The eventual Democratic presidential nominee will have quite a few options when it comes time to name their running mate, but Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential shortlist may have just gotten a lot smaller. Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid said on Monday that he will do “whatever he can” to prevent Clinton from choosing a Senator who comes from a state with a Republican governor. Here’s why he said that, and what it means for Clinton.
“The answer is not only no, but hell no,” Reid said when asked if Clinton should consider naming a running mate from a GOP-controlled state. “I would do whatever I can, and I think most of my Democratic colleagues here would say the same thing ... [I would] yell and scream to stop that.”
When a senator is unable to finish their term for one reason or another (retirement, death, becoming vice president, etc), the law in most states allows the governor to appoint a replacement senator, who serves for anywhere between a few months to a few years, depending on state law and the timing of the appointment, until the next election is held.
This matters the most when the departing senator and the governor are from different parties, because the governor usually appoints someone who comes from their own party. When this happens, it singlehandedly changes the partisan makeup of the Senate, and that affects everything from the outcomes of individual votes to control of the chamber itself.
If Clinton chooses a running mate who comes from a state with a Republican governor, she (and by extension, Democrats) will be sacrificing a Senate seat, at least temporarily, as the VP candidate would have to leave their position, leaving it open for the GOP. That’s why Reid, the leader of Senate Democrats, is so hellbent on her not doing it. And it’s in Clinton’s interest to take this advice, as losing a Senate seat would directly imperil her chances of passing legislation (and successfully appointing Supreme Court judges) if she becomes president.
Clinton will be ruling out three potential vice presidential picks if she doesn’t consider senators from GOP-controlled states: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Sherrod Brown. While Booker was probably a longshot anyway — his closeness with Wall Street would alienate a good chunk of the Democratic Party — Warren and Brown have both been seen as top contenders, as they're among the most liberal Democrats in the Senate and could potentially appeal to the progressive wing of the party which Clinton herself struggles with.
Most of Clinton's other VP options are unappealing or come with serious drawbacks. That said, Minnesota Sen. and former Saturday Night Live comic Al Franken would be a strong antidote to Donald Trump, while Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard checks a ton of the right boxes (telegenic, charismatic, combat veteran, not a white guy, a vocal Sanders supporter) and could potentially be very unifying pick for Democrats.
It’s not clear whether Clinton will take Reid’s advice and flat-out refuse to pick a running mate from a Republican-controlled state. But she probably should, because it will directly affect her ability effectively govern if she does become the next president.