GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz gave irrelevance to the oft-quoted line from Franklin Roosevelt's 1932 Vice President pick John Nance Garner, who famously said the vice presidency "is not worth a warm bucket of spit," or some such variance of that. By picking Carly Fiorina even before he won the GOP nomination, the pick was clearly designed to strengthen his position with the GOP base, among conservative women, and to attain the Holy Grail of a presidential ticket, and that's balance -- in this case, gender balance. The vice president pick has been a major political, strategic, and yes, potentially winning move by presidential contenders since John F. Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson in 1960 as his running mate. Kennedy was a moderate, wealthy, erudite, Massachusetts senator who needed the southerner Johnson to assure the popular and electoral votes of the South.
This election the burden of getting the VP pick right is even more crucial for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who barring a miracle or gross, naked, and crass backroom maneuvering by some in the GOP establishment who still cling tight to the stop Trump fetish, will almost certainly face off in the fall. It doesn't take much to see why both need to pick carefully and right their VP. They both have the highest negatives of any major presidential candidates in recent presidential history. They both are from the same liberal, northeast state, New York. They both have potential gender, Clinton, and unorthodox non-politician issues, Trump. They both have opponents who have rallied legions of voters to harangue, lambaste, demean, and ridicule them within their party. Many of whom vow that they won't vote for them no matter what. So the big questions are who will both candidates nab for their running mates, and what will he or she bring to the ticket that will help seal the deal for one or the other?
First, there's Clinton. The names that have been bandied about most prominently have been Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, and even Bernie Sanders. It could well be any of them since they all are seasoned politicians, well-connected, have some name identification, and with the exception of Warren and Sanders, bring the much prized geographical balance to the ticket. But it will take more than that. It will take someone with few negatives, and the ability to pull legions of independents to the Clinton banner. They now make up more than forty percent of the general electorate. This is a historic high.
Hillary is a woman, so it almost guarantees that her pick will be a male. And given the loathing of many of Sanders' most rabid backers of Clinton, it will take someone who sees close to eye to eye with Sanders on the issues, or at least someone who won't alienate them further. The resume of that candidate will have to be top flight in every one of those areas.
Now there's Trump. He's shown that he has surprising appeal to a lot of the voter demographics that the GOP has traditionally craved, and that's the right side independents, lower income, less educated blue collar workers, and voters ticked off, disgusted, and alienated from deal-making, special-interest laden Washington Beltway politicians of both parties. He's going to need every one of their votes to offset the iron-clad backing that Clinton has from African-American, Hispanics, LGBT, and middle income, middle class, college-educated white women. Trump has hopelessly alienated all of them. The names that have been bandied about include: Governors Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rubio, Mary Fallin, Susannah Martinez. And even John Kasich. Martinez and Fallin make some sense as conservatives, women, and in Martinez's case, she's Hispanic, which could make some think that Trump is not the manic anti-immigrant basher that he is.
The combative and oft-time alienating Christie brings name identification, and campaign stump skills to the ticket; Walker and Rubio bring the regional balance and are favorites of ultra conservatives and evangelicals. Rubio and Kasich carry the imprimatur of the GOP establishment.
They are all governors, and there's always an allure with governors because of their supposed prowess with fiscal and administrative management skills. Trump gave one clue when he said that his pick should be a party insider who knows his way around Washington, presumably to balance off while he's busily lambasting that very establishment.
The single biggest asset, though, that a VP pick brings to the presidential table is that he or she can turn on more voters than their potential boss can or has turned off no matter what part of the country they hail from, their gender, or their rank in the party. Whoever can accomplish that tricky feat will get the second biggest prize in the presidential derby. That's more important than ever this go round since that pick can make or break Trump or Clinton.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is From Sanders to Trump: A Guide to the 2016 Presidential Primary Battles (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Saturdays 9:00 AM on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network