The Path to the Presidency: Choosing a running mate
April 23, 2012
By John Vettese, Student Voices staff writer
If you watch television news or keep up with the headlines online, it’s difficult to miss the presidential primary elections. Every day there’s an update: results from another debate, a campaign speech, one candidate dropping in the polls while another takes the lead. Presidential primaries are the elections and caucuses held in each state to choose delegates to party conventions. There is a lot to keep track of. In this series, we’ll explore the presidential primaries, from the roots of party politics to the process of nominating a candidate.
As the Republican presidential primaries wind down, the consensus is that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be the nominee.
This has Romney shifting his attention down the road, gearing up to take on President Obama. And as he launches into that phase of his campaign, he has turned to choosing his running mate.
This is an important part of the campaign process, since the right running mate can make the difference between a win and a loss. The role of the vice president is crucial, since he or she is second in command, and must step in if illness or death prevents the president from serving. In history, nine U.S. presidents have ascended to the Oval Office in this manner. (The vice president also serves as president of the Senate, overseeing hearings and casts tie-breaking votes if necessary.)
Originally, Article II, Section I of the Constitution laid out the system so the candidate who receives the most votes becomes president while the runner-up is vice president. This didn’t last long, since the result was two people from opposing parties and opposite viewpoints attempting to run the country together. The 12th Amendment, passed in 1803, allowed each political party to nominate a team for president and vice president. By the 20th century, it became customary for the presidential nominee to choose a running mate, who would then receive the support of the party in a symbolic vote during the convention.
This is where Romney has many criteria to consider in choosing a running mate. Sometimes, presidential candidates choose running mates who are a lot like themselves ideologically. Or a candidate will pick a running mate who appeals to a different segment of their party’s base – taking into account work experience, geographic location, residence in a state with a large number of electoral votes, and gender – as a way of getting more votes. This is called “balancing the ticket.” In some cases, if candidates already are securely popular in their own party, they might think about a running mate who would appeal to independent voters, or even to the opposite party.
The running mate’s experience– they tend to be governors or members of Congress – is also a key factor as well as personal appeal. For example, if a candidate is persuasive on the issues but comes across boring and stiff, he or she might want somebody who can inject some personality into the campaign…but without taking center stage.
What do you think?
What do you think are the most important factors in choosing a vice president? Do you rank experience or personality higher? Is it important to balance the ticket? Or should two running mates share the same views and backgrounds? How do you think Gov. Romney should choose his running mate? Join the discussion!
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