Presidential Politics Myth #1: The VP Choice Means Something

in Politics

During every presidential election cycle, a big deal is made over a party's nominee's decision about a running mate. This time around will be no exception. Many in the media have dubbed Mitt Romney the presumed GOP presidential nominee since with the withdrawal of his nearest opponent, Rick Santorum, from nomination race. They are now waiting breathlessly for his choice of a vice presidential running mate, even though his party's convention is still about four months away.They act as if this choice actually means something – which it doesn't. But they never seem to learn. It's been proven over and over again that voters do not cast their votes for a presidential candidate based on his choice of a vice presidential candidate. It's always other issues such as the economy, war, or potential Supreme Court appointments that really resonate with voters. Yet the American news media continues to ignore this fact.

If there was ever a year that should have done away once and for all with the myth that a vice presidential selection meant something, it was 1988. That was the year when George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis were the nominees of their respective parties. Bush selected Dan Quayle as his running mate, while Dukakis chose Lloyd Bentsen as his.

Although I thought Quayle was a great choice (and have always thought he would make a fine president), most of the country did not agree. The polls indicated that they believed his selection was a disaster on the part of Bush. Quayle was a relative newcomer to the U.S. Senate, and there were many who questioned his fitness for the second highest job in the land. There were some who even questioned his intelligence.

On the other hand, most Americans hailed Bentsen's selection as a sensational choice on the part of Dukakis. Bentsen was an experienced U.S. Senator who was well-respected on both sides of the political aisle. Bentsen was a viewed as a man who was almost beyond reproach. He had few critics. He out-dueled Quayle in one of the most memorable vice presidential debates of all-time.

Yet none of this could stop Bush from routing Dukakis in one of biggest landslides in presidential election history. And the interesting part is that Bush was never and has never been seen a particularly strong or charismatic politician. His vice presidential "liability" should have brought him down, but it clearly didn't. Apparently, it didn't even cut one iota into Bush's margin of victory.

But during the very next presidential election in 1992, they were once again waiting with baited breath for Bill Clinton's choice of a running mate, which ultimately turned out to be Al Gore. Yes, Clinton won, but he would have won no matter whom he would have chosen. Bush had already sealed his fate by raising taxes after he had promised not to.

Obviously, the choice of a vice presidential candidate should always be met with yawn – not a breaking news report.

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Presidential Politics Myth #1: The VP Choice Means Something

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This article was published on 2012/05/24
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