Skip to main content
FixGov

How to pick a Vice President in 2016

With only one week until the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, speculation is brewing that Trump will announce his VP pick in the next seven days. But unlike many historical candidacies, Trump is unlikely to pick either of the primary runners-up, Senator Ted Cruz or Ohio Governor John Kasich. In the video below, Elaine Kamarck explains why. Beginning in 1831, conventions were almost always “brokered” in other words they were the result of deal making between party elites. Because the conventions were brokered, the second-place pick would cut a deal with the nominee and become the VP as a way to bring the party back together.

Unsurprisingly, this created a few strange-bedfellows situations. As Kamarck explains, Teddy Roosevelt’s VP, Charles Fairbanks, spent years in the Senate trying to undo the president’s policies. In 1992, President Bill Clinton broke this mold by picking Al Gore—who was neither the second-place finisher in the primary, nor a northern Democrat who could balance Clinton’s southern roots, nor someone to the ideological left to balance out Clinton’s moderate stance. But this allowed Clinton to use the VP to magnify his message as a “New Democrat” and thus enhance his campaign. Clinton also knew that he would be able to lean on Gore during the administration. Kamarck adds that the Bush-Cheney years and the Obama-Biden years have mirrored and reinforced this strategy.

In the 2016 campaign, both strategies have been floated in the media for both presumptive candidates. Arguments that Hillary Clinton should pick Senator Warren have focused on the fact that her more populist stances would balance Clinton’s centrism, despite the fact that Warren would not provide geographical diversity.  Others have noted that a VP from a swing state (like Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, or Sherrod Brown) would balance the ticket. On the other hand, some have argued Clinton could pick a VP who is governance-minded, plays to her strengths, and who she could lean on during the administration (Senator Tim Kaine is evidence that these categories are not always mutually exclusive.)

For Donald Trump, the short list has been noticeably shorter, but displays the same dynamics. Governors Chris Christie and Mike Pence, and Senator Bob Corker have each been floated as options to appease the GOP establishment and balance Trump’s lack of governing experience. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, would be an unlikely and unorthodox choice, but would be someone Trump is clearly more comfortable working with. In the next week, we should find out which strategy will win the day.

Author

Get daily updates from Brookings