When you have a solid lead in the race for president – and Hillary Clinton’s electoral map looks very promising at the moment – picking your vice president is more about enhancing curb appeal than any kind of major remodeling. Unless the race changes quickly and dramatically, don’t expect Clinton to do anything but play it safe with her No. 2. Why look for a game-changer when the game is going your way?
In fact, don’t expect any kind of pick real soon. Unlike Donald Trump, who could name a vice presidential pick as early as today, Clinton has good reasons to wait. The biggest: She’s needs to make sure that Trump comes out of the GOP convention as the nominee. If not, Clinton’s calculations become very different.
Let’s assume the likely happens and Trump gets the nod from his party. Yesterday, Editorial Page Editor Taylor Batten offered our rankings of who the Republican might pick to bring a spark to his campaign. For Clinton, it’s more a process of elimination. With Trump as her opponent, what does the Democrat not need?
She won’t, for example, need a Latino pick. Trump has so alienated those voters with his Mexican wall and “Mexican” judge that record numbers are registering to vote against him. Sorry, Housing Secretary Julian Castro and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
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Clinton also won’t need to go too progressive. The Democratic base will line up solidly behind her in November, the way bases historically do with their party’s nominee. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders will get prime speaking spots at the Philadelphia convention and beyond, but they won’t be raising their hands with Clinton on stage.
Who does that leave? Glad you asked. Our Vice Presidential Power Rankings, for Democrats:
1. Tim Kaine. Yes, he’s a snoozer. He won’t rip into Trump on the campaign trail the way Warren might. He might also have a whiff of trust issues. But the senator from Virginia also is a strong ideological fit for Clinton, a solid moderate with just enough progressive activism for the base, once it gets over Warren not sharing the ticket. His biggest asset? He’s dull in a steady sort of way. In this election, that’s a big plus.
2. Cory Booker. Let’s face it, having Trump as your opponent means you don’t really have to shore up the black vote, either. But the New Jersey senator would bring a few big plusses to the Democratic ticket. He’s relatively young and very dynamic and could energize the under-40 demographic that Clinton sorely lacks. He also checks a lot of boxes – he’s a fluent Spanish speaker with a sellable record on crime and economic growth. And unlike Clinton, he’s very likeable and untainted by scandal.
3. Castro/Perez. Neither has legislative chops, but if the electoral map were to tighten, having a Latino on the ticket could be enough to drive turnout and cement victories in battleground states like Florida and Nevada.
4. Sherrod Brown. The Ohio senator is, well, from Ohio. It’s among the biggest of the battleground states, and it’s a must win for Trump (see: GOP convention, Cleveland). Brown, a staunch opponent of free trade deals, also does well with the kind of blue collar Democrats that Trump has to steal from Clinton. But Brown is a sitting senator, and if Clinton were to give him the nod for VP nominee, his Senate replacement would be selected by a Republican Ohio governor. That’s a steep price for Democrats in their battle to regain control in Washington.
5. Elizabeth Warren. She’s more genuine, more dogged, more plainly spoken (that’s a good thing) and more ideologically pure than Clinton. Presidential candidates don’t pick running mates who shine a light on all the weaknesses at the top of the ticket. This is a pick Clinton makes only if she thinks she’s in real danger of losing the race. At this point, she’s not.