The two years before a presidential election consist of 23 months of obsessing over who will emerge as number one—and one month obsessing over who will be their number two. Now that both parties have their presumptive nominees, we’ve officially reached that magic moment in the 2016 cycle.
But amid all the veepstakes chatter, beware of lazy analysis. Despite looking good on paper, many of the candidates tagged as potential vice-presidential nominees stand no chance at all of making a national ticket. Feel free to disregard any short lists that include the following four names.
To many, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown should be a frontrunner to be the Democratic nominee for vice president. He has credibility with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, which Hillary Clinton must win over, and is from a swing state to boot. But that bonus is also his downfall. Under state law, if Brown becomes vice president, Governor John Kasich would appoint his replacement for the next two years. Kasich, of course, would undoubtedly choose a fellow Republican, handing the GOP a Senate seat that Democrats spent $40 million to hold onto in 2012.
In a narrowly divided Senate, every seat matters. Not only do Democrats sit on the razor’s edge of retaking control of the upper chamber in the 2016 elections, but the party’s unfavorable 2018 electoral map means it has to build as strong a firewall as it can. Clinton’s vice president would be the tie-breaking vote if, as is very possible, the Senate deadlocks at 50–50—but Brown’s vice presidency would require Democrats to pick up one seat extra to even make that scenario a reality. If Clinton hopes to govern as president, she’ll need a Democratic Senate, and that means leaving Sherrod Brown off her ticket.
Another frequently bandied-about name is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who succeeded Clinton as New York’s junior senator in 2009. Gillibrand was mentioned as a dark-horse presidential candidate before it was clear Clinton was running, and she has called Clinton a mentor and a friend. But a Clinton-Gillibrand ticket would be unacceptably imbalanced—and no, not because of gender. An all-female ticket would cause a stir, but in the year 2016, it could be a boon (and Clinton has already said women will be on her short list). Instead, Gillibrand has the misfortune of being from the same state as Clinton.
Contrary to popular belief, the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not forbid a president and vice president from the same state, but it does forbid that state from voting for that ticket in its entirety. Electoral College electors cast two votes each—one for president, one for vice president—at least one of which “shall not be [for] an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.” In practical terms, New York’s 29 electors would have to choose either Clinton or Gillibrand—endangering the Electoral College majority of whoever gets the short straw. Because New York is a major part of any Democrat’s winning electoral map, this is simply a risk that Clinton cannot run.
On the Republican side, no one checks as many boxes as New Mexico’s Susana Martinez—an experienced female Hispanic governor who counters nearly all of Donald Trump’s weaknesses. Martinez has publicly feuded with Trump, but this isn’t why she won’t get picked. After all, Trump has openly discussed picking politicians, such as Marco Rubio, who were once his mortal enemies. The problem is that Martinez would never survive the vetting process. Those who actually know New Mexico know Martinez’s administration has been a stream of shady maneuver after embarrassing incident.
In 2011, Martinez’s government awarded a lucrative racetrack and casino lease to the Downs at Albuquerque, a company with ties to Martinez’s political circles, despite questions about the company’s competence and whether the bidding was publicly open. In 2013, the Associated Press sued Martinez for allegedly violating open-records laws. In 2014, recordings surfaced of Martinez and her advisers calling her political opponents “that little bitch” and “retard.” In 2015, Martinez made slurred phone calls (though she denied she was intoxicated) to the Santa Fe police demanding that they call off three officers who had responded to noise complaints over the governor’s holiday party. The head of her political operation was investigated by the FBI for allegedly pulling the strings of government despite not holding an official role in her administration. Martinez also has a problem with missing emails of her own. She would sink a presidential campaign with distracting news stories sooner than attract any new voters.
The same is true of Florida Governor Rick Scott. A maverick businessman like Trump, Scott could make sense as a pick if the self-adoring Trump is looking to mold his ticket in his own image. But Scott has a major scandal in his past: as CEO of hospital company Columbia/HCA, he oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in American history. Four months after federal agents were revealed to be investigating the company, Scott resigned; eventually, Columbia/HCA had to pay $1.7 billion in fines for purposefully misdiagnosing patients and billing Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary tests and unqualified home visits. The scandal didn’t gain full traction during the Florida gubernatorial race, but there is nothing like the Klieg lights of a presidential campaign.
It’s exasperating enough that these no-shot hopefuls get the attention they do in veepstakes listicles and cable-news panels—but it’s also unfair to other, less-mentioned candidates who actually make a lot of sense. Filling out a short list with the above names is a crutch that prevents pundits from more creative thinking about who could be the next vice president. We’d like to add these four names to the conversation.
Utah Congresswoman Mia Love has been a rising star in the Republican Party ever since her lauded speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. As a woman and a minority, she helps neutralize Trump’s main demographic weaknesses. She is the daughter of Haitian immigrants, giving back some credibility to the GOP ticket on that issue. She is Mormon, helping to reassure a critical part of the Republican base that was, more than others, skeptical of Trump during the primaries. Love herself has criticized Trump, but she has outright excoriated Clinton, and a promotion from junior House member to vice president would be hard to turn down.
Maine Senator Susan Collins is another Republican who should be considered—but not by Trump. Collins is often rated the most liberal Republican senator—she is pro-choice, pro-environment, and pro-gun control—and has condemned Trump as her party’s nominee, making her an unconventional but compelling choice for Clinton. Creating a unity ticket with a moderate Republican would likely guarantee Clinton the election, as Collins would give voice to the significant cohort of “Never Trump” Republicans. Clinton is also a good friend of Collins’s, even hosting her bridal shower in 2012, years after they served together in the Senate. And lest you think Collins would never jeopardize her place in the GOP, she already sounds open to voting for Clinton in the fall.
Or Clinton could run in the opposite direction. During the primaries, she took pains to tie herself closely to the Obama administration, a strategy she appears committed to in the general as well, given the president’s solid approval rating. Clinton has also said her primary criterion for vice president is picking the most qualified person to, if necessary, step in as president. And other than Obama himself, the person most associated with the current administration and the one with the most White House experience is the man who has served the last eight years in the job: Vice President Joe Biden. A cult figure among many, Biden is even more popular than Obama, and he boasts decades of experience in foreign policy and Senate deal-cutting. He’s also perfectly eligible for the job; while the Constitution limits the president to two terms in office, it says nothing about vice-presidential term limits. There’s no good reason Clinton shouldn’t consider making Biden the first vice president to serve two presidents since John C. Calhoun.
Finally, Clinton might consider someone outside politics to fill out her ticket. Her biggest weakness as a candidate is her supposed unlikeability, so why not balance that out with one of our most beloved public figures—a celebrity? Hollywood is famous for its Democratic politics, and many actors and directors have significant experience running nonprofits. But one person stands out as being at the height of her powers right now. She’s black and female and would certainly generate tremendous enthusiasm among Clinton’s needed “Obama coalition”; she’s also young, appealing to Sanders voters, but conveniently will turn 35 (the constitutionally required minimum age) on September 4, 2016. Vice President Beyoncé, anyone? In the age of Trump, it’s only slightly less crazy than you might think.