Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Veep-Stakes, Part 1

So, since the Presidential nominations are winding down, it's time to start looking at the Veep-Stakes. There are 3 schools of thought for this: Pick the best available without regards to "balance", pick someone who bolsters your strengths, or pick someone who helps shore up your weaknesses.

First, for the Democrats, since they have to announce their nominee first.

For the best available, my choice would be 1) Brian Schweitzer, governor of Montana; 2) Russ Feingold, Senator of Wisconsin; 3) the loser in the presidential race.

For the "bolsters strengths" and "shores weaknesses", it is different per-candidate. These aren't quite mirror images, but they're close. and the other images on are very useful images of the primary results to get a sense of strengths.

For Obama, this is the West and the coastal Southeast (Virginia and the Carolinas). For the west, someone like Schweitzer or Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas, seem like good picks. Even Texas is possible, but I don't see any good candidates from the state. For the southeast, John Edwards, former Senator from North Carolina and VP candidate, Jim Webb, Senator from Virginia, or Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia are the obvious names. Edwards seems like a poor choice given his history on the ticket.

For Clinton, this is Hispanic areas and Appalachia (Tennessee, Kentucky, WV, Ohio, Pennsylvania). For Hispanic areas (Florida and Texas(!) are both winnable), Bill Richardson (governor of New Mexico) is the obvious name. Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles, strikes me as another good possibility. None of the statewide officeholders in CA, FL, TX, or CO seem likely. For Appalachia, Ted Strickland (governor of Ohio) is the obvious name, and pretty much the only viable candidate. Phil Bredesen (governor of Tennessee) is plausible except for the echoes of another Clinton picking another Tennessean (Al Gore). Ed Rendell (governor of Pennsylvania) isn't plausible, and most of the other prominent Democratic officeholders in these states are newly elected (Steve Beshear, governor of Kentucky), anti-choice (Bob Casey) or old (Robert Byrd).

As far as weaknesses, for Obama it is specifically Appalachia (Ohio, Pennsylvania) where he is weak (he does OK in Hispanic areas, just not as good as Clinton). As above, Ted Strickland is the obvious choice here. There's also the gender factor, and besides Clinton, Sebelius is the only female mentioned. Debbie Stabenow (Senator from Michigan) and Patty Murray or Maria Cantwell (Senators from Washington) seem to be the only other plausible options. Janet Napolitano (Governor of Arizona) seems less likely with Arizona being a likely lost cause in the general election.

For Clinton, it is Democratic states in the upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan somewhat) and Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington). For the Midwest, Russ Feingold is an option, as is Obama. For the Pacific Northwest, I don't see too much. None of the Senators or Governors or Representatives strike me as particularly charismatic or popular. There's also the race factor, but aside from Obama I don't see many other options. John Lewis and John Conyers are both too old, and I don't see any other people who'd fit.

Now, for McCain. He needs help in parts of the South against either candidates, and in the West against Obama. Huckabee would be a disaster in any swing state (I know multiple Republicans who would rather vote for the Democrat than let Huckabee near the White House). Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina, has been a name with buzz for a long time. Shelley Moore Capito, representative from West Virginia, could help, as well as guard against "Republicans hate women and minorities" claims. As far as the West goes, Mitt Romney is the obvious choice. Former Governors Bill Owens (of Colorado) and Kenny Guinn (of Nevada) had buzz several years ago, but seem to have faded away, in Owens' case because of ethics issues. John Thune (Senator from South Dakota) and Kay Bailey Hutcheson (Senator from Texas) are the only other officeholders in the West I see possible.

As far as strengths, this would be rust belt states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan. Romney once again is the best choice for Michigan. Santorum has the same problem as Huckabee. Ohio Republicans have uniformly been run through the mud on a state level, so an Ohio Republican might actually hurt them on the ticket.

It's important to note that the last Republican nominees for VP have been a retired Congressman (Cheney), a retired Congressman (Jack Kemp), a useless Senator from Indiana (Quayle), the runner-up for the nomination (HW Bush), and Bob Dole (in 1976). Romney seems to fit the pattern rather well; Rob Portman, a retired Congressman, has also had buzz.

In conclusion, it seems that the Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton superticket is actually a likely possibility on the merits, even if it isn't forced at the convention. I could see Clinton going with Bill Richardson or Villaraigosa, or Obama with Ted Strickland, but that's about it. For the Republicans, Romney seems like the heavy favorite, though I can imagine many possible options.


  1. Portman for VP is crazy. He doesn't even help McCain in SW OH, which is where he is from, let alone the rest of the state. Look at question 13 of this poll for proof:

  2. Yes, but Dick Cheney, Jack Kemp, and Dan Quayle were crazy as well. I'm not sure that the very real fact (as I mentioned) that Ohio politicians won't help on the ticket really makes it less likely that he'd select such a person.

  3. The point of the poll is that the people who know him the best, don't even think he is a good choice. If you're trying to "deliver" OH, Portman is clearly not the guy. Plus he brings a lot of baggage as Bush's budget guy. That's an albatross I would not want to carry.