We're more or less done with the "Who will win the primaries?" phase of the election and firmly enmeshed in the "Who will the nominees choose as their running mates?" phase, also known as the veepstakes. While Donald Trump might legitimately have a hard time finding anyone to accept the VP slot on his ticket, the presumptive Democratic nominee has quite a few people to choose from — but unfortunately, all of Hillary Clinton's vice presidential prospects come with major drawbacks.
There's been no reporting on Clinton's official shortlist, but a familiar batch of names keeps popping up in discussions on her running mate options. Obviously, all of the options have some appeal — otherwise, no one would be bandying about their names to begin with. And many of them, though not all of them, would be ready to assume the presidency on day one, which is by far the most important qualification a vice president must have.
But there are political concerns to take into consideration, too. A candidate's choice for VP can signal what policies they'll prioritize in office, change the partisan balance of Congress, and of course, increase or decrease the party's chances of winning in November. Clinton has a lot of running mate options, but none are anywhere close to a slam dunk, and some are far less perfect than they might initially appear.
One of Clinton's biggest challenges in the general election will be convincing Bernie Sanders' supporters to pull the lever for her in November. To immediately neutralize this problem, why not choose Sanders himself as her running mate?
Two big reasons. He's 74-years-old, and fairly or unfairly, that could cause many voters to question his ability to assume the presidency if it were required of him. In addition, the ethnic diversity of the Democratic coalition is undeniable at this point, which means Democrats have a strong incentive to not put two white people on the ticket. (This consideration, by the way, affects many of Clinton's other vice presidential options as well.)
Another way Clinton could placate Sanders' supporters would be to put Elizabeth Warren on the ticket, as she's more or less identical to Sanders from an ideological standpoint and just as revered by progressives.
But Warren is exponentially more powerful as a U.S. Senator than she ever would be as vice president, and she knows it. There's a strong chance Democrats will win control of the Senate in 2016, and they'll have a leadership vacuum thanks to the impending retirement of Minority Leader Harry Reid. If Warren's primary goal is to implement progressive economic policies, she'll be wise to reject the vice presidential slot if offered.
There's a reason Castro was given the keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic convention: He's young, telegenic and a very good speaker. One of the first names to emerge as a possible VP pick, Castro is also Hispanic, which means he'd make the Democratic ticket much more representative of the actual demographics that vote Democratic than a white running mate would.
Unfortunately, it's hard to make the case that Castro is qualified to potentially serve as president. The only political positions he's held have been mayor of San Antonio, which is quite literally a part-time job, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development — not exactly a dry-run for the presidency. If Clinton picked Castro as VP, it would come off as irresponsible pandering, much like John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin in 2008 did.
Cory Booker has long been a rising star in the Democratic Party, and his a great sense of humor, respectable record as the mayor of Newark and generally charismatic demeanor make it clear why. He's black, which again gives fuller representation to the entirety of the Democratic coalition, and would certainly inject some youth into the ticket. The rumors that he's gay probably wouldn't hurt, and in fact, his classy and dignified response to those rumors would probably only help him.
But Booker, alas, would probably alienate Sanders' supporters from Clinton even more than they already are. Booker was one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street money in 2014, and in 2012, he actually criticized one of Obama's reelection ads for being too hard on private equity. Oh, and Chris Christie would get to appoint his replacement in the Senate. According to political lore, the first rule of choosing a vice president is "do no harm," and Booker might not pass that test.
There are basically three far-left Democrats in the Senate: Sanders, Warren, and Sherrod Brown. The gravelly-voiced Senator from Ohio comes with quite a few pluses: He has solid progressive credentials, is charismatic and effective on the stump, and would make a great attack dog against Donald Trump. Oh, and he comes from one of the biggest swing states in the country.
But there's a problem: If Brown actually becomes vice president, the governor of Ohio will get to appoint his temporary successor — and the governor of Ohio is John Kasich, a Republican. Kasich would most likely replace Brown with a Republican, and that could potentially be the difference between a Democratic-controlled Senate that would work with Clinton to pass legislation and a GOP-controlled one that wouldn't.
The junior senator from Virginia was one of the three finalists to be President Obama's running mate in 2008, and some Democrats are lobbying for him this time as well. He's both the current senator and the former governor of a swing state, and as a moderate Democrat, could potentially pick up disaffected conservatives who refuse to vote for Donald Trump. The governor who would appoint Kaine's replacement in the Senate is Terry McAuliffe, who's both a Democrat and an extremely close ally of the Clintons.
But Kaine's appeal ends there. He isn't terribly charismatic, won't appeal to the Sanders wing of the party, and his primarily strength is that there's nothing horrible about him. Plus, there's also the whole white guy thing.
The current Secretary of Labor isn't a household name, but there's a strong case for him as Clinton's vice president. He has near-universal respect on the left, because during his former stint in the Justice Department, he worked tirelessly to advance liberal causes like voting rights, civil rights and anti-police brutality measures. Unions, still a powerful player in Democratic politics, love him. He's Dominican, and as a key policy advisor to President Obama, would give credence to Clinton's argument that she'll continue and expand upon Obama's legacy as president.
But Perez runs into the same issues as Castro. He has zero foreign policy experience, and the highest elected office he's ever been elected to was a suburban city council seat. It's hard to argue that he'd be qualified to take over on day one.
The Minnesota senator and former Saturday Night Live cast member has become a dark horse pick for vice presidential slot. He's affable, quick-witted and genuinely funny, which means he could be one of the few politicians with the ability to throw Trump off of his game. The governor of his state is a Democrat, so he wouldn't be replaced by a Republican in the Senate, and thanks to the considerable effort he's spent making fun of conservatives, he's well-respected in grassroots liberal circles.
The biggest issue with Franken is that that voters might not take him seriously. During his 2008 Senate election, which he won by the slimmest of possible margins, Republicans frequently used his past as an SNL comedian to cast doubts on his legitimacy as a candidate. There is a 100% chance that will happen again if he ends up on the presidential ticket — although, admittedly, it will be hard for a party that nominated Donald Trump to argue that the other party isn't being serious.
Tulsi Gabbard had a non-existent national profile until February, when she resigned as vice chair of the (ostensibly neutral) Democratic National Committee in order to publicly endorse Sanders. As such, she's now beloved by many Sanders fans and could potentially bring them into Clinton's camp. Gabbard is the first Hindu and the first American Samoan to be elected to Congress; she's also a combat veteran of the Iraq war, a warm and charismatic speaker, and only 34 years old.
Drawbacks? There aren't many. An all-woman ticket probably wouldn't turn off any voters who otherwise would have voted for Clinton, and as a veteran who serves in Congress, she can claim both foreign and domestic policy experience. Gabbard is one of the least-frequently discussed picks for Clinton's vice president, but she may also be the best.