Does Biden’s Choice for Vice President Matter?

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So a funny thing happened when I set out to write this post.

I thought I was going to write about how the conventional wisdom of how choosing a vice president affects electoral strategy is wrong, but ended up learning the personal reasons why the choice does, in fact, matter.

So first, the conventional wisdom.

You hear it all the time: The choice of vice president is important in that it helps the presidential candidate scoop up some additional electoral votes. This is why, the saying goes, that you never see the presidential candidate and their vice president coming from the same home state.

But that’s not what the research says. I read an article that delved into this research (from 2016) and this is what they found:

While presidential candidates typically enjoy a home-state advantage (approximately 3 points to 7 points), vice presidential candidates generally do not. Statistically speaking, the effect is zero.

The research also revealed that the voters from the vice president’s home state cared more about who won the election, but they weren’t more likely to turn out to vote, volunteer, or donate.

Myth busted.

Interestingly, that Politico article also pointed out that despite the research, about half of the news articles about potential VP picks focused on the discussion of the home state advantage. Even presidents writing their memoirs have said that a vice presidential hopeful’s home state was a factor in their decision making.

Yesterday, Biden announced that he’d likely reveal who his vice presidential pick is in early August. Let’s look at how the media writes about the potential choices. Do they mention the home state, or not?

On to the next part of this story…

After I read the article, I was curious to see what some of my readers on social media had to say about the vice presidential pick. So I asked them. Instagram has this great, interactive poll feature and so I asked, does WHO Joe Biden pick as VP matter to you?

Interestingly, down to a one they said that it would not affect whether or not they would vote for Biden, but that yes, the vote mattered. When I chatted with each of them further about it, this is what they told me:

Essentially, it was important to them because they want to know more about him as a presidential candidate. They want to understand how he makes decisions and the reasons he gives for those decisions.

Needless to say, I was fascinated by the conversations and, if any of them are reading this, I want to thank them for engaging in that discussion with me.

I’d love to hear from the rest of you. Leave me a comment (here at the blog, or on social media) and let me know what you think. Does Biden’s pick of VP matter to you?

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18 replies

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t take Rachel Bitecofer’s research into account. She says VP choice was among the things that hindered HRC’s campaign because she did not use it to unify the party. She has convinced me that it is very important to do this, and that picking a progressive would have and will help, especially to rally younger voters and other constituencies.

  2. Also this article is OLD! April 2016–I think our situation has a lot of new factors thrown in, including further radicalization of the so-called Republican party, more dramatic division in the country, and the pandemic/economic meltdown.

  3. I think his pick will be important simply because he will be what, 78 years old, on inauguration day if he wins? I think the American people need to have confidence that if something were to happen to him, the VP could slide right in without a beat. And Biden himself has hinted that he considers himself a ‘transitional’ president, meaning he’ll only serve one term. So yes, I do think it’s very important he gets this pick right.

  4. The choice won’t change who one votes for, but may impact GOTV efforts and the number of voters. The drop off of voters in urban areas is swing states from 2012 to 2016 cost HRC the presidency. This argues for a progressive and Black VP candidate. (Would this have a counter effect of having moderate or closet racist Dems defecting, or causing more Republicans to vote? Perhaps.)

  5. Biden’s request to Obama was that he be the last person in the room; the advisor above all others. So I would expect his choice to reflect his expectation that his VP would play the same role. It will tell me whose ideas, values and judgement he will give weight in his decision making.

    Readiness for office will also be a consideration given his age. I think that privileges those with executive experience and his co-candidates.

    I’m firmly on the Vote Joe team, but would look to his VP choice to telegraph his approach to governing in what will be an unprecedented period of change. I think most of the former conventional wisdom about presidential politics is moot.

  6. Albeit this is not the question that you asked, if the defeat of Trump is foremost in the voter’s mind, it seems to me that not even the choice of the candidate for the presidency matters very much this November. In elections of the past, at least for myself, the Presidential candidate was of utmost importance with the VP choice less so for the average voter. Forgive my bluntness, but as Biden is not even my third choice for the Presidency he will garner my vote anyway. That being so, the choice of a running mate for VP is only of importance to me as pertains to Brookingslib’s comment. As I have stated elsewhere, I would vote for a fungus were it the only choice on the Democratic ticket on November 3rd! Thank-YOU!

  7. I will vote for Biden no matter who he picks as VP. My considerations are similar to previous commenters: Who would I trust to lead if something happened to Biden; who inspires me and complements Biden’s strengths (empathy is the way forward, experience, resilience in the face of personal tragedy, fairness, ability to admit mistakes and learn from them); who would be unifying. No one will please everybody but I think those being considered all have strong qualifications.

  8. As with others, the VP choice will make NO difference to my vote come November. I’m voting for Biden if I have to crawl over covid covered broken glass to do so.

    However, I very much hope that Biden will be a one term president by choice, and that his VP will be positioned to pick up the reins in four years. So while I love Warren, I think someone younger might be a better option because I would like THAT person to be president for 8 years! I also have fantasies of Warren as Senate Majority Leader.

    I think executive experience will be a huge plus, I think someone more progressive than Joe will be a huge plus, and I would love to see Stacy Abrams in that role she has an impressive resume I don’t know enough about the others (aside from the former presidential candidates) to have a solid reason for choosing one.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you’ll see you’re not alone when it comes to voting for Biden in the fall, or the hope that Biden’s pick for VP will be president.

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