Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Audacity Of Dopes: Aspirations of a Vice-President

At this point, it's safe to say that Hillary Clinton is not going to be the vice-presidential pick for the Democratic Party. That's probably good for all concerned. Over at Gawker, Nick Denton says that's especially good for Clinton because the Veep slot is a "political dead end."

O RLY? Certainly, becoming vice-president is no guarantee of ascending to the throne, but as positions go, it seems to be better than most other options. Fact is, this election is unique because someone from the Senate has to win the election, and lately, that's been a hard row to hoe. Americans have, of late, settled on managerial acumen as a preferred trait in their President, and the vagaries of having a long Senate career that encompasses numerous confrontations with the same sorts of issues, adjusted for the current mood/wants of the electorate, makes a Senator especially prone to being tagged with the "flip-flop" brand. Governors have fared pretty well, of late. As have vice-presidents.

Anyway, Denton builds a lengthy case but the logic that underpins it makes no sense. He provides a long list of vice-presidential nominees that failed to become President, such as Ed Muskie and Curtis LeMay and Thomas Eagleton And Sargent Shriver. But in all these cases, they weren't able to parlay the vice-presidential bid into a presidency because they never ascended to the vice-presidency in the first place.

After that, Denton gives you a list of those who did make it to the two-spot: Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Spiro Agnew, Walter Mondale, George H. W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney. But among those names, I count three that won (Nixon, Johnson, Bush) and three that lost (Humphrey, Mondale, Gore). Agnew's various scandals kept him from pursuing his presidential ambitions. Quayle ran for President briefly, but withdrew early because of some illness (phlebitis, I think?). And Cheney doesn't need to run for President, because he already has Cthulhu encased in one of his man-sized safes.

So, in terms of Veeps who made full throated attempts at the Presidency, I count three that won and three that lost. I suppose we could really split hairs and toss Quayle in the "losing" column, but I don't think that suggesting that Quayle's holding of the VP office was truly the major deficit that ran against his short-lived presidential hopes. So, basically, if you become vice-president, your odds of being president are about fifty-fifty--unless you don't run for the office, in which case you odds, predictably, decline. Those are pretty good odds, actually.

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