Do Running Mates Matter?

Al Hunt makes a point that is deeply depressing to anyone who has been obsessing over vice-presidential selection (for example, me): May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Over ...
by | May 20, 2008

Al Hunt makes a point that is deeply depressing to anyone who has been obsessing over vice-presidential selection (for example, me):

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Over the past 50 years, 17 men and one woman have been chosen by the major parties to run for the vice presidency of the U.S. Only one -- Lyndon Johnson in 1960 -- demonstrably affected the outcome of the presidential race.

This is worth remembering as the nation enters the quadrennial feeding frenzy over completing the tickets. It's a big decision for Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama and will send important signals; it probably won't make much difference on Nov. 4.

(Hat tip: Political Wire)

Johnson helped John Kennedy win Texas (by 2%) and likely helped in other Southern states too. Of course, you can imagine other scenarios where a different vice-presidential selection alters the outcome of an election.

If Al Gore chooses Bob Graham in 2000, doesn't he win Florida (without losing anything else) and win the election? Heck, if Gore chooses New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who was on his publicly circulated short list, he probably wins the Granite State (where he lost by 7,000 votes), making Florida irrelevant.

The bigger point, though, is that even if running mates don't usually matter, vice presidents do and former vice presidents definitely do. The post-veep careers of Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Johnson, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush speak to that point.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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