About Vice Presidents
I wrote this in January, 2012:
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. [A vice president hasn’t taken over during my lifetime.]
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 lacked gravitas. Voters couldn’t imagine them being ready to take over in case the President died.
I think that Pence has a lot of gravitas and people can imagine him being ready to take over if Trump dies in office. So he’s a good pick. Also, unlike in almost all previous elections, this year Trump really did need to convince the base that it’s OK to vote for him, and Pence helps with that.
Romney ignored my advice and picked a Paul Ryan, a running mate without gravitas. Paul Ryan, especially four years ago, looked like a little kid and not someone who was ready to take over if Romney died.
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[A vice president hasn’t taken over during my lifetime.] – you mean an elected VP. Gerald Ford was VP who became pres when Nixon resigned
Wow, how could I forget about Nixon and Ford? However, since Spirew Agnew never became anything, it sort of proves the point about the VP presented to the voters not being important.
(Note that I have no direct memories of Nixon being president because little kids don’t follow the news. The only news event I remember from the early 1970s is the last Apollo mission. I was five and a half years old, and I hazily remember all of the adults watching it on TV. Black and white TVs. But it’s a very vague and fuzzy memory, almost like a dream rather than a memory. I remember absolutely nothing about Nixon or Watergate or the Vietnam War. I do remember President Ford.)