Category Archives: 2020 Election

Veepstakes 2020

Who might the four leading Democratic candidates (Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren), choose as their running mate if they were to get the nomination? Who should they pick to maximize their chances?

As Presidents delegate more real responsibilities to their Veeps, a presidential candidate’s choices are increasingly a matter of personal chemistry. The candidates also consider expertise, such as foreign policy or legislative experience. Sometimes, candidates even consider who could safely run the country. (But see Palin and Pence.) As a result, these choices are increasingly difficult for outsiders to predict. Nonetheless, it’s a fun parlor game. Remember, this isn’t about who you want, but who you think best fits the electoral calculations.

Let’s start with some basic political considerations:

  1. It helps if a Veep can pull in a swing state. Indeed, that used to be pretty much all Vice Presidents were thought to be good for. Trouble is, in these polarized times there are increasingly few politicians who are true favorite sons or daughters with that kind of pull beyond what the presidential nominee brings to the ticket. So this consideration has faded if only because almost no one satisfies it. Al Gore couldn’t even carry Tennessee for Bill Clinton. This consideration still weighs against picking a Veep from a safely Democratic state such as California, like Senator Kamala Harris.
  2. Geographic diversity matters. Even if there isn’t someone who could be counted on to deliver Wisconsin, Ohio, or Florida, or maybe even Arizona, geographic diversity has value. In particular, a Democratic ticket with two northeasterners would likely face a disadvantage. If Sanders or Warren or even Biden is the nominee, they’ll want to look well beyond their neighboring states.
  3. Other forms of diversity also matter. It helps if a Veep can appeal to a demographic or ideological group where the candidate is perceived to be weak. Modern history offers lots of examples: Pence (evangelicals); Biden (white “regular guys”); Reagan’s choice of the first Bush (moderate Republicans – back when they were numerous enough to matter); Mondale (the so-called liberal wing that suspected Carter). Occasionally, Veeps are presented as providing a skill set (e.g. Biden’s foreign policy experience, Cheney’s supposed gravitas) that the candidate is seen to lack.

  4. Another modern consideration is whether the electorate can see the Veep nominee as a potential President. Sarah Palin’s candidacy is an object lesson in the costs to the campaign if the Veep fails that test. A similar issue is whether the Veep nominee has ever been exposed to the unique rigors and scrutiny of a national campaign. Palin is also a lesson in the risks of picking someone who hasn’t. Sen. Thomas Eagleton notoriously had escaped scrutiny of a his history of ECT therapy, and when that came out days after his being named by George McGovern, Eagleton got dropped from the ticket; the incident torpedoed whatever small chance McGovern had of being elected.

  5. An additional consideration applies only if the candidate is thinking of picking a sitting Senator as a running mate: Who will appoint the Senator’s replacement if s/he gets elected Vice President? If Democrats have any hope of getting to even a tied Senate, the last thing they want to do is give up a sitting Senator’s seat. Here’s a list of the leading Senatorial presidential candidates, and their home-state governors:

SenatorStateGovernorParty 
Corey BookerNew JerseyPhil MurphyDemocrat
Kamala HarrisCaliforniaGavin NewsomDemocrat
Amy KlobucharMinnesotaTim WalzDFL, ie Democrat
Bernie SandersVermontPhil ScottRepublican
Elizabeth WarrenMassachusettsCharlie BakerRepublican

OK. Enough preliminaries. Let’s play!
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New Foreign Interference in US Presidential Election

While all eyes are focused on Russian interference in US elections (or, in the case of reality deniers, on imagined Ukrainian interference), a force planning to intervene in our domestic affairs is marshaling on our southern border.

I refer, of course, to former Mexican President Vicente Fox.

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Bon Mot

“The great mismatch that’s happening right now is Biden looks like he could beat Trump on paper but not in person,” said Mr. Jentleson, the Warren-supporting strategist, “and Warren looks like she could beat Trump in person but not on paper.”

NYT, Elizabeth Warren Seeks a Second Act After Slip From the Top

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Odd Statistic

Via the NYT’s Criticize Israel? For Democratic Voters, It’s Now Fair Game comes news of a study showing that Jews donating to a Democratic Presidential candidate gave most often to … Pete Buttigieg?

According to an analysis by The Forward, a Jewish publication, roughly 5.5 percent of all donors to Democratic presidential candidates in the first half of this year were Jewish, and they accounted for 7 percent of all funds given. (The Forward used several methods, including a research tool called the Distinctive Jewish Names list, to identify donors who were most likely Jewish in campaign finance reports.)

The Forward found that the Democratic presidential candidate receiving the most donations from Jewish backers this cycle has been Mr. Buttigieg, even as he has issued sharp critiques of Mr. Netanyahu.

“You can be committed to the U.S.-Israel alliance without being supportive of any individual choice by a right-wing government over there,” Mr. Buttigieg said at the J Street conference on Monday.

Mr. Sanders, who would become the country’s first Jewish president if elected, railed against giving “carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all.”

I find this surprising. And not because of his position on Israel, which doesn’t sound all that different from Sen. Warren’s or even Sen. Sanders’s, it’s just he seems, for all his undeniable linguistic virtuosity, to be willing to oppose progressive ideas …and relatively unprepared for the national and international aspects of the job compared to all the candidates who have held federal office.

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When Elizabeth met Barack

I love this clip of Elizabeth Warren telling the story of how she met Barack Obama.

The New York Times reports that Iowa (and presumably other) Democrats are worrying that even though they ‘love’ her, Warren is not as ‘electable’ as, say, Biden.  I suspect there is a gender tax that female presidential candidates must pay of a few percent, so this is not a crazy thing to worry about. But Warren is a lot more ‘likeable’ and natural than Hilary Clinton, who had suffered the misfortune of living in a goldfish bowl for decades and had become too cautious in public. Warren (like, incidentally, Booker) comes off as genuine in a way that I think will sell.

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Florida’s Political Fulcrum: the I-4 Corridor

Master Florida psephologist Steve Schale does a deep dive as to why the road to winning Florida is the I-4 corridor (that’s the Orlando to Tampa link in the middle of the state).  The rest of us, it seems, are fairly predictable. Another nugget: some of the swing vote in the I-4 area are transplantees from the mid-West. (Does that make it Biden country?)

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