The Veepstakes 2016 Edition: Analyzing Potential Running Mates For Hillary Clinton

The Veepstakes 2016 Edition: Analyzing Potential Running Mates For Hillary Clinton

LIke Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton will select a qualified candidate who successfully balances the ticket come November.   Image from Wiki Commons.

LIke Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton will select a qualified candidate who successfully balances the ticket come November.   Image from Wiki Commons.

Imagine a Clinton/Trump administration. 

You can't can you? They're polar opposite in everything they do from their demeanor, to their professionalism to their maturity to their intelligence to their views on such issues as health care, the minimum wage, women's rights, immigration reform, climate change, regulating Wall Street, criminal justice reform, and LGBT equality among other things. No, it's clear that these two candidates would not work well together nor would they want to. After what will surely be an intense six-months with a variety of personal attacks and insults rained down from the Trump campaign, it would be nearly absolutely absurd to expect these two candidates to then turn around and work with each other for the next four years.  

Yet at our country's founding, this was the exact procedure in place. In our very first election in 1788, George Washington was a unanimous selection for president, but electors then had a second vote for vice-president. That position was first filled by John Adams who served admirably for both of Washington's terms. In 1796, we saw our nation's first truly contested election, a tight battle between Adams, a member of the Federalist Party and Thomas Jefferson, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. Adams won by a mere three electoral votes and runner-up Jefferson became his vice-president. Despite his win, Adams was seen as an ineffective president, so ineffective that Jefferson, his very own VP, chose to run against him in 1800.  

In what became known as the "Revolution of 1800" Jefferson defeated Adams as the world saw the first bloodless transition of power from one ruling party to another in a democracy proving that it could be done. However, this peaceful transition almost was for naught when the Democratic-Republican electors botched their vote for vice-president. As was noted, at the time electors cast two votes for president. Democratic-Republicans had instructed one of their members to abstain from casting a second vote for Aaron Burr which would make Jefferson the clear choice for president and Burr the clear choice for vice-president. Unfortunately, that plan failed and Jefferson and Burr then tied for the presidency. This threw the election to the House of Representatives who finally elected Jefferson as president on the 36th ballot, thanks largely in part to a behind the scenes push from Alexander Hamilton to convince certain representatives to switch their vote from Burr to Jefferson. As Broadway's Lin-Manuel Miranda tells us, this act by Hamilton would set up a chain of events that would create an intense and ultimately deadly rivalry between Hamilton and Burr in the years to come. At a less deadly level, this incident led to the passage of the 12th Amendment in 1804 that called for separate votes for president and vice-president.

The role of the vice-president has evolved over time. Despite the position initially being seen as a figurehead position, the importance of the position has become clear over the course of our nation's history. Vice-president Andrew Johnson was placed in charge of helping reintegrate the south after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Vice-president Harry Truman was thrust into a second world war and faced with a decision to deploy the atomic bomb after Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away in April of 1945. Lyndon Baines Johnson took over during a tumultuous time of domestic and international unrest after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Although there remains the running joke today that the vice-president is still viewed as someone completely superfluous, millions of Americans were absolutely terrified of the thought of a President Palin after John McCain added her to the 2008 Republican presidential ticket. Despite being constitutionally limited, the role of the vice-president has now become that of being an advocate for the president and his or her policies and to instill a confidence in the American people that they could be a capable and competent leader if, heaven forbid, they were ever put in a position to lead the country.

The role and relationship of the vice-president has also greatly changed since the days of John Adams. The goal of the modern presidential ticket is to achieve a balance between both candidates that best sets them up for success in the general election. That balance can include such factors as gender, age, ethnicity, experience, expertise, and geography among others. In 2008, then Senator Barack Obama's perceived weakness was a lack of experience. To combat this perception, then Senator Joe Biden was added to the ticket as a way to provide the assurance that Obama would have a trusting, reliable political veteran by his side while he learned the ropes. In 2016, the consensus is that Hillary Clinton will select somebody that balances her experience and expertise in a way that will help create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm that many political pundits believe has been missing from her campaign thus far. It is with this idea in mind that we preview a potential field of vice-presidential nominees that would help create the best chance for Hillary Clinton to put the finish touches on her campaign as she gears up for the general election.  

Candidate #1 - Julian Castro, current Secretary of HUD

Widely regarded as the "sexy" pick, Castro provides a lot of the intangibles that would complement Hillary Clinton. First off, he's young, good-looking, and Latino, three things that definitely don't hurt in the year 2016. Thanks to Donald Trump's consistent anti-Latino bashing, we've already seen a spike in Latino voter registration and that number would literally jump off the charts with the possibility of having Castro becoming the first Latino vice-president. His inspiring 2012 Democratic convention speech led many to see him as the second coming of Barack Obama and nominating him as vice-president would put him on the path to the White House by 2024. He also hails from Texas and has an opportunity to help shift Texas from a red state to a more purplish one, something that Democrats have been consistently working at over the past two decades. Despite all this, the latest news seems to indicate that Castro may not even be in the running. He has been an active surrogate for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail but has yet to be vetted for the vice-presidential position. That may simply be a smokescreen by the Clinton campaign to avoid seeming pretentious in the ongoing democratic primary or it may be that the campaign doesn't believe it's quite time for Julian Castro to ascend to the second-highest position in the country.

Candidate #2 - Tom Perez, current Secretary of Labor

Perez is widely regarded as Democrats' second choice behind Julian Castro, but that should in no way diminish the impressive resume and credentials that Perez would bring to the Democratic ticket. Perez, the son of first-generation Dominican immigrants, was raised in Buffalo, New York and attended Brown University and Harvard Law School before moving into the workplace. He has experience working in the swing state of Colorado as well as having been appointed Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor by then governor Martin O'Malley. Perez then made a name for himself as Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ when he and the division filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for civil rights violations. As the current Secretary of Labor, Perez has been outspoken in defense of the Obama administration's job record and it has been this defense of the administration that has helped Perez start to earn the endorsement of prominent Latino groups who have recently come forward in support of his potential vice-presidential nomination. Perez would bring the experience that Castro lacks but his Buffalo upbringing wouldn't specifically put any new states directly in play and he doesn't seem as likely to generate the kind of buzz that Castro could create. However, he is passionate and dedicated and could very well create that element of excitement for the Latino community to have one of their own on the 2016 Democratic ticket. 

Candidate #3 - Tim Kaine, current Virginia Senator

Kaine was hardly on anybody's radar six-months ago but now has emerged as a popular vice-presidential nominee. For the past two decades, Kaine has been deeply involved in Virginia politics having served as mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor, governor, and now senator. In 2008, he was on Barack Obama's short list of vice-presidential candidates after having been a supporter of then Senator Obama's campaign since early 2007. Although he didn't get the vice-presidential nod, Kaine impressed President Obama enough to be named chair of the DNC from 2009 to early 2011. During that time, Kaine helped to expand the work of Organizing for America (OFA) at the grassroots level. The benefits of a Kaine vice-presidency would be his ability to mobilize Democratic voters on the campaign trail as well as his ability to speak fluent Spanish, something that could give him crossover appeal to the Latino community. The weaknesses of Kaine would simply be the fact that he wouldn't create the kind of buzz that the Democratic base feels is missing from the campaign. A fifty-eight-year-old White male simply wouldn't be as exciting as the country's first Latino vice-president. Despite growing buzz that Kaine may once again be on the short list, like Castro he has rejected the notion that he is being considered or that he would even be interested in the position were it to be offered to him.

Candidate #4 - Sherrod Brown, current Ohio senator

In addition to Kaine, another senator who's generating buzz is Ohio's Sherrod Brown. Hailing from the swing state of Ohio, Brown would be appealing due to the fact that he's both known and liked in the Buckeye State. In addition to being a now two-term senator, Brown also served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, was the state's Secretary of State, and also served seven terms as the state's congressman from the 13th district. Brown has been a fan favorite among progressives and has taken a strong stance on trade and economic issues that could potentially help convert some of Bernie Sanders' supporters. However, as a White male in his 60s, Brown is unlikely to create a huge sense of excitement for the Democratic base. His selection would also potentially put a dent in Democrats' efforts to retake the Senate as Ohio governor John Kasich would end up appointing a Republican to replace him. With the Senate balance likely to be tipped by a handful of seats, it might not be worth the risk to take away Brown's senate seat to have him on the ticket. Despite being considered, Brown has also insisted that he's not interested in the vice-presidential position. 

Candidate #5 - Elizabeth Warren, current Massachusetts senator

The idea of an all-woman presidential ticket has been a popular discussion in many progressive circles. Should Hillary Clinton opt to pursue this historic possibility then there can be no doubt that Senator Elizabeth Warren would be her top choice. Warren has the progressive credentials, she's well-liked and respected, and knows and understands what the vice-presidential position would entail. She's already become an attack dog against Donald Trump, essentially laying out a blueprint for Democrats for the next six months. Despite earning the ire of Bernie Sanders supporters for not openly endorsing him ahead of the Massachusetts primary, Warren has the same kind of progressive appeal to many of the groups supporting Sanders. The case against Warren can be made in the fact that like Sherrod Brown, she's a sitting senator in a state with a Republican governor. Although Massachusetts is seen as a progressive haven, we've seen how Republicans can swoop in and steal a Senate seat as they did with Scott Brown in the 2010 special election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat. In addition, the idea of two women on a single ticket might be seen as too dramatic a step for a single election cycle. Although there is no question that a Clinton-Warren ticket would feature two immensely qualified candidates, many believe our country simply isn't ready to have two women on the same ticket at this point in time. 

Candidate #6 - Amy Klobuchar, current Minnesota senator

Like Warren, Klobuchar would also bring excitement in being part of the first all female presidential ticket. Despite being eleven years younger than Warren, Klobuchar actually brings more experience to the ticket. She served as eight years as a county attorney and is now into her second term as United States senator. Klobuchar has won praise for her efforts to work across the aisle in the Senate and was seen as a viable nominee to replace departing Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014. Unlike Warren, Klobuchar hails from a state with a popular Democratic governor whose liberal policies have helped turned around a state left in financial ruin by former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty. That would create a situation where a viable Democratic candidate could easily replace Klobuchar's Senate seat. Despite all this, there still some concerns with adding Klobuchar to the ticket. The first concern would be the fact that she doesn't have Warren's recognizability at the national level so it might be difficult to drum up excitement for an unknown candidate. The second concern is the fact that Minnesota has become a reliably blue state so Klobuchar wouldn't have much impact on the races in any potential swing states. The last concern would again be the role of an all-female ticket and whether or not it would be the right time to pursue that historic possibility.

Candidate #7 - Cory Booker, current New Jersey senator

Outside of Julian Castro, perhaps no other candidate brings as much energy and excitement to a Democratic ticket than current New Jersey senator Cory Booker. Booker is the former mayor of Newark and won a special election in 2013 to replace deceased senator Frank Lautenberg. He then was re-elected in 2014 and he and South Carolina senator Tim Scott, are currently the only two African-American members of the Senate. At age 47, Booker is young and dynamic and has been a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton since June of 2015 and was one of the first highly visible politicians to stump for her in Iowa ahead of the Iowa caucus there. Booker has a reputation for being a man of the people and this type of persona could offset those who feel that Hillary Clinton struggles to excite the base of the Democratic Party. The main negative for Booker is the same as Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren in that he hails from a state controlled by a Republican governor. However, Booker is in a unique position in that New Jersey's governor Chris Christie might very well end up being a vice-presidential nominee himself. However, Christie would still have the power to nominate Booker's replacement, causing Democrats to again lose a Senate member at a time where they need all hands to deck to retake control of the Senate. In addition, New Jersey is a reliably blue state so pairing Booker with Clinton from neighboring New York doesn't help add any swing state value. Despite those drawbacks, Booker remains a strong candidate and has a deserved spot on any short list for vice-president. 

Candidate #8 - Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor

The last candidate is a darkhorse candidate who has been gaining traction in recent months. Deval Patrick served two successful terms as Massachusetts' first African-American governor and was the executive who oversaw the implementation of RomneyCare in the state. The appeal of Patrick is largely in his success story as it mirrors that of President Barack Obama. Patrick was raised by a single mother on the South Side of Chicago and attended both Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He then practiced law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and in 1994 he was appointed by then President Bill Clinton as assistant attorney general of the civil rights division of the DOJ. Another positive of Patrick is that he not only has the credentials but also that he wouldn't be jeopardizing a Senate seat if he were to be named to the ticket. The downside of adding Patrick to the ticket is the fact that he is relatively unknown outside the northeast as well as the fact that Massachusetts is reliably blue, as was mentioned with Elizabeth Warren. Despite this, Patrick has reportedly been on the short list for vice-presidential candidates and with his background and credentials he certainly warrants consideration for the position. 

Other Candidates

A handful of other candidates have been mentioned for the position and they also deserve consideration. For example, Minnesota senator Al Franken is being mentioned as a potential running mate, but the major question regarding Franken would be his experience as he has only been involved in politics for the past six years. Virginia senator Mark Warner has also been mentioned, but the major question would be if he would be dynamic enough to overcome the interest in fellow Virginia senator Tim Kaine. Kirsten Gillibrand is a talented senator from New York, but the major question would be whether two women from New York would make sense for a presidential ticket. And lastly, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been mentioned as a possible running mate as a way to unite what has, at times, been a contentious Democratic primary. However, Sanders has run an aggressive anti-Clinton campaign which has destroyed his chances of ever getting back on Hillary Clinton's or the Democratic Party's good side.  


Unlike Reince Priebus who claims the GOP has a deep bench of candidates, it is the Democratic Party that truly has a talented lineup of politicians from the top to the bottom of its candidate pool for vice-president. Of course, there is no perfect candidate this year but there never truly is. However, the Democratic Party has options which is never a bad thing. Once Hillary Clinton and her team make their decision the entire Democratic Party will jump on board and embrace whomever she chooses. Like President Obama, Hillary Clinton has the uncanny ability to play the long game and foresee things well into the future. We've seen it throughout the primary as she's done the delegate math while running a clean campaign and conserving her resources for the general election. She knows how important the vice-presidential pick is and she and her team will thoroughly vet each candidate and will select the best person for the job. Whomever she picks will be a tremendous asset to an already powerful Democratic ticket and will be someone that all progressives can rally behind. All we need to do is sit back and keep repeating these four simple words:

In Hillary we trust. 


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