Picking the wrong running mate could ruin the campaigns of Clinton and Trumpby Sam Tanenhaus / May 19, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: How the Republicans could stop Donald Trump
Read more: Hillary Clinton – one-term wonder? Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, their nominations almost sealed, are now weighing the selection of a vice-presidential candidate. Names are already circulating, although it’s too early to separate the true contenders from the decoys. Clinton has delighted feminists by hinting she’s open to a two-woman ticket, even if the three women mentioned most often—Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts—all come from states Clinton needs no local help to win, while a fourth prospect, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who happens to be a man, could deliver crucial votes in a “battleground” state.
Trump’s calculations are more arcane. He has never held elected office; a policy-steeped big name would help, but “establishment” Republicans, including his defeated rivals, are emphatically uninterested. “Hahahahahahahahaha,” an aide to Jeb Bush emailed the New York Times when asked if Bush might consider a place on Trump’s undercard. Two other seasoned Republicans, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, are available, but both are damaged goods and self-infatuated blusterers. And the ticket has one of those already.
All this brings home yet another oddity of the democratic process in the United States. While the quadrennial search for the president amounts to a public ritual lasting more than a year—to date almost 47m votes have been cast—vice presidents, who sit only a “heartbeat away” from the top office, are handpicked in secret. Serious contenders undergo a dehumanising ordeal, part speed-dating interview with the nominee, part FBI-style background check, involving tax returns, medical records and marital dossiers.
This gruelling initiation is necessary. There’s no such thing as the perfect “Veep,” but the annals echo with ghastly errors. In 1972, George McGovern chose Missouri senator Thomas Eagleton, who concealed a history of depression and sessions of electroshock therapy. Local politicians and journalists knew about it, though, and the facts spilled…