The VP: A Constitutional Precaution or A Campaign Strategy?

One of the biggest questions of the 2020 presidential race is who will be the running mate of the Democratic presidential nominee. As of January 2020, seven names have been mentioned as potential vice presidential candidates for the Democratic Party, none of whom attempted to win the presidential bid [1]. However, running mates are chosen after a nominee from each party is determined. This gives individuals seen as party leaders a chance to team up, even after going head to head for the nomination within their primary. Because of this, it is not completely out of the question that the ticket for the democrat party will feature two candidates who are currently vying for the oval office.

Unsurprisingly, it would seem that running mate selections are seen as immediate boons for the respective presidential campaign. As history shows, only nine vice presidents have stepped up as President in the event of death or resignation of the president [2]. This leaves thirty-six presidential administrations in which the vice president was left to himself. Having a majority of presidents remain in office through the completion of their term(s) certainly is no issue, but it is interesting to consider how the role of the Vice President may have moved from an in-office responsibility to a campaign-heavy position throughout the election season–especially with the presidential ticket having more potential influence in elections rather than throughout the term.

            Think about it, if you were running for president, and it was time for you to select a running mate, it would only make sense that the perfect fit would be someone who aligned well with your policy preferences—while simultaneously increasing your voting demographic without ostracizing existing supporters. Generally, this is the basic algorithm campaign strategists follow. For example, when Barack Obama was running for president, his running mate, Joe Biden, complimented all the areas in which Obama fell short. According to New York Magazine, with Biden’s decade-long congressional resume and a recently-drafted military son, “team Obama was looking at Biden strictly as a veep, and perhaps as someone who could help out with congressional relations and international matters—but not as any sort of heir apparent or successor as leader and shaper of the Democratic Party” [3].

           As soon as a vice president candidate is announced, the vice president and his or her family immediately enter the campaign trail. When vice presidential candidates campaign, it is not in promotion of their ability to rise up to the task if duty were to call. 

During the 2016 election, the vice presidential debate unsurprisingly focused on attacks from the vice presidential candidate to their opposing presidential candidate [4]. In that debate, democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine was generally observed as more aggressive and more in line with the policy platforms of his and Clinton’s campaign. In that same debate, republican vice presidential candidate Governor Mike Pence was criticized as campaigning more for himself than his running mate, Donald Trump [4]. Polls showed that following the vice presidential debate in 2016, the democrat ticket had an increase in winning probability [5], but according to CNN, 48% of viewers thought that Pence for the republican ticket had a better evening [6].

The 2020 election is well underway and candidates are continually dropping out, narrowing the field. Although Senator Kamala Harris resigned from the race, there is speculation her name may still appear on the ticket. She stated, “my campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue…but I want to be clear with you: I am still very much in this fight” [7].

The idea of a “unity ticket” between previous presidential candidates is not novel, as it was speculated in the 2008 election with a potential Obama-Clinton pairing [8]. While this did not happen, Obama selecting Clinton as Secretary of State in his cabinet realistically put Clinton in a more advantageous position when it came down to assisting in decisions with weightier influence than would have been likely if she had been vice president. A ticket featuring a Sanders-Warren pairing would no doubt excite individuals sitting on the ideological left, while other candidates, such as Mayor Buttigieg, may want to consider individuals that complement their strengths, such as an individual with support from black voters with more experience in Washington. 

Because a great deal still needs to happen in the 2020 election, it is difficult to predict potential executive pairings. But as events unfold, try to discern whether the vice presidential candidates appear to be promoting their ability to work well with the presidential nominees and as an ideal selection in the event of tragedy, or if they merely are a puppet working in favor of the Presidential candidates’ agendas and platforms. Consider why the second-in-command is far from second-in-responsibilities, and if adjustments in the campaign trail or in-office responsibilities could benefit the country, the executive seat, and election processes as a whole. 

[1] https://ballotpedia.org/Vice_presidential_candidates,_2020

[2] https://history.house.gov/Institution/Presidents-Coinciding/Presidents-Coinciding/

[3] http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/06/why-did-obama-pick-biden-as-his-veep-in-the-first-place.html

[4] https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/vice-presidential-debate/who-won-vice-presidential-debate-pundits-weigh-n660221

[5] https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/?ex_cid=rrpromo

[6] https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/05/politics/vp-debate-takeaways/index.html

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/03/us/politics/kamala-harris-campaign-drops-out.html

[8] https://newrepublic.com/article/41732/ed-kilgore-the-unity-ticket

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Kaity Marquis

KAITY MARQUIS is a sophomore from Lindon, Utah. She is studying Political Science with a minor in Logic and has aspirations of attending law school and eventually becoming a judge. In her free time, Kaity enjoys drinking Diet Coke, golfing, reading endless Wikipedia articles, and listening to jazz and Kanye West. Her party tricks include playing expert on Guitar Hero and solving a Rubick’s cube. She is passionate about the US Constitution, American politics, and history, and strives to defend liberty by listening to every side of the story.

Kaity Marquis

KAITY MARQUIS is a sophomore from Lindon, Utah. She is studying Political Science with a minor in Logic and has aspirations of attending law school and eventually becoming a judge. In her free time, Kaity enjoys drinking Diet Coke, golfing, reading endless Wikipedia articles, and listening to jazz and Kanye West. Her party tricks include playing expert on Guitar Hero and solving a Rubick’s cube. She is passionate about the US Constitution, American politics, and history, and strives to defend liberty by listening to every side of the story.

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