Reader Responses on Potential VP Candidates


Last week, tongue firmly planted in cheek, the Crystal Ball endeavored to quash all of the much-too-early talk of potential vice presidential candidates with our own extensive list of the top candidates for the number two spot on each party’s presidential ticket in 2008 (read more). Because we are still a year and more out from the election and even the VP candidate selection period, there are really scores of potential candidates who could end up on the ballot next year, and you–our astute readers–did an excellent job pointing out other options and sharing your thoughts on the Crystal Ball’s initial VP analysis. Of course, as we say at the bottom of every newsletter, “He who lives by the crystal ball ends up eating ground glass!”

With March Madness behind us (congrats to all the Gators out there, and condolences to the Buckeyes, Wahoos, and the rest of the teams that didn’t make it all the way this year), the NCAA odds-makers can now turn their attention back to the presidential race–and the NIT odds-makers can focus on the vice presidential contenders. We will surely return to our VP coverage when the appropriate time comes, but for now, with sincere thanks to all who took the time to email us, we offer a sampling of our reader responses from last week’s article:

Whatever happened to Wesley Clark? If Hillary gets the nod, how about Bill as VP? ha ha. I still say Evan Bayh is a good choice. But frankly, as somebody who is a member of a political party, I know that you do not want to be in power when the going gets extremely tough – then you get the blame. Why on earth anybody wants to be the next occupant in the White House is beyond me – they will have a lot of hard choices to make, and a lot to tidy up. My guess is that the next president will only last one term.

– Simon H. (United Kingdom)

BOB GRAHAM: Pro – Florida in play; executive/leg. Experience; moderate (at least until recently when he turned on the war). Environmentalist when it wasn’t cool. Con – quirks (keeps lists of daily thoughts on notebooks), his time has passed, no guarantee of FL, kind of a snooze to listen to.

OBAMA: Did you leave him off the list on purpose? Obvious strengths, obvious weaknesses. Personally I predict he’d say NO to Hillary if it is offered (and he should say no).

BIDEN/DODD: Pro – experience and smarts. Con – ego, ego, ego.

BYRON DORGAN/KENT CONRAD: Hear me out. Pro – These two North Dakotans win election after election. Populist appeal. Experience. Con – Byron is a protectionist and proud of it. Kent is a budget guru, and not a personality or charismatic speaker/ leader. Byron is the better speaker.

JON TESTER: Pro – good haircut. Would bring organic food to the table. Con – experience. Unknown quantity.

RON WYDEN: Pro – for years this guy has been a Nader-style crusader. Very smart. Very tough. Con – not that likable a personality and adds no electoral advantage.

LEAHY/LEVIN/DURBIN: Pro – Experience, gravitas. Con – Boring, delivers a state that should be in the bag.

DALE BUMPERS: Pro – Best speaker in the Senate. Could help in AR. Con – Too old. Too outspoken and controversial (since retirement).

BROWNBACK: Pro – Good Catholic/good speaker/honest fellow. Con – too conservative, too independent

LUGAR: Pro – Foreign policy guru, good speaker, good reputation, local government experience too. Con – persona, charisma, no electoral advantage.

JOHN WARNER: Pro – military guru, reputation for seriousness. Con – too old, too independent on Iraq issue and Virginia should be Republican already.

SAM NUNN: Pro – Could be a Democrat too. Obvious credentials. Con – Is he still alive? No charisma. Where has he been?

– Tony P. (Florida)

No disadvantages to a Bob Casey VP candidacy? Really? Certainly the dull persona warning [about] Gov. Easley would easily translate to the Casey column…He’s a bit of a snooze….(And I say that as a Pennsylvanian who voted for the guy…)

– Alix G.

There is one glaring name noticeably missing from the Democratic list: Barack Obama. Let’s say John Edwards wins the nomination, he just beat two minorities (Obama and Richardson) and a woman (Clinton) who all had legitimate chances to be firsts. He will not pick Hillary for all the reasons the Kerry campaign chose not to. He may pick Richardson but if not, the odds are he picks Obama.

If Hillary wins the nomination, there may be some resentment about some of her tactics (there is already). Many white liberal journalists already prefer Obama and a good news story that keeps coming up around election time is the Democrats taking the Black vote for granted. What better way to dampen that story by having a ticket for the first time with a woman and a minority. I think Obama fits the prototypical VP candidate and his supporters will take solace in that this will make him a better candidate the next time he runs for president.

-Ian G.

Richardson: superior credentials; Hispanic could help in big states like AZ, and FL, and can tip marginal NM. Vilsack: Effective governor; comes thru as solid and decent; might tip Iowa; agricultural strength, dull speaker; but good interviewee, solid, not a hot dog, “loyal” bootstrap story as orphan boy; Pennsylvania roots,

– Mel K. (Kansas)

Tom Daschle: Positives – first rate congressional experience, knows all about hard-core negotiation, reasonably moderate, experienced media performer, high recognition factor, could help lock up crucial midwest swing states for the Dems, unlikely personal ambition for the top job due to age. Negatives – perception that his time has been and gone, “loser” (although losing to a telegenic, well-known, very well funded opponent in a squeaker in a (moderately) dark red state is surely no disgrace)

Dick Durbin: Positives – 25 years experience in Congress, highly respected in the Senate, position on Iraq deployment arguably vindicated. Negatives – maybe too liberal depending on who heads the ticket, seemingly even a McGovernite could carry Ilinois these days for the Dems so little value in the Electoral College

John Thune: Positives – reputation as GOP giant-killer, telegenic, would rally the GOP base, would balance a ticket headed by moderate or maverick. Negatives – foreign policy experience lacking, attack on Daschle re: Iraq / national security in 2004 could make him a liability, lack of senior congressional experience

I realise I’ve mentioned 2 South Dakotans…will be interesting to see if anyone dare suggests a third one: Tom Brokaw!!

– Christopher K. (Australia)

I don’t think one should overlook the fact that, if John McCain were to win the GOP nomination, the Democratic nominee might feel that he or she could at least partially neutralize McCain’s war vet advantage by picking a running mate who is also a military veteran. You mention Webb, but I agree with you that he might be regarded as too much of a loose cannon. I think Tom Carper of DE is one of only three current Democratic senators who are Vietnam vets (the others being Kerry and Webb), and so I wouldn’t rule him out as a VP possibility. In addition to being a veteran, he’s also relatively moderate, and has done the trifecta of serving in both the House and Senate AND serving as a governor. Yes, his state is electorally insignificant, but, as you say, none of the VP choices can fill every possible niche.

– Chris S. (Virginia)

Wes Clark – Advantages: 1) Won a war, 2) Technically a Southerner (AR), 3) Knows chain of command, 4) Has worked for Congressional Dems, 5) Foreign policy experience in managing, 6) Selection might temper enthusiasm of Dem base if top of ticket not Hillary or Barack, 7) Can be “Big Picture” guy.

Disadvantages: 1) Never held elective office, 2) Unsuccessful in first elective bid, 3) Perceived to be critical of key foreign policy constituent group, 4) No reason to think he can carry AR, 5) Unexciting coalitions – NATO Supreme Commander, 6) Never held elective office

– Chris A. (California)

Do you think Hillary’s ego could take such a strong VP as Obama?? I love this week’s newsletter! It’s politico-candy!! Thank you!!!

– Carol N.

This is not an endorsement, but it seemed to me that Frist’s early exit from the presidential sweepstakes probably put his name in the minds of all the remaining hopefuls. Geographically he provides balance for a candidate from NY, MA, or AZ. He has the voting record to assuage conservatives. I was not impressed by his leadership skills as Senate Majority Leader, but he survived with no hint of a scandal and the Dems were firing with all guns at every other leadership Republican in both houses.

Also, he performs surgery (for free) in Third World countries when everybody else is attending fundraisers or “working” on junkets. Who could argue with that? Bill Frist isn’t particularly exciting, but Rudy or McCain would provide plenty of excitement and their ideal veep candidate would merely need to be someone who can “get with the program” (whatever it is).

– George Z. (New York)

I agree with much of your analyses. First, a few points that I question: I live in Indiana and DO believe Bayh could carry this state. I also think that Casey of PA has a big negative – a poor grasp of the issues – in spite of his election, this was evident in his campaign for Senate. I heartily agree with your assessment of Bill Richardson – an excellent candidate – if nominated, my father may consider casting his first ever presidential vote for a DEM (1st voted in ’52).

On the REP side, I think that George Voinovich of my home state could be the best strategic candidate. He does little or no harm; has been very popular in Ohio, including the heavy DEM regions of NE Ohio; has great experience as an executive and legislator, consensus builder in making deals; is , as you say, “somewhat quirky,” down-to-earth. As a moderate – conservative, he would appeal across a broad spectrum (pro-life, fiscally conservative, more moderate on some other social issues (civil rights), I think he is more moderate on environmental issues than most GOP. Would help GOP in Ohio, WV, and possibly Michigan. Good match for a southern/western candidate.

As far as suggestions for others on the list, what about Jim Talent of Missouri? If I am not mistaken, he was governor before entering the Senate. Could help in competitive Missouri (although it has gone GOP recently, I think it will be an even tougher contest there this time), not sure of any other electoral appeal. Interested in your opinion. Same for Pete Domenici of NM – experienced legislator from a swing state (probably not enough of an electoral prize), but do you think he would help in Arizona, which could be in play depending on DEM candidate? Don’t know enough about either of these, but wanted to toss their names into the ring.

– Darrin C. (Indiana)

Ed Rendell, popular, successful, 2nd term Governor of Pennsylvania, seems an obvious candidate, though I don’t know how he matches up with the 5 Presidential candidates. He is fully vetted, delivers PA easily (and will be known in OH and WV as well) and unlike most of the VP candidates you mention, charismatic.

– Ken I. (Minnesota)

Thank you for the insightful newsletter, but I was wondering why Colin Powell is not at least on the “maybe” list for the GOP? Competence, bearing, untainted by the war (largely – can run as the guy whose advice and doctrine were ignored). He’s black, a veteran, held two of the most crucial cabinet posts and was joint chiefs chairman under Clinton. There’s a lot there, except maybe interest on his part.

– Mike Y. (Virginia)

Republican VP: John Thune, Newt Gingrich (on a Rudy G. ticket)

Dem VP: Chuck Hagel, Obama (on a Hillary ticket)

– Dan G.

There’s one problem with including Snowe and Collins on the potential GOP-VP list: The Governor is a Democrat, and would appoint a Democrat to replace Snowe or Collins. Any special election would likely elect a Democrat, as well, and with Collins up for re-election, if she had to focus on a VP campaign instead of her competitive Senate campaign, she would likely lose the Senate seat – not a good way to start the new administration.

– Nathan E. (New Hampshire)

Love your columns – I anticipate this email with great eagerness!!!

I am a bit amazed that former Gov. Tom Vilsack (IA) is not on your listed of Dem. VP options.

Strengths: Governor Vilsack is a Clinton favorite; is a Catholic which would help in PA and industrial northeast areas; has a fascinating personal narrative from orphan roots; could bring IA into Dem. Electoral College; executive experience in state gov’t; Christie Vilsack; rural voters

Weaknesses: DLC credentials might frustrate base; unable to raise monies to compete to be President himself, let alone add to general election kitty; Catholic – cuts both ways.

– Bill L. (Massachusetts)

Well, you certainly missed a big one on the D side in Tom Vilsack. He could carry Iowa and he’ll have the executive experience that the nominee will probably lack. Vilsack would be a good white male counter to many of the possible Ds. And, he’s actually quite a good speaker even though that’s not well known about him.

– Ian H.

A nice newsletter about the VP’s. A few points:

Lindsey Graham – one positive is that he’d keep McCain from running as an independent. Fred Thompson – you dismiss him too easily. He would be a very strong candidate. Condelezza Rice – I doubt that the average person thinks Iraq, Iraq, Iraq although the Dems would be able to spin her that way. Sanford, Dole, etc – perfect foils for a Romney or Guiliani; they won’t add anything electorally, but they will bring out the base and help down the ticket. Huckabee – guarantees Arkansas and probably Louisiana which might otherwise be on the fence.

– Kent O.

The comments your list of potential Republican VPs were basically the same for almost all of them – either the candidate doesn’t add any electoral votes (Barbour, Dole, Graham, Huckabee, etc.) or their views are too liberal (Collins, Stowe, Smith, etc). Isn’t that the overall problem the GOP has now? The only way a Republican can get elected in a blue or purple state is to be a social liberal, so that the only social conservatives elected are in red states.

– Jerry S. (New York)

As a Dem voter I would like to proffer the following two options for veep: If the nominee is Obama or Richardson, what about Fmr. Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA)? He would bring gravitas, instant foreign policy credibility, he’s from the south, and he would be able to provide the nominee with a much needed advisor/congressional liaison to deal with Iraq, which will likely be the preeminent issue on the new president’s plate. Plus, during the campaign and debates he would present a huge “match-up problem” for the Republicans due to his experience. Second, if the nominee is Clinton, what about Fmr. Sen. Richard Bryan of Nevada? I know that it is an un-sexy and sort of unknown choice, but he is from the west, could help carry Nevada, and would temper the polemics that could be directed at Hillary.

– Colby J. (District of Columbia)

Who did you leave out? Sam Nunn. He’d put to bed the experience question for Obama and firm up Hillary’s military bona fides, without risking a Senate seat or being a wildcard like that wacky Webb guy. He’sreal Southern but not a transparent pander pick. His loose nukes work is simultaneously authentically national security oriented and authentically left-pacifist oriented without the usual attendant baggage, the personification of “tough and smart.” His more conservative position-taking is sufficiently in the past that it could go both ways more easily than with a more current figure.

– Benjamin G.

I’m sure numerous other people will cite him, since I believe there was a reference on Taegan Goddard’s site to an event at which this was mentioned. But how about Rob Portman? A former Congressman (six full terms plus), USTR and current OMB Director; young, at 51, and appealing; physically attractive; well-spoken; and, he’s from Ohio! Biggest negative–is he too much of a Bush sycophant? I don’t get that sense; even the Democrats I deal with here in Arkansas said good things about him while he was USTR.

– Gary D.

Great choices for VP. If you’re going to consider Klobuchar (which I wouldn’t since she was just elected), I think Claire McCaskill should be added to the mix as well. She has more experience in elected office than Klobuchar and would put Missouri in play, though it would still be a toss-up at best.

– Drew C. (California)

I was surprised Wes Clark was not mentioned on the possible Democrtaic VP list. Seems like he meets most of the criteria, and then some, with his national security and military background.

– Diane M. (Minnesota)

Two names as possibilities. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He doesn’t offer a state the GOP won’t carry but his experience on the Hill would make him super valuable as a VP. He has already proven his ability to lead the Senate and block Democratic excesses. Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia. Solid conservative credentials. Female. Excellent campaigner. Keeps West Virginia in the GOP column.

– Mike S. (Kentucky)

You should add Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida. Would add strength in key state, Hispanic, conservative/centrist.

– John (California)

[The Crystal Ball agrees that Senator Martinez might have been a potential VP candidate, but having been born in Cuba, he is constitutionally ineligible for the office.]

Maryland’s new governor (and former Baltimore mayor) Martin O’Malley should be added to the list. Advantages: Very charismatic and handsome; executive experience to balance a presidential nominee from the Senate. Disadvantages: Adds nothing electorally (Maryland is safely blue); another liberal from the Northeast.

– Bill (Maryland)

For Tim Pawlenty you say “weak 2006 performance”. I say: He was a GOP governor who was re-elected in the horrendous (for GOP) environment of 2006, against a strong DFL opponent in a state that has not voted GOP for president in 35 years. That is a pretty strong performance in itself, not “weak”. You also call MN a “swing state”. Puh-leez! MN has voted for the GOP ticket exactly once in the last 50 years (’72 landslide). If that is a swing state, so is Idaho or Wyoming, which have the exact opposite record (’64 landslide).

My addition to the GOP list is former governor Bill Owens of Colorado. He was a popular, young, two-terms governor of a swing state that has become increasingly problematic for the GOP lately. He has legislative and executive experience, is somewhat tele-genic, would help solidify a GOP win in Colorado, and would be a great running mate with either Rudy Giuliani or my current personal favorite, Fred Thompson. He could help counter Bill Richardson in the Mountain West in 2008, also.

Why didn’t you list negatives for Bob Casey? Here they are… As you said for Rendell (and what’s fair for Rendell is good for Casey) “PA ought to be Blue anyway”. Also, talk about a convention walkout. The pro-abortion Democrats wouldn’t even let his dad speak at their 1992 convention because of his pro-life views. If anything, the Democrats are even more radical pro-abortion now. Why didn’t you list “convention walkout” for Casey? Do I smell “personal favoritism” here?

Have you ever noticed that the five states grouping of California, Illinois, New Jersey, Vermont, and Delaware were from 1968 through 1988 all part of the GOP “electoral lock” in presidential elections (5 states x 6 elections = 29 times voted for GOP candidate, 1 time for Dem candidate), but that since that election (1992 through 2004) have gone 20 and 0 (5 states x 4 elections) for the Democrat candidate? This extraordinary reversal in GOP vs. DEM fortunes in these five states, particularly the big three, have truly been the untold reason for the demise of the GOP “electoral lock” and the reason for the ascendancy/competitiveness of the Democrats in the electoral college. Pundits can talk about Ohio and Florida all they want, but without this huge turnaround in the above five states starting in 1992, OH and FL would have been consigned to the bin of “irrelevancy” in current Presidential electoral politics. It might be worth some political scientist’s (or graduate student’s in political science) time to investigate and analyze this amazing “reversal of fortunes” in the five states listed above.

– David S. (Illinois)

You forgot Steve Forbes! He could be a good conservative addition for a moderate Republican (Giuliani, McCain).

– Michael N. (Arizona)

I agree with John Nance Garner—the VP isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

– Al R.