As you should know, the Vice President doesn’t do anything important, and certainly has no say over policy decisions, unless the President dies while in office. Otherwise, all he does is go to funerals. According to my reading of the Constitution, the Vice President is supposed to be like a 101st Senator, but all modern VPs seem to ignore that role and only head over to the Senate if they need to break a tie. Theoretically, the VP could break a tie in the opposite direction that the President wants him to, but when was the last time that happened?
The last time a President died in office was in 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated, so the Vice President doesn’t get to take over very often.
Given that the Vice President’s job isn’t very important, people seem to make a big deal about who the presidential nominee selects for the job. There is one theory that a candidate should select a VP who can help carry a key state which the presidential candidate by himself would otherwise not have carried. However, there is little evidence that this has made a difference in any recent elections. In the election of 1992, Bush carried Indiana, Dan Quayle’s home state, and Clinton carried Tennessee, Al Gore’s home state. However, in 1996, Dole still carried Indiana without Dan Quayle, and in 2000, Al Gore wasn’t even able to win his own home state of Tennessee! The conclusion therefore is that Bush and Clinton would have won Indiana and Tennessee respectively even if they had different running mates. Furthermore, in both the 1992 and 1996 elections, Clinton has such a large margin of victory that he would have still clobbered his opponent even without Tennessee.
Other than the key state angle, I think that the best advice for selecting a VP is to select one who will do no harm. There is a lot more evidence of VP’s hurting their ticket than there is of them bringing in extra votes. The three worst VP picks during the last thirty years were Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, Dan Quayle in 1988, and Sarah Palin in 2008. All three of these worst VP picks laced gravitas. Voters couldn’t imagine them being ready to take over in case the President died.
Given the importance of Florida in the election of 2000, I strongly suspect that Mitt Romney is giving serious consideration to Marco Rubio the Jr. Senator from Florida, based on the idea that Rubio can help carry Florida which could be the key state for winning the election. I don’t like the idea of Rubio because (1) he’s not a true natural born citizen; (2) he lied about the circumstances of his family’s emigration to the United States; (3) it feels like cheap Republican pandering to the Hispanic vote (and it’s not even clear to me that any non-Cuban Hispanics really care); and (4) a young guy like Rubio without any executive experience lacks gravitas.
Candidates who I like for VP include Eric Cantor, Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani. Some readers may note that none of these guys are evangelical Christians. Yes, I think that an evangelical Christian VP is a really bad idea because those guys scare away the secular voter, thus violating the rule that the VP candidate should do no harm. Who do you think those evangelicals are going to vote for otherwise? The atheist/Muslim Obama? I don’t think so.
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On the Obama side, I have heard talk about Obama dumping Biden in favor of Hillary. That’s also a really lousy idea for Obama. Obama won with Biden, and Biden has more experience in the role of VP than Hillary, so why rock the boat? Who would vote for an Obama/Hillary ticket who wouldn’t vote for an Obama/Biden ticket? No one I can think of.
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Marco Rubio, who only became a Senator in the election of 2010, reminds me of Dan Quayle because of his youth and inexperience. Dan Quayle was also supposed to be good-looking and was going to attract the female vote, but that backfired because it was so obvious.
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A commenter said that Edwards was a bad pick. This would have turned out bad if Kerry had actually won the election, because eventually there would have been a scandal. But none of that stuff came out during the election, and I don’t see any evidence that Edwards hurt Kerry. Edwards’ youthful energy and good looks seemed to help. Edwards proved himself by coming in second place in the presidential primaries, so he was a safe choice. If there is a good second-place finisher in the primaries, that’s often a good pick for VP, such as George Bush in 1980.