Do vice-presidents win elections or lose them?

As people start getting bored with the Republican primary, inevitably the political conversation has turned to whom Mitt Romney will pick as his running mate. These discussions involve calculations about who can best ‘balance’ the ticket to appeal to specific constituencies and assuage doubts about the nominee’s qualities.

My own feeling is that even a carefully thought out vice-presidential pick does not win elections but a bad choice can lose them. History suggests that it is better to pick a safe, familiar face who may not be exciting but is unlikely to have any problems lurking in their past that risks blowing up during the campaign, the way that a novel choice might have. [Update: Going backwards to the 1960 elections, the winning vice presidents have been Biden, Cheney, Gore, Quayle, Bush, Mondale, Agnew, Humphrey, and Johnson of whom only Agnew and Quayle were relatively unknown on the national stage at the time of nomination. The losing vice-presidents were Palin, Edwards, Lieberman, Kemp, Quayle, Bentsen, Ferraro, Mondale, Dole, Shriver, Muskie, Miller, Lodge, amongst whom were many more unknowns.]

On the other hand, that astute political analyst Sarah Palin, in her typical mavericky style, suggests that Republican nominee should not play it safe but throw caution to the winds and pick someone like her as his running mate.

After all, that worked out well last time didn’t it?


  1. Alverant says

    I’m not sure if there’s a method to how Democratic canidates pick VPs but on the Republican side the philosophy seems to be, “Impeach or assassinate me and THIS PERSON will be in charge. You don’t want that because s/he’s craaaaaazy.” This is supported by Quayle, Cheney, and Palin.

  2. 'Tis Himself says

    Palin was forced on McCain because the Religious Right was not impressed by him. He needed a conservative fundamentalist to make James Dobson and Pat Robertson happy. McCain didn’t want Palin but didn’t have a choice.

  3. slc1 says

    Re Alverant @ #1

    Actually, at the time it was made, Cheney looked like a good choice, based on his experience in the House of Representatives and his various cabinet positions.

  4. slc1 says

    At least in 1960, Kennedy’s choice of Lyndon Johnson probably helped win the election as, otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have carried Texas and one or 2 Southern states.

  5. Alverant says

    Sorry, but if he didn’t have a choice, then that’s just another reason he shouldn’t have been president.

  6. Alverant says

    Considering how Cheney acted during his first four years, what was the justification for keeping him on for a second term?

    Come to think of it, how many presidents switched VPs?

  7. F says

    And how about those endorsements for Romney? These pollies really know how to talk up their candidate.

  8. Tony says

    There would be such a disconnect between Palin as Romney’s running mate given the Republican stance on contraception and abortion.
    “We’re all for women’s rights. Look, we have Sarah Palin as the Veep nominee! Invasive ultrasound procedures in all 50 states! We love women. No abortions! We love women. No birth control! We love women.”

  9. 'Tis Himself says

    Your naivety is showing.

    In the 2010 Arizona congressional race McCain faced a strong primary challenge from Teabagger J. D. Hayworth, who campaigned on the premise that McCain wasn’t conservative enough. McCain would like to remain a senator so he’s not going to shoot himself in the foot by publicly announcing, “I didn’t want Palin but she was forced on me.”

    Besides, Palin has said she’s not interested in being a VP candidate again. She makes a lot of money making speeches and as a Fox commentator. So McCain can say that Romney should make her his running mate when all three of them know she doesn’t want the position.

  10. says

    Franklin Roosevelt had three vice-presidents, the last of which was Harry Truman.
    Gerald Ford tried to change VPs, from Rockefeller to Bob Dole in 1976, but lost his re-election bid. That’s the last time anybody tried that.
    George McGovern switched running mates in 1972 after Thomas Eagleton revealed his history of depression. It didn’t help.
    And there was no vice-president in 1964.

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