Traditionally, most vice-presidential candidates have been Senators, Governors, cabinet members or prominent members of Congress, but now there’s a lot of talk about Democrats picking someone with other qualifications.
There was speculation that Biden would enter the presidential race with Stacey Abrams already announced as his running mate, even though her top accomplishment was being the leader of the minority party in the Georgia state house. At a recent campaign event, Biden mentioned her as a potential running mate, along with Sally Yates, who spent eleven days as acting Attorney General (She had been Deputy Attorney General for two years) and two Governors turned Senators, who had much more traditional resumes.
Buttigieg is mayor of the fourth largest city in Indiana, and consistently mentioned as a potential candidate for Vice President.
There was speculation that Warren was meeting regularly with former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum regarding the position.
Sanders fans really like former Ohio state senator Nina Turner.
When McCain was running in 2008, Palin was a surprise choice but second-year Governors had been considered and selected before. There wasn’t chatter about Laura Bush or Marco Rubio, who was at the time, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and on paper more qualified than generic state legislators. So, something seems to have changed.
There’s a push for running mates who check off a lot of boxes. So that may be why we’re going outside the usual suspects. If someone thinks Elizabeth Warren needs a black male running mate, but Cory Booker doesn’t add enough regional diversity. We can also see the shortcomings of candidates with a national profile. Castro backfired with a debate attack on Biden. Klobuchar was allegedly abusive to staff. Harris’ national campaign has failed to take off. So that makes otherwise potentially impressive candidates. There may be different considerations when the primary has been over for months.
One unusual thing is the lack of conversation about prominent house members. Many Democratic committee heads are either white guys or really old (Appropriations chair Nita Lower is in her 80s) or both, but there is still some diversity in House leadership. Assistant Speaker/ Former Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Ben Ray Lujan is a Hispanic man under fifty, and a likely nominee for Senate. The DCCC’s current chairman Cheri Bustos is a woman from the midwest. House Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries is a black man under fifty, as is Assistant to the Majority Whip Cedric Richmond.
It does seem odd that people are talking about Abrams and Gillum but not these people. Some it may come down to incentives. A losing candidate for statewide office or a woman who quit a cabinet post to protest the Trump administration’s decisions will have more name recognition than members of Congress who do a lot of work behind the scenes, so reporters and candidates would be likely to mention those figures, since readers and voters won’t know who they are. A candidate might also not want to raise the profile of someone who could go and endorse a primary challenger.
Candidates and reporters may also know about the potential shortcomings of political figures that voters don’t yet know. Klobuchar’s reputation as someone difficult to work for was well known in Washington, but didn’t come out until she ran for President. Someone writing for New York magazine might have a good inkling about why a member of Congress will never survive the scrutiny that comes with a national campaign.
For all the talk about potential running mates with unusual backgrounds, it’s not clear that Democrats will go with someone who doesn’t have traditional qualifications. Next summer, we might just as easily have Biden sharing the stage with Senator Tammy Duckworth, Warren introducing Cory Booker as the next Vice President of the United States, Buttigieg announcing Deval Patrick, or Sanders addressing a crowd with Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. After all the conversation, they might play it safe figuring that makes for the best contrast with Trump.