Guest column: Election could produce weakened presidency _lowres

Ron Faucheux

It’s that time again –– to start thinking about vice presidential selections.

Already, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is floating names of prospects, and top Republicans are wondering about Donald Trump’s pick now that he’s the presumptive GOP nominee.

Running mate selection is based on a range of strategies. One is ticket balance –– John Kennedy did that when he picked Lyndon Johnson. Another is image reinforcement, such as the Bill Clinton-Al Gore ticket. The third way is making a deal to win enough delegates to nab the nomination, which is how John Nance Garner made it onto Franklin Roosevelt’s ticket in 1932. The fourth, and most noble approach, is to select the person best equipped to step in and become president.

In the end, though, most VP decisions are about personal chemistry. The presidential nominee will gravitate toward someone he or she really likes and trusts.

Let’s begin the parlor game with Clinton’s possible picks. Even though she still continues to face –– and even lose –– primary battles against rival Bernie Sanders, her delegate advantage remains commanding. In a later column, we’ll look at Trump’s options, which are just beginning to take shape.

Clinton’s campaign has signaled that it may use her selection to thank the constituency that delivered her the nomination this year –– African- Americans –– or to lock in Hispanics, a rapidly growing demographic crucial to both parties. She also could use it to assuage supporters of Bernie Sanders or to snatch a swing state that she’ll need to build an Electoral College majority.

Tim Kaine, 58, U.S. senator and former governor of Virginia, is a top possibility and a relatively safe choice. A Harvard Law graduate, he worked with the Jesuits in Latin America as a Catholic missionary, served as mayor of Richmond and did a stint as national chair of the Democratic Party. Securing Virginia’s 13 electoral votes would be a big help to the ticket.

Another Virginia prospect is Kaine’s colleague, Sen. Mark Warner, 61, also a popular former governor. But Warner’s pro-business image would likely turn off the anti-corporate wing of the party.

If Clinton wants a Latino running mate, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro has a good shot. Castro, 41, served five years as mayor of San Antonio. He won plaudits for his impressive keynote address at the 2012 Democratic convention. But his youth may be a drawback, and it’s unlikely he could bag his conservative home state’s electoral votes.

To win over Sanders supporters, two names have emerged. One is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 66, who would electrify progressives and give the nation its first major-party ticket composed of two women. The other is the hard-edged U.S. senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, 63, a tough populist on trade issues, strong advocate for LGBT rights and one of the Senate’s most liberal members. He may be able to strengthen the Democratic ticket in Ohio, with its critical 18 electoral votes. But the risk with either Warren or Brown is that they would pull the ticket’s optics dangerously to the left.

Two African-Americans frequently mentioned are former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, 59, a dazzling public speaker who is reportedly a favorite of President Obama’s, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 47, a highly appealing former mayor of Newark who is distrusted by some liberals for his love of self-promotion.

Others prospects include John Hickenlooper, 64, the governor of swing state Colorado, a former mayor of Denver and past chair of the National Governors Association; Martin Heinrich, 44, senator from New Mexico and a strong environmentalist; Tom Vilsack, 65, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and a popular former governor of Iowa; retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, 71, who lost a presidential bid in 2004; and Evan Bayh, 60, a former Indiana senator who sells himself as a fiscal centrist.

Much longer shots would be Martin O’Malley, 53, the former Maryland governor who made a dismal showing in his own presidential race, and Tom Perez, 54, the pro-union U.S. Secretary of Labor who would have trouble passing the presidential stature test.

For an out-of-the box pick, how about Joe Biden? As vice president, he has superb credentials and no term limits. Moreover, Democrats consider him the most decent man in politics. Of course, it’s been 184 years since the nation had a vice president –– John C. Calhoun –– who served under two different presidents, and very different they were: John Quincy Adams, the sophisticated diplomat, and Andrew Jackson, the rough-hewn soldier.

But in this unpredictable year, the unexpected should not be such a surprise.

An author and political analyst, Ron Faucheux is president of Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan market research firm that has done polling for The Advocate and WWL-TV. A former Louisiana state legislator, he publishes, a daily newsletter on polls.