For the next several weeks, there will be interminable
speculation about whom presumptive Democratic
presidential nominee Joe Biden will choose as his running
mate for vice president.
Normally, that choice, when made, generates headlines and
news stories, but if the truth be told, the vice presidential
nominee rarely makes much difference. Voters make their
decisions primarily on the presidential nominee.
A notable exception was John Kennedy selecting Lyndon
Johnson in 1960. Michael Dukakis appeared to pick the
stronger running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, in 1988, but lost
Biden’s choice in 2020 might not make a difference, but
interest in his decision (presumably because of Biden’s
age) will be especially keen.
Most speculation so far has suggested that Senators
Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are the frontrunners.
Also prominently mentioned are Michigan Governor
Gretchen Whitmer, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and
Stacey Abrams from Georgia (the only person actively
campaigning for the job). Applying the rule that the running
mate “should do no harm” with base constituencies, it would
seem that Senator Harris is the most advantageous choice.
There are other possibilities --- all women because Mr.
Biden has pledged to pick a female running mate. Of these,
one strategic potential choice seems to me to stand out
--- Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.
She is 61, a lawyer, a former congresswoman and a member
of a prominent New Mexico Hispanic political family. She is
a widow with grown children, and has in her elected offices
a very liberal record on abortion, gun control and the
environment. If it is presumed that Joe Biden already has
the black vote, then the two groups he must solidify by
election day are Hispanic voters and Bernie Sanders
supporters. Governor Lujan Grisham appeals to the former,
and her progressive record “does no harm” with the latter.
Mr. Biden and his staff will likely be very careful in making
the choice. Even more than usual, voters will be evaluating
his running mate as a potential president. Exhaustive
vetting, interviewing and polling is now taking place.
A final and unspoken consideration, but a vital one, is the
personal compatibility of a vice presidential candidate
with the presidential nominee. It was clearly a key factor
in Jimmy Carter’s choice of Walter Mondale in 1976 ---
and in Barack Obama’s pick of his senate mentor, Joe
Biden, in 2008.
I repeat the caution that few voters make their election
day decision based on who is running for vice president.
The 2020 presidential election occurs during an
extraordinary national and international health crisis.
The electorate appears to be sharply ideologically divided.
Joe Biden will be 78 years old on inauguration day, 2021,
and he faces a formidable incumbent.
His choice of running mate, whomever it is, might not be
the biggest issue facing voters on November 3rd next, but
it will nonetheless be interesting to see whom it will be.
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.