Editor’s Note: This post was written by Kevin Callanan and JaiCe Stinton.
A subject that always receives a lot of coverage during primary season, especially as it draws to a close, is speculation about potential vice presidential candidates. In previous elections, the nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties have chosen their running mates based off of multiple factors, such as regional appeal, political experience, ideological balance, descriptive representation, and visibility. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the presumptive nominees for their respective parties and the media has started to speculate about who will complete their tickets for the general election. Potential running mates for Clinton this November are Julian Castro, Sherrod Brown, and Tim Kaine. We predict Clinton will ultimately ask Sherrod Brown to be her vice presidential nominee. Potential running mates for Trump include Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and Rick Scott. We predict Trump will ultimately tap Chris Christie for his vice presidential pick. We discuss how different attributes affect consideration and the pros and cons to each potential candidate.
Research shows that there are several qualities of potential vice presidential candidates that are always assessed and weighed. Regional appeal is often considered and talked about during speculation. The oft talked about “home state advantage” is the phenomenon where the ticket performs better in a state than expected because one of the candidates on the ticket is from that state. There have been many studies that reject that a vice presidential provides a regional appeal or even a home state advantage that translates into votes. However, recent research using an alternative method suggests that vice presidents do contribute significantly via home state advantage and help their party perform better than usual in that state. Other scholars suggest that the home state advantage of vice presidential candidates is real and conditional, but improbable to make a significant impact.
Another consideration in choosing a running mate is often balance and ideology. A presidential candidate may choose someone to balance out their ideology in order to appeal to the party’s base, depending on their position on the ideological spectrum. A more moderate candidate may choose an extreme running mate in order to appease the party’s core supporters. This was demonstrated in 2012 with Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan to share the ticket. Romney was fairly moderate whereas Ryan was one of the most conservative members of Congress at the time. The logic to this strategic consideration is that an extreme running mate will help the ticket to appeal to a broader number of voters, based on the assumption that people will vote for the pair that is closest to them ideologically. This would move a moderate candidate toward the end of the spectrum, expanding their appeal.
One more consideration taken into account is descriptive representation. Certain potential candidates may have more appeal to a group of the electorate the party would like to mobilize in their favor. They may bring an identity to the ticket that could be beneficial to the party and its image. This is often considered when the party would like to mobilize a specific electoral subgroup. Having representation on the ticket may boost the turnout and rate of support of the similarly identifying people in the election. 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, was expected to help the GOP to absorb some disaffected Hillary Clinton voters. Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman vice-presidential nominee, was selected in part as an attempt to increase support of women voters. This cycle, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were praised as the GOP’s opportunity to potentially sway Latino voters to their party.
Since the start of the primary season, there have been rumors that Hillary Clinton may choose Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro as a running mate. The HUD Secretary hails from Texas and is young, ambitious, and accomplished. He is Latino and fluent in Spanish; this descriptive representation could possibly boost the popularity of the ticket among the Latino community. Castro would not provide balance to the ticket regionally; although political dynamics in Texas have been changing due to the growing Latino population, it is still a solidly red state. Thus, Castro could not provide a home state advantage to the Democratic ticket. Castro’s ideology is largely in line with the traditional Democratic platform, which may not excite the Party’s left wing. Castro would not pull the ticket to the left, which is what may be needed to unify the Democratic establishment and pull disaffected Sanders’ supporters into the fold. However, Castro has been a loyal Clinton surrogate throughout the campaign and is a skilled political operator. Including him on the ticket would also provide him national exposure for a future run of his own, as he is unlikely to be elected to a statewide or Senate seat in blood-red Texas.
Another possible vice presidential choice for Clinton is Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Senator Kaine would be more of a traditional choice for Clinton; he is a middle-aged white man who has been in politics for a couple of decades. Kaine has much political experience to offer as a junior Senator, former Governor of Virginia, and the former Mayor of Richmond. Kaine’s ideology is in line with the traditional Democratic Party and he is generally seen as more dovish in foreign affairs than Clinton. Picking Kaine would not be directly helpful in unifying the Democratic Party or bringing the ticket to the left. However, he would bring regional balance to the ticket and could bring the crucial swing state of Virginia into Clinton’s column in November. If the home state advantage is real and provides even a slight bump for the Democratic Party, putting Kaine on the ticket would be a very strategic move.
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is another potential running mate for Clinton in the upcoming election. The Rust Belt Senator is extremely experienced, first being elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and then to the Senate in 2006. Brown would also bring regional balance to the ticket, being from the crucial swing state Ohio. This could also prove useful to the Democratic Party, as Ohio holds 18 Electoral College votes. Senator Brown is also adored by the left and embraces much of the populism exemplified by Bernie Sanders and Trump. His left wing ideology could help bring Sanders’ voters to support Clinton in November. A major drawback for Democrats would be that Republican Governor John Kasich would be empowered to fill Brown’s vacant Senate seat, should Clinton win the presidency.
Another name that has been floated as a potential pick for Clinton’s vice president is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren has political experience in the Senate and is recognized as a leading public policy figure. Warren would not provide a home state advantage in the solidly blue Massachusetts, but has many other benefits to offer Clinton. Importantly, Warren is highly respected by the left-wing of the Democratic Party and progressive movement. She is seen as a champion of progressive issues, something Sanders’ supporters are highly concerned with. Warren could be the more extreme candidate Clinton needs to make her platform more palatable to some disaffected Sanders’ supporters. Warren is also a woman, which would double the descriptive representation of the already historic ticket. However, research also has found that a female-female ticket is unlikely because party elites and voters are seen as reluctant to have women in two high-ranking adjacent positions.
We predict that Hillary Clinton will ultimately choose Senator Sherrod Brown as her running mate for the upcoming election. We believe ideological concerns will be very relevant in her decision. Brown could help heal the Democratic Party after a potentially divisive primary by bringing Clinton, a relatively moderate candidate in contrast to Sanders, more to the left. Brown is the most likely choice because he is experienced, is well-known in politics, could help win the crucial state of Ohio, and perhaps most importantly, help unite the Democratic Party.
Speculation about Donald Trump’s running mate has also abounded this election cycle. While Trump has a penchant for the unexpected, there are a few political figures that seem to be likely choices for the GOP nominee. After Chris Christie’s withdrawal from the GOP nomination contest and endorsement of Trump, rumors surfaced that Christie may be Trump’s running mate. As the governor of New Jersey for six years, Christie has the political experience that Trump lacks. He continues to travel with Trump and attack the Republican establishment. Christie is also a term-limited governor, who has positioned himself to be considered for the nomination in order to stay politically relevant. However, we believe that Christie’s good relationship with Donald Trump and being well known does not overcome the issue of regional appeal and how disliked he is due to the Bridgegate scandal. Christie would most likely not provide a home state advantage, as New Jersey has voted Democratic by significant margins in the last six presidential elections. Christie is also seen by some to have the same abrasive attitude as Trump, which would not help the ticket.
Another man who has executive political power and could help the Trump movement would be Florida Governor Rick Scott. Both Scott and Trump come from similar business backgrounds and have defeated establishment opposition in order to win a Republican nomination. As governor of a major swing state, Scott could help Trump with regional appeal. During Scott’s term, Florida has seen strong economic growth, which has expanded his popularity among voters in the state. The home state advantage Scott could potentially provide would be huge for the GOP. Florida voted for the Democratic party in the past two presidential elections, but the margins were so small that a small home state advantage could greatly benefit the Republican ticket. One issue with Scott as the vice presidential candidate is his lack of visibility; he currently lacks name recognition at the national level, which may be a disadvantage should he join the ticket.
Ted Cruz is also a possible vice presidential candidate, due to his national visibility and the similarities that he and Trump have shared over the primary season. While inflammatory comments have been exchanged between the two candidates, there are some common ideas that both share. Cruz could be an asset to Trump because he won Texas, a state rich in population and electoral college votes. However, the state is reliably red and most likely to vote for the GOP nominee no matter who the vice presidential candidate is. One problem that could occur from these two men running on the same ticket is that both candidates may be considered too radical or outside to encourage voters to support the Republican Party. On the other hand, selecting Cruz may assuage some highly conservative voters who are concerned with Trump’s inconsistent policy that has been categorized by some as liberal. Cruz would help a Trump ticket seem more reliably conservative and consistent with the platform of the GOP. Another drawback to Cruz is that he has constantly been ridiculed for being a liar.
We believe that, although all three candidates could benefit Trump in one way or another, Chris Christie will be the candidate that Trump will pick as his running mate. Trump has shaken up the election process by dominating over his establishment opponents. We would not be surprised if he did it again by picking a vice presidential candidate with a relatively minor impact on his campaign.
In political research and in practice, there are many attributes to consider when picking a running mate as the nominee of a major party. This cycle, although unconventional by some standards, is no different in this regard. Regional appeal, political experience, ideology, and descriptive representation are all especially important traits that are being considered of potential vice presidential picks. Each potential candidate here brings both advantages and disadvantages to their party’s respective nominee, which could help or hinder them in November.