The Veep Stakes: Who Is Up for the Second Spot in Each Party

Picking a No. 2 is an early and critical sign of what a presidential nominee values and how he or she thinks

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (L) and US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump (R) depart a rally March 14, 2016 in Vienna Center, Ohio.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (L) and U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump (R) depart a rally March 14, 2016 in Vienna Center, Ohio. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Both political parties now have their presumptive nominees, and bookies are accepting wagers on who Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will choose as their vice presidential running mates. Typically, presidential campaigns seek to “balance the ticket”—that is, choose vice presidents who bring different skills, strengths or constituencies that complement those of the nominee. And so, candidates often choose vice presidents who balance a ticket geographically (think Mitt Romney of Massachusetts choosing Paul Ryan of Wisconsin); in terms of experience (the young Barack Obama choosing the been-round-the-Beltway-a-few-times Joe Biden, or George W. Bush picking the more seasoned Dick Cheney); demographic appeal (think of John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin); or ideological diversity (again, McCain-Palin, or Romney-Ryan).

Ms. Clinton, who had box seats for the vice presidential selection process in 1992 and watched firsthand how the vice presidency effects the presidency, will likely follow that model. But Donald Trump has demonstrated an uncanny penchant for not following models created by political scientists. It could come down to “eeny meeny miny mo, catch a vice president by a toe.” In any case, here’s a short list of the potential picks:

For Donald Trump:

  • U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) – Mr. Sessions was among the first “establishment politicians” to endorse Mr. Trump (after Chris Christie), and he advises Mr. Trump’s campaign, heading up Trump’s national security advisory team. He shares with Mr. Trump a tough anti-immigration stance. Advantages: While Mr. Sessions hails from a safe Republican state (Republicans have won it in each presidential election since 1992), hailing from the South could deepen Trump’s appeal among neighboring southerners in more competitive states. He also brings legislative experience to the Trump ticket. Disadvantages: Mr. Sessions shores up support among the anti-immigration Trump base but does little to broaden Trump’s demographic appeal.
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – Mr. Christie beat Mr. Sessions to Camp Trump by mere days. He shares with Mr. Trump a bombastic personality, which will thrill some supporters and turn others off. Nationally, he would be favorably viewed as a moderate by the establishment, and importantly Mr. Christie and Mr. Trump appear to be friends, a factor that may prove more important than any other. Advantages: Having been elected twice from a blue state, Christie brings both governing and campaign experience. Before his own presidential campaign, he enjoyed support among women, African-Americans and Latinos (but those days are over). Disadvantages: Christie brings no electoral advantage: New Jersey won’t vote Republican for a Trump/Christie ticket. Mr. Christie’s approval rating is at 26 percent in state, and his legacy as governor is questionable. And the Bridgegate trial of two former Christie staffers—which likely won’t directly implicate Mr. Christie but will cast a pall over his administration—is set to begin in September, as the presidential campaign is heating up.
  • U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) – Ms. Ernst has taken Trump to task on several of his “women” comments, but including a woman on the ticket could broaden Mr. Trump appeal with a demographic group that Republicans simply can’t ignore in this election. Advantages: Ms. Ernst is a rising star in the Republican Party and would placate nervous party leaders. She also is an adept retail politician who brings the Midwest to Trump and who would soften Trump’s brutally rough edges. Disadvantages: The solidly Republican Midwest should be Mr. Trump’s safe core, and while Ms. Ernst’s populist message resonates there, it’s not clear how strongly she’ll sell in battleground states.
  • U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) – “Little Marco” may have been at the sharp edge of a Trump barb or two, but would that be enough for him to reject an invitation from Mr. Trump to be a heartbeat away? Advantages: A Rubio vice presidential candidacy could put swing state Florida’s 29 electoral votes into play and could help Mr. Trump with Cuban-American voters. Mr. Rubio is also more moderate on the immigration issue and may help Mr. Trump with the broader Hispanic community (but that’s a tough road to hoe). Disadvantages: Rejection by Mr. Rubio would be humiliating, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of love between these two.
  • Florida Governor Rick Scott – Saying that “now is the time for the party to unite” the Florida tycoon turned politician urged an end to the “Stop Trump” movement last week. His Facebook post said, “Donald Trump is going to be our nominee, and he is going to be on the ballot as the Republican candidate for president. The Republican leaders in Washington did not choose him, but the Republican voters across America did choose him. The voters have spoken.” Advantages: Mr. Scott seems to be a more simpatico, Trumpist Floridian than Mr. Rubio. Disadvantages: With a business background and no legislative experience, Mr. Scott’s profile is quite close to Mr. Trump’s.
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich – Is it a sign of affection or respect when Donald Trump doesn’t have a nickname for you? Sure, there’s been a little of the “1-for-41 Kasich,” but for the most part, the public relationship between Mr. Kasich and Mr. Trump seems to be cautiously respectful. Advantages: Mr. Kasich is a compromise with the establishment party, brings some delegates and would unify the convention and the party behind Mr. Trump. He has both legislative experience and shores up support in the Midwest, particularly in Ohio, with its 18 electoral votes. Disadvantages: Supporters might be disappointed with a Kasich nomination, viewing it as unimaginative compromise of Mr. Trump’s principles.

For Hillary Clinton:

  • U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) – Booker has been working Clinton’s campaign for months, and the social media savvy Booker brings a vast network of friends, followers and likes. He is an effective campaigner when he wants to be and a quick study when it comes to policy. Advantages: The smart, young senator has the potential to bring the Holy Grail to Clinton’s campaign: millennials. He also will spark enthusiasm among African-American, perhaps helping Clinton in swing states with growing African-American populations, including Virginia and North Carolina. Disadvantage: A Democrat from blue New Jersey brings little electoral advantage, geographically speaking.
  • U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) – Virginia’s governor is part of the comfortable establishment of the Democrat party. Advantages: Mr. Kaine has been elected by swing-state Virginians twice—first as governor, now as senator. He would also boost Clinton’s candidacy with white male independents over age 40. Disadvantages: The 58-year-old moderate would generate little love with the increasingly diverse millennial base of the Democratic party. Mr. Kaine’s policy expertise—he serves on the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees—is duplicative of Clinton’s.
  • U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) – The eminently popular—and populist—Ms. Warren would go a long way to bring Bernie Sanders’ supporters into Ms. Clinton’s fold. Advantages: Ms. Warren is viewed as being more “progressive�� or liberal than Ms. Clinton, which would help her close the enthusiasm gap within her base. Disadvantages: While many see nothing wrong with two men running for president and vice president, presumably some might object to two women (though these probably wouldn’t be the kind of folks that would support Clinton anyway). But a Massachusetts Democrat is as about as attractive electorally as a New Jersey Democrat (that is, not very). And Ms. Warren hasn’t endorsed Clinton, which must ruffle some Clintonian feathers.
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro – The charismatic Texan was elected mayor of San Antonio at age 30 and was then tapped by President Obama as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development—the youngest member to serve in President Obama’s cabinet. His twin brother Joaquin is a member of Congress. Advantages: Mr. Castro brings a trifecta to Clinton’s campaign: He has serious credibility within the Latino community (his mom was a founder of La Raza Unida, the political party of the 1970s Chicano movement). He is young (41) and appealing to millennials. He will help in many other states with large Latino (especially Mexican) populations, including Florida, New Mexico and California. Disadvantages: He hails from Texas, which with their 38 electoral votes, has consistently voted Republican in modern presidential elections. A favorite Latino son might be enough to kick Texas into the blue column in 2016, but it would be an uphill struggle.

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.

Brigid Callahan Harrison, Ph.D., is professor of political science and law at Montclair State University, where she teaches courses in American government. A frequent commentator on state and national politics, she is the author of five books on American politics. Like her on Facebook at Brigid Callahan Harrison. Follow her on Twitter @BriCalHar. The Veep Stakes: Who Is Up for the Second Spot in Each Party