Sunday, July 07, 2024

The combinatorics of picking a Vice President

 Trump is pondering who to pick for his vice president. For a recent podcast about it go here. Spoiler alert: Doug B or Marco R or J.D. Vance. 

In 2008 I did a blog post titled  I would bet on INTRADE that INTRADE will do badly picking VP nominations where I showed that about half the time the VP candidate is not on anyone's short list, and hence would do badly in betting markets. At the time INTRADE was synonymous with betting markets. I would  not have bet that INTRADE would go out of business. 

What criteria does a prez nominee  use when picking a vice president? How many combinations are there? 

1) Someone who will help with a block of voters. 

Trump-Pence 2016: Mike Pence was thought to help Trump with Evangelicals and establishment Republicans.

Biden-Harris-2020: Kamala Harris was thought to help Biden with women and African-Americans.

JFK-LBJ-1960-LBJ was thought to help JFK in the South. 

Kerry-Edwards-2004: Edwards was thought to help win  North Carolina (Edwards state). It didn't work. 

Dukakis-Bentson-1988- Mike Dukakis (liberal) picked Lloyd Benson (moderate) as the VP. The ticket lost though its possible that Benson brought in some votes, just not enough.

There are other examples. Even for the cases where the candidate won its not clear if the VP mattered.  The podcast says that Trump thinks that this kind of thing (e.g., picking a women or an African American) won't help him get their votes. He might be right. But (my speculation) a women on the ticket might help some men be more comfortable voting for him. That is, they could think Trump is not a misogynist, see- he picked a women for VP.  Similar for an African-American.

Caveat: Perhaps a candidate who would help in Swing States.

2) Someone who will help him if he wins. 

Obama-Biden-2008:  Biden helped new-comer Obama since Biden had Congressional experience, having been a senator for X years for some large value of X.

Bush-Cheney-2000:  Dick Cheney knew Washington DC and hence could help George W Bush (who had been a governor but had no FEDERAL experience).

3) Someone who the voters can see taking over the presidency in case that is needed.

Clinton-Gore-1992: I've heard that Clinton chose Gore for that reason. I'm NOT an insider so it may not be true. 

FDR-Truman-1944: The party chose Harry Truman as VP knowing that FDR would likely pass away and we'd have President Truman. (I've read this and believe it is true on some level.) 

4) Party Unity- Pick someone who you fought in the primary to show that the party is united. Bonus: the VP nominee has been vetted and is some-known to the public. 

Biden-Harris-2020 may have had had some of this.

This mentality is rarer now since people tend to NOT pick people they ran against in the primary lately.

JFK-LBJ-1960 was in this category.  

Biden did run for the nomination in 2008 but didn't run much (I think he dropped out either right before or right after the Iowa Caucus) so that one doesn't really count.

5) DO NO HARM. Counterexamples:

Some people voted against McCain since they didn't wan to see Sarah Palin one heartbeat away from the presidency. This was especially important since McCain was old. And hence this may be important for Trump in 2024.

Biden may have the same problem with  Harris. Note that the issue is NOT if Harris would BE a bad prez, its if people THINK she would be a bad Prez.

Krisiti Noem- Trump doesn't want to answer questions about why his VP shot a dog and a goat. (Note- if Trump himself had shot a dog and a goat the party and FOX news would be defending that action.) 

6) Someone who the Prez candidate gets along with personally. I've heard that Clinton-Gore and Obama-Biden got along. JFK and LBJ did not.

7) Someone who won't outshine the president.

Dukakis-Benson=1988  might have had this problem. 

 8) All of the above might matter less than usual since there are so few undecided people in swing states. And that's NOT just because the country is polarized. Ponder the following:

In most elections its either two people NEITHER of whom has been president, so you don't quite know what they will do, OR one has been prez and the other has not, so you don't know what the newcomer will do.

But in this election BOTH have been president. We KNOW what they will do. So there is less room for doubt. 

History: This only happened once before: 

1884: Cleveland beats Blaine

1888: Harrison beats Cleveland

1892: Cleveland vs Harrison and Cleveland wins

Even though I say its hard to predict, and it could be someone NOT on the short list, here are my thoughts.

a) Marco R. The electors in the electoral college cannot vote for a Prez and vice-Prez who are residents of the same state. (Note1- This is an idiotic rule which dates from either the late 1700's or the early 1800's. Note2- Dick Cheney changes his residency from Texas to Wyoming so he could be Bush's VP in 2000.  I have NO problem with that whatsoever.) So one of Marco R or Trump would have to change residencies. Trump won't bother. Marco R is a SENATOR from Florida so I doubt he would either. Also, Marco said nasty things about Trump when he ran against him for the nomination in 2016. I am surprised Marco is on anyone's short list. NOT going to be VP nominee.

b) Doug B. Who? He doesn't outshine Trump, and he gets along with Trump. Won't bring in any voters, but Trump says he doesn't care about that. How would American's view him as a possible prez? I doubt Trump cares. QUITE POSSIBLE to be VP nominee.

c) JD Vance. Author of a thoughtful book, Hillbilly Elegy, which indirectly explains why poor white rural voters are attracted to Trump. He then became a Senator and is now all-in on Trump. This is NOT hypocritical, but its odd. In 2016 he was anti-Trump but now he is pro-Trump. Even that is NOT hypocritical using the usual standards for politicians. He has praised Trump and there may be people who think he would be a good president. He is young (39) and handsome, so I wonder if Trump worries that Vance might outshine him. Even so QUITE POSSIBLE to be VP nominee.

d) I am surprised that Tim Scott and Elise Stefanik seem to have fallen out of Trump's Short list, though they were at one time on it, so would not be to big a surprise if either becomes the VP nominee.  IF one thinks that Tim Scott will help with the African-American vote, or that Elise Stefanik will help with the women-vote (OR as noted above, would help white men feel more comfortable voting for Trump) then either would be a politically good choice. However, Trump does not think this is true, and he may be right.  I've also heard that Trump doesn't want people saying something like Tim Scott helped Trump win the African-American Vote since Trump wants to think that HE won the election without help. I would think neither will be VP but YOU NEVER KNOW.

e) Someone NOT on the horizon. This brings us back to my 2008 post- IT REALLY COULD BE SOMEONE THAT NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT. So Who? I DON"T KNOW SINCE NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT THEM. Maybe Lance.


  1. Doug has some credentials as a businessman and a governor. And he was a capable debater during the primaries even with a broken foot.

    1. (Bill) Thanks for the reminder that Doug DID run in the primaries against Trump. However, he never said anything bad about Trump (perhaps he was running for VP even then) and he dind't run much. So this would not be a case of taking an opponent as VP to show party unity.

      Even if Doug has some cred as a businessman and governor and was a capable debater, still not vetted or known to the public. But I don't know if that matters.

  2. "which indirectly explains why poor white rural voters are attracted to Trump. "

    Interestingly, it was the _affluent_ rural white voters who were actually attracted to Trump. (Trump voters' median income was significantly above the US median income.)

    It seems folks know which side their bread's buttered on better than the pundits do.

    In spring 2016, I got lost looking for my parents' grave in Tewksbury, MA. There were Trump signs everywhere. And Tewksbury ain't "poor rural". It's deep rural (over 30 miles from Boston) but affluent: the homes are gorgeous. Shortly after that was the Nevada country music festival bump-stock mass murder. One of the victims was from Tewksbury.

    One bet for whom he'll pick is Ivanka, since he doesn't trust anyone outside family. (I'd claim this bet as mine, except for the minor detail that it isn't.)

  3. Trump will probably prize loyalty very strongly this round; I suspect that will be his top criterion. Pence is seen as having stabbed him in the back, and his whole term was characterized by betrayals from his own appointees.

    I'm not sure what you're getting at by saying, "Note that the issue is NOT if Harris would BE a bad prez, it's if people THINK she would be a bad Prez." It's just an objective fact that she would be a bad president. Even the Dem donors see that perfectly clearly.

    1. (Bill) Whenever I read an article about Kamala H. it always seems to say that people don't like her and either hint or say overtly that she would not be a good president, but they don't say why. If you know of an intelligent non-partisan article saying why she would not be a good president then please leave a comment with that link.

      Agree that Trump prizes loyalty. I would have thought that favored Doug B, and it might, but a later comment points to an article saying that ALL of the VP possibilities have at times been anti-trump, though some rather mildly.

    2. Here's a good article but how you interpret it is necessarily partisan.

  4. It's Marco Rubio, not Mario. Also Marco Rubio is not the only one on the short list who said extremely critical things about Trump, they essentially all did. E.g. see here:

    1. (Bill) Thanks for pointing out Mario is incorrect. This is not my usual carelessness, i really thought it was Mario. I also thought that Leibniz had a t in it until recently.

      Thanks for the pointer to the article! For some of them I really didn't know they ever criticised Trump. Perhaps the issue then is a combination of how long ago it was, how bad the critisicm was, and how much they have done to make up for it. That could be another post, modelling the VP options as points in R^3.