As rumors continue to swirl around Hillary Clinton's short list for VP, one name has quietly remained behind the scenes: Secretary Tom Vilsack. Now, nothing gets the base less excited than the Secretary of Agriculture. But that may actually be what makes Vilsack the sleeper choice.
The reasons aren't obvious but it comes down to two things: 1) narrative and 2) the fact that the choice doesn't matter as much as some seem to think.
First, the narrative. Team Clinton has been working to create a narrative about Donald Trump that he's unfit to lead. It's not a tough case to make given how much material he provides to reinforce this narrative. But part of reinforcing it comes from your own actions and how your choices (such as your VP selection) counter the narrative you've created about the other campaign.
The second reason is that it doesn't quite matter as much as people may think - at least in terms of the electoral outcome. There really should only be one overriding reason why you select your VP - that they are eminently qualified to fulfill the duties of the presidency in case needed to do so.
But we all know that political factors (base motivation, key swing state location or a constituency you are trying to shore up) often play an outsized role in the process. Part of this is due to a mostly debunked theory that VP choices actually have much of an impact on those things.
Turns out they don't.
Sure, it may play out on the margins. And in a tight race, recent research shows it could swing a small state in your favor.
But history shows those races are rare.
So maybe what matters most is that they are qualified and, as a helpful bonus, you have a good working relationship with them.
If that's the case, Vilsack's 40+ year relationship with the Clintons is useful. And his experience as an executive (Iowa Governor) combined with his Administration experience (as Secretary of Agriculture) give him a helpful leg up.
It also shows why Senator Tim Kaine is viewed as a frontrunner - as former Governor of Virginia and now a Senator he too passes the "presidential test."
But he doesn't appear to have the personal relationship with the Clintons that Vilsack or even Labor Secretary Tom Perez seems to have.
One thing is clear, Clinton's short list contains much better options than Trump's list. While personally I like the idea of doubling down with an even greater history-making ticket, there is no question that Vilsack can do the job. And given the narrative that Clinton and her surrogates have created about Trump, he may just be her choice.