From July 25th-28th, the Democratic National Convention will meet in Philadelphia and most likely, nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) for president. Sometime in the next 11 weeks, Vice Presidential candidates will announced for both the Democrats and Republicans. This pick could either sink or buoy Clinton’s campaign, being much more crucial than it is for Donald Trump (R-NY) and the GOP.
The simpler situation is in the Republican party. Trump has stated before that his VP will be someone with legislative and government experience, removing former presidential nominees Ben Carson (R-VA) and Carly Fiorina (R-VA). The remaining candidates will be closer to the GOP establishment and more likely to unify the party. Trump has said that the list is down to five or six, including governor Chris Christie (R-NJ). Trump’s vice presidential candidate will be someone who appears more moderate but also will ease the tensions within the party. This can be done with a number of candidates, but the inclusion of Christie in the list gives the public a blueprint of what way he is leaning. Trump has captured the attention and trust of the Republican electorate, while his VP will have the trust of the establishment.
Clinton’s choice is much more crucial to her campaign. The field of Democrats who have garnered national attention is much slimmer than the Republicans. Lawrence Lessig (D-MA) couldn’t get into a debate. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Lincoln Chaffee (D-RI) never made it to a primary or caucus. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) only made it through the Iowa Caucus. For the last three months, the only names have been Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders supporters have been drawn to him for his democratic socialist agenda, a distrust of the establishment party mirroring the Republicans, and a distrust and dislike of Clinton. These factors have nearly evenly divided the Democratic Party, creating an identity crisis.
It is this identity crisis that shows that Clinton cannot take the same tactic as Trump in her vice presidential nominee. She needs a Sanders Democrat, not a party hard-liner to accompany her. Selecting an establishment candidate who has strong ties to Wall St, like herself, will take the enthusiasm out of the Democratic ticket from the populace. She needs to Democratic base to turnout. Selecting the “wrong” candidate could turn Sanders supporters against her, as some are very prone to do. The Sanders and Trump campaigns are similar, in energizing disaffected populations with calls to end economic struggles. Both are new to their respective parties, and are viewed as outsiders, which is drawing votes this election cycle. It is not unreasonable, despite huge disparities in policy, that voters could switch from Sanders to Trump, or simply not vote if a Sanders Democrat isn’t the VP nominee.
With limited name recognition among Democrats, the Clinton campaign has a tough task ahead of them. They can select a relatively unknown politician to take the spot, then have to prove to the voters of their trustworthiness. If that were the case, Clinton needs to announce her nominee well before the convention. As the Sanders example displays, building credibility could take months, and that may not be time that the Clinton campaign has. There are a handful of names who have recognition and credibility with Sanders supporters like Bernie, himself, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Corey Booker (D-NJ), but the likelihood of them accepting the nomination may be slim.
With historically low approval ratings for leading presidential candidates, the importance of the VP selection has become magnified. Donald Trump will have a much easier task than Hillary Clinton at finding a candidate who helps rather than hurts the campaign.