I suppose it really is Veepstakes time. Sigh.
Dylan Mathews over at Vox writes that The real reason people want Elizabeth Warren for VP is that “The rest of Clinton’s options are very, very weak”. This is utterly wrong. I do think that, as he says, people want Elizabeth Warren for VP because she is well-known—they aren’t clamoring for people they haven’t heard of. But whoever gets picked will immediately become well-known; that isn’t an issue. The reason that it’s a good idea to pick someone who has run a national campaign before is not that the person is famous but that the person has been researched and is unlikely to have new scandals or problems. When the veep selection strays from that, there’s a risk of a Sarah Palin or Spiro Agnew or Geraldine Ferraro. Still not disasters electorally, I should point out, but not what the candidate really wants.
So. I came up with the list of conventionally-qualified Vice-Presidential candidates who have run national campaigns and not otherwise disqualified themselves. Ready? Bill Richardson, Howard Dean, Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Al Gore, Joe Biden. That’s six, and it’s a very very strong bench indeed. I am leaving out John Edwards, for obvious reasons, and Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich as well. Now, of those six, two have served as VP and might turn down the nomination, although that might doesn’t make the bench weaker. We haven’t had a top-of-the-ticket name on the second line before, but that doesn’t make Clinton/Kerry a weak ticket. Chris Dodd is… not a good choice at this time. Sorry, dude. Howard Dean and Bill Richardson are completely plausible VP candidates, as far as I know. I might even add Tom Vilsack to this list.
And there’s the rest of the bench: Julián Castro, who Mr. Matthews calls laughably unqualified, is in fact a Cabinet Secretary and former mayor of a large city. Yes, the mayor of San Antonio doesn’t have much power, but who exactly will vote on that basis? Also in the cabinet and a former mayor is Anthony Foxx, who probably isn’t on the shortlist, but would be a good person to mention in the places that people mention things. A further shortlist would, I think, include Gary Locke, Peter Shumlin, Patty Murray, Amy Klebuchar and perhaps even Chris Murphy, who is young, liberal and would be replaced in the Senate by a democrat of some kind.
Let me take a moment and look at the Vice-Presidential nominees in the modern system: Here’s the list of eighteen, if I haven’t forgotten anyone: Edmund Muskie, Spiro Agnew, Thomas Eagleton, Sargent Shriver, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush, Geraldine Ferraro, Dan Quayle, Lloyd Bentsen, Al Gore, Jack Kemp, Joe Lieberman, Dick Cheney, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan.
- Ran previous national campaign, excellent choices: George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, Joe Biden, probably Lloyd Bentsen, probably Jack Kemp
- Ran previous national campaign, terrible choices: John Edwards
- No previous national campaign, Senator or Governor, excellent choices: Walter Mondale, Bob Dole, probably Edmund Muskie, arguably Joe Lieberman
- No previous national campaign, Senator or Governor, terrible choices: Spiro Agnew, Thomas Eagleton, Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin
- No previous national campaign, neither Senator or Governor, excellent choices: Dick Cheney (from the candidate’s point of view), Paul Ryan, maybe Sargent Shriver
- No previous national campaign, neither Senator or Governor, terrible choices: Geraldine Ferraro
So, how is My Party’s bench compared to those people? Even leaving out the two of them who are on both lists, the other twelve people I’ve named (including Chris Dodd) are easily comparable to the sixteen people actually nominated. Probably as a group I’d say better, but then I would, wouldn’t I?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,