The Next Veep: OZY’s Picks for Second-in-Command

The Next Veep: OZY’s Picks for Second-in-Command

Why you should care

They’re a heartbeat away from being a heartbeat away from the presidency. 

Choosing a mate requires shrewdness, cold calculation and the utmost scrutiny.

We’re talking, of course, about vice-presidential nominees, who can make or break a ticket. Sure, veeps make for punchlines (and, in one case, a really good sitcom), but during election season and years after, choosing a VP is no joke. The right person can be a graceful complement, a powerful ally and an unstoppable policy driver. On the flip side, a misjudged vice-presidential pick can hamstring a campaign: One Stanford study reported that Sarah Palin lost John McCain about two million votes in 2008.

Most candidates announce their running mates right before the party conventions, in the summer, but I think it’s never too early to speculate — and it’s just plain fun to boot. Besides, it’s always possible that one of these hungry candidates changes the game and vaults ahead by choosing someone as early as this month. Look: Weirder things have happened, and this has been an election season full of surprises. Here are my thoughts for some of 2016’s top pollers.

Bernie Sanders

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Who’da thunk he’d make it this far? Bernie Sanders made the genius move of reframing his campaign as historic, and now he’s seriously in contention.

Elizabeth Warren is an easy answer for VP pick. The Harvard law professor turned Senator felt the Bern before there was a Bern, as a beastly challenger to Wall Street and the powers that be. But wait, there’s more: The onetime single mom is now a fundraising powerhouse. Her nomination could help Sanders woo voters excited about the prospect of a woman in the White House.

Cory Booker could be a shrewd complement to Sanders: America’s superhero senator is young and Black. Though Booker has formally endorsed Clinton, he’s progressive enough to make Sanders potentially feel good.

Donna Edwards is a little-known progressive firebrand from Maryland, a congresswoman running for the Senate. But what if Bernie swept her off that trail? It’d electrify the African-American vote, especially among Black women. And it could deepen Bernie’s arguments about a historic ticket.

Ursula Burns is way off the political grid, but Bernie may well decide to wander off it. The CEO of Xerox, Burns rose from the projects in New York to become the first Black female chief of a Fortune 500 company. It’s not clear whether Burns is a hard-core Democrat, much less a helpmate to a Democratic Socialist, but then, Kennedy chose Johnson, and Dukakis chose Bentsen. Balancing the ticket might not be so wild.

Jerry Brown is another turn entirely: The well-liked four-term California governor is even older than Sanders. But if he were chosen, we’d really be talking about a liberal revolution.

Hillary Clinton

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The woman has a lot of choices and still a lot to lose — she needs to play this one carefully.

Julian Castro would be a superb and obvious choice for Hillary. He’d be a strong partner with a wide range of experience at the executive, national and local levels. And of course he might energize Latino voters, a critical segment of the electorate.

Elizabeth Warren, because whoa! It’d be a big move and gambit for both of them. But Hillary might need an ideological foil, and Sanders’ challenge and the Black Lives Matter movement show that the liberal left wing can’t be overlooked. Indeed, Hillary may need to energize them to come out to vote.

Kamala Harris is young, bright and accomplished. The California attorney general is running for an open U.S. Senate seat, but if Hillary were to choose this young, half-Black, half-Indian woman, her campaign would likely surge, especially among minority voters. Harris, assuming she’s free of skeletons in the closet, could be the rare VP candidate worth 2–3 points in the final outcome.

Donald Trump

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If Donald Trump wins the nomination, largely with his own money and on his own terms, he will suddenly have every ambitious politico begging him for an opportunity. And who might he choose for his No. 2?

Carly Fiorina, his onetime rival, would let Trump double down on his message about executive strength. And given his skirmishes with the fairer sex (including with Fiorina), choosing a woman would for him be a no-brainer.

Sarah Palin stumped for Trump in Iowa, and she’s a vocal Trump supporter. Plus, she’s had some practice at being a VP pick. Second time’s a charm?

David Petraeus is a no-go, Trump said this week, suggesting the four-star general had been “badly hurt.” True, Petraeus resigned in a bit of disgrace, but the Iraqi troop commander and former CIA director would allay concerns about Trump’s ability to deal with foreign policy. Bonus: He’s not so alpha that Trump would feel overshadowed.

Ted Cruz

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Senator Cruz has been mum, as of yet, on whom he might pick for his veep. So far, the preacher’s son appeals to principled conservatives and evangelicals, so conventional wisdom would have him choosing a moderate, elder-statesman type.

John Kasich could balance out the ticket and swing Ohio into the red. Since I don’t expect Kasich to make much noise after New Hampshire, I think we’ll see him drop out soon and end up onstage next to Cruz if Cruz wins the nomination.

Nikki Haley might seem an odd choice, given her endorsement this week of Marco Rubio, just days before the South Carolina primary. Yet, if Cruz could get her, I think Governor Haley would work well. They’d make a youthful ticket and a more colorful one too. As with Trump, choosing a woman would increase the sense that Cruz is willing to be inclusive.

Marco Rubio

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I don’t think Rubio’s out yet — and neither does Haley, who endorsed him this week.

Nikki Haley would again make a fine choice here. A female running mate would help him with female voters too — as Haley likely will in her own state.

Kelly Ayotte would be an inspired choice too, although her New Hampshire Senate seat is vulnerable and could become more so; she’s argued that President Obama shouldn’t appoint anyone to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

Rob Portman, the former budget director and now Ohio senator, is in a similar position as Ayotte — his seat is vulnerable, and he’s caught up in the Supreme Court debate too. Yet he is an experienced partner who could help Rubio assuage concerns about inexperience, as W. did in 2000. Kasich could do the same.

Tim Scott, however, is the Rubio pick that would turn things on their head. Scott, of South Carolina, is a Tea Party darling, the only Black Republican senator and an up-by-the-bootstraps businessman besides. A Rubio–Scott ticket could instantly reframe the modern GOP — and perhaps even win over just enough Black and Latino votes to propel the GOP to victory.

Who do you think the candidates should be thinking about for VP? Will we see an early VP announcement? Who do you think will make a run in 2020? Send your thoughts to carlos.watson@ozy.com.

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