SLU expert: contested convention could change 2016 VP selection process

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- Thanks in part to the rise of Donald Trump, the 2016 presidential election cycle has seen conventional wisdom and typical political strategy thrown out the window, and a St. Louis University professor who is nationally recognized for his study of the Presidency says the same thing may be said later this year about the selection of Vice-Presidential running mates.

(University of Kansas Press)
(University of Kansas Press)

Joel Goldstein is the author of several books on the Vice-Presidency and the executive branch and his latest work, The White House Vice Presidency, which tracks the evolution of the office from Walter Mondale to Joe Biden, was just released last week. In a review released by the publisher (University of Kansas Press), Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute said the role and scope of the office has changed dramatically over the last 40 years and that Goldstein  “provides important insights into presidential decision-making for every occupant of the office since Jimmy Carter. His book will be the definitive guide to the office of vice president and its modern history for a long time to come. ”

We asked Goldstein about what to expect between now and the fall when it comes to the VP selection process in an email interview:

FOX2: This campaign season seems to have thrown the traditional rules and conventional wisdom to the wind at every step. Are you ready for that to happen when it comes to the choices we see for Vice President in this year’s race?
JKG: Vice-presidential choice follows certain patterns but always involves some degree of variability because of the different political environment, options and selector involved each time.  Unique features in this year’s races in both parties may cause some bending of or departures from some of the normal patterns in one or both parties.
FOX2: How would a VP selection process be different if we end up with a contested convention? Does history tell us that a running mate is usually announced beforehand or could it all come together literally on the convention floor?
JKG: A contested convention could change vice-presidential selection in a number of ways, ranging from the choice being the product of a deal in which delegates are pledged in exchange for the VP nomination to compressing the time the ultimate nominee has to think about the vice presidency and consider prospective running mates.  For much of our history, the vice-presidential nominee was not chosen until after the presidential nomination was decided at the convention.  The Democrats, beginning in 1984, and the Republicans, beginning in 1996, have announced first-time vice -presidential candidates before the convention.
FOX2: Unity tickets never seem apparent in the thick of the primary season…Who do you see as the most likely “Unity” VP pick at this point?
JKG: Most vice-presidential choices are not apparent in March of the election year and this year is no exception.  On the Democratic side, most prospective vice-presidential candidates have endorsed Secretary Clinton so if she is the nominee it would seem unlikely that she would choose someone from Senator Sanders’s camp.  On the Republican side, the nasty quality of the presidential race so far might eliminate some of the most prominent candidates.  It’s hard to run with someone after you’ve each made the extremely disparaging comments various Republican candidates have made about each other this time.  People like Governor Kasich (if he’s not nominated) and Governor Haley would fit the normal profile of unity vice-presidential candidates on a Trump ticket whereas someone like Governor Christie might be a unity possibility for a Cruz or Kasich ticket (his endorsement of Mr. Trump would tend to reduce the chance that he would be seen as a “unity” running mate for him).  But they each may have other drawbacks which would argue against their selections.  Whereas most serious vice-presidential candidates have been open to the position in most recent elections it will be interesting to see whether that pattern will hold if Mr. Trump is the Republican nominee given the degree of opposition expressed to his nomination from many Republican officeholders.



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