Guessing who a presidential candidate will pick for a running mate is more like trying to predict the winner of the Masters than of Wimbledon.
In tennis, guess Serena Williams today, or Roger Federer or Pete Sampras in their days, and you have a good shot at nailing it.
In golf, you might feel confident about Jordan Spieth or Jason Day or even Tiger Woods in his prime, but you’re just as likely to get a Danny Willett or Charl Schwartzel or Mike Weir. It could be any number of unexpected people.
So it is with vice presidential candidates. Every four years, pundits create a shortlist of contenders. As often as not, the ultimate pick isn’t on it. Sarah Palin? Most regular people hadn’t even heard of her when John McCain picked her in 2008. Dan Quayle? Lloyd Bentsen? Geraldine Ferraro? Even Dick Cheney wasn’t an obvious pick for George W. Bush.
Throw in the fact that it’s Donald Trump doing the picking on the Republican side this year, and predicting a choice puts you on really thin ice.
But it’s the parlor game du jour, so we kick off the Observer editorial board’s Vice Presidential Power Rankings. Modeled after our Charlotte Mayoral Power Rankings of years past, it’s our quick take on who is most likely to be selected as a running mate. We’ll kick things off on Trump’s side, and follow up soon with speculation about Hillary Clinton’s pick.
Now, the envelope please…
1. Mike Pence. Stop snoring. The Indiana governor zoomed to the top of the charts Sunday after Trump scheduled a campaign rally with him Tuesday in addition to a previously scheduled fundraiser. Pence is well-liked by conservatives, which could help Trump. And he faces a tough re-election bid in November, which might make him more inclined to throw his lot with Trump.
2. Newt Gingrich. The former House Speaker would have been number one on the list a couple of weeks ago. But now Trump is assuring crowds that Gingrich will have some role in a Trump administration, which sounds like a role other than VP. Too bad – he would probably generate the most excitement for the ticket of anyone being considered.
3. Jeff Sessions. The U.S. senator from Alabama was one of the earliest and most prominent Trump backers. He holds all the views conservatives love, from immigration to fiscal policy to defense. And he seems to “click” with Trump, which might matter to the boss more than pure electability.
4. Chris Christie. Probably not. The Godfather of traffic jams feels so yesterday.
5. Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma. Trump has allowed speculation about a couple of women, but it seems far-fetched. Then again, Fallin showed she’s Trump-like in her willingness to say anything, claiming the other day that Trump has been campaigning as a “racial healer.”
6. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Highly doubtful. His trial balloon was launched over the weekend and quickly popped when he said he was pro-choice.
7. Sen. Richard Burr. He could help Trump with his Intelligence Committee experience, his establishment ties and his swing state of North Carolina. Still, ain’t gonna happen.
8. Gov. Pat McCrory. Just seeing if you’re still paying attention.