice has made a difference. Lyndon B. Johnson is credited with delivering his home state of Texas for John F. Kennedy, enabling the latter’s election as president.
There is no one dominant criteria for choosing a Vice Presidential nominee. The constitution does not provide for much beyond being “next in line” should the president be unable to fulfill his functions, as well as presiding over the U.S. Senate.
In recent years, some vice presidents have played a more substantial role than that described by John Nance Garner, Vice President to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who referred to his job “as not worth more than a bucket of warm spit”. Al Gore, Dick Cheney and now Joe Biden are examples of the new trend in Vice Presidents: engaged and highly influential.
There’s no denying the potential importance of the position. Lyndon B. Johnson replaced John F. Kennedy, and passed significant transformational legislation such as civil rights, Medicaid and Medicare. Gerald Ford, who replaced Richard Nixon after Watergate, played an important role in soothing the wounds of the nation. And finally, Harry S Truman, who took over after Roosevelt’s death, brought World War II to an end.
Today, we often hear speculation about what a vice-presidential candidate can bring to the ticket. Will the candidate carry his or her home state? Will the candidate attract particular constituencies to help the ticket to victory? Does the candidate fill a need that the Presidential candidate does not?
It should be noted that in 10 of the last 16 Presidential elections, the vice-presidential candidate has failed to deliver his home state. In recent years, the choices of Democrat Geraldine Ferrero and Republican Sarah Palin have failed to provide the impetus among women to help the national ticket.
Romney will take all these factors into consideration.
Governor Mitch Daniels, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Ohio
Senator Rob Portman are often mentioned as potential veep selections.
Add Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and you can see Romney has a respectable bench to choose from.
But the deciding factor in the election remains the presidential candidate himself. Mitt Romney is not very charismatic, has yet to deliver an articulate program for the future, suffers an enthusiasm deficit with his party base, and comes out of primary season with higher unfavorables among key voting blocs such as women and Latinos.
None of the aforementioned candidates appear to improve substantially on Romney’s liabilities at this point. At the end of the day, Romney holds the key to his victory. Choosing his running mate will be his first major decision of a presidential nature. The economy makes President Obama vulnerable and we all know this will be a close and hard fought campaign. So how and whom he chooses his running mate will matter.
Ironically, once chosen, the veep candidate will not be the major factor in the choice of voters—unless someone of Sarah Palin’s stripe becomes Romney’s sidekick. That kind of candidate selection would say more about the character and judgment of the presidential nominee, and with that in mind, you would not want him as president.