This election cycle has seen a lot of candidates come and go — especially in the race for the Democratic nomination. At one point, there were 25 candidates! Today, we are down to two. What happens to some of the other candidates who drop out, though? Simple: they join the ultimate short list, the Veepstakes.
The supreme dream of redemption for every “also-ran” (and some obscure figures), the Veepstakes is an opportunity to share the ticket with the eventual nominee and remain in the race for the White House, because the East Wing is better than truly losing. Who do I think makes this year’s list? Some may surprise you, and others may not.
I should also note that, as of the March 15th debate, former vice president Joe Biden (as did, technically, Senator Bernie Sanders) vowed to choose a female running mate. As such, this list is reflective of their likely options.
Honorable Mention: Jay Inslee
Prior experience: Governor of Washington (2013-Present); U.S. Representative for Washington’s 1st District (1999–2012); U.S. Representative for Washington’s 4th District (1993–1995); Washington Representative from the 14th District (1989–1993)
Strengths: As a former state representative and congressman, Inslee has a wealth of legislative experience. His time as governor also gives him executive experience that qualify him for office should the president be incapacitated or removed. While all of this is good, Inslee’s greatest strength is his aforementioned “100 Percent Clean Energy for America Plan”, a $9 trillion climate change platform that keeps to its namesake. It inspired several candidates’ climate change plans and provides the closest framework to a Green New Deal that has been put forward by a Democratic candidate, something that is popular with their voters. He would also bring a very calming presence to the ticket, and would have a weirdly civil debate with Vice President Pence that may be more substantive than the Presidential debates.
Weaknesses: At 69 years old, Inslee is not that much younger than Biden (77), Sanders (78), or Trump (73). On top of this, he’s still a relatively obscure figure. Even in his home state, he’s not wildly popular: Morning Consult has his approval rating at just 44% even after his presidential bid.
Ideal running mate: Biden or Sanders. Inslee is not as high energy as either of the two remaining candidates. He would be able to safely relax and complement them both without compromising his image.
5) Elizabeth Warren
Prior experience: U.S. Senator from Massachusetts (2013-present); Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus (2017-Present); Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (2010–2011); Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel (2008–2010)
Strengths: Senator Warren is a sharp critic and debater, a solid policy wonk, and a powerful speaker. She can bring energy to a campaign as well as a sense of oversight and infrastructure to an administration. The senator is also more establishment than her persona lets on, making her a bridge between the moderate and progressive wings of the party.
Weaknesses: Warren came in 3rd place in the 2020 primary, but not by much. Despite polling well for a long time, she lost a lot of traction and, eventually, failed to win even her own state. Furthermore, her Medicare for All proposal seemingly backfired, and her wealth tax proposal is still unpopular.
Ideal running mate: Biden. Warren’s greatest asset is her ability to balance her progressive agenda with her establishment connections. She would best be able to do so as the running mate of the former vice president.
4) Stacey Abrams
Prior experience: Georgia Representative from the 89th District (2013–2017); Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives (2011–2017); Georgia Representative from the 84th District (2007–2013)
Strengths: As a gubernatorial candidate in 2018, former Georgia House Minority Leader Abrams was one of four candidates to gain a national profile. Her experience as House Minority Leader likely positions her as an effective legislator and leader, as well as someone with a bipartisan track record. At 46 years old, she’s also young enough to bring a fresh perspective to a new administration.
Weaknesses: As much experience as Abrams has, it has all been at the state level. She has a national profile, but not national experience. That may be a point of criticism for her. There’s also the fact that she, like her contemporaries Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum, ultimately lost her election in 2018. It’s a bit of a gamble to run a losing candidate, even one with as much charisma as hers.
Ideal running mate: Sanders. For Abrams to fully work as a running mate, she would need to run with a more progressive candidate. Sanders gives her the ability to remind people what made her an effective leader in her home state and bring that energy to the campaign trail and the White House.
3) Kamala Harris
Prior experience: U.S. Senator from California (2017-Present); Attorney General of California (2011–2017); District Attorney for San Francisco (2004–2011)
Strengths: Senator Harris is an expert lawyer and previously a 2020 candidate. With a national profile, she has a large enough platform to galvanize voters. She is also a fierce prosecutor, as evidenced by her performance during several Senate Judiciary hearings — especially during the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Weaknesses: Harris dropped out before the first vote was even cast, largely due to a failing campaign despite polling well and having a lot of donors. If she didn’t have the juice to even make the first contest, is she ready to be VP? Furthermore, she has issues with black voters, primarily stemming from her track record as a prosecutor and attorney general in California. This could potentially hurt her running mate.
Ideal running mate: Biden. Senator Harris is at her best as a prosecutor. With Biden as her running mate, she can safely bring that energy to the ticket.
2) Gretchen Whitmer
Prior experience: Governor of Michigan (2019-Ingham County Prosecutor (2016); Minority Leader of the Michigan Senate (2011–2015); Michigan Senator from the 23rd District (2006–2015); Michigan Representative (2001–2006)
Strengths: Whitmer was one of the benefactors of the 2018 midterms, winning the governorship by nearly double digits and turning the state blue. She was also selected to deliver the Democratic response to this year’s State of the Union address, showing some level of confidence from the party establishment. Whitmer also has legislative experience as a former Michigan representative and senator, as well as her role as minority leader in the Michigan Senate.
Weaknesses: As with other state-level candidates, Governor Whitmer is an obscure figure. She is also a first-term governor, making her a relatively new executive before jumping ship to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ideal running mate: Biden or Sanders. Governor Whitmer can hold her own in a debate and can deliver a solid speech, but she is also moderate enough to mesh with Biden or to boost Sanders.
1) Amy Klobuchar
Prior experience: U.S. Senator from Minnesota (2007-Present); Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee (2017-Present); County Attorney of Hennepin County (1999–2007)l
Strengths: As Minnesota’s first elected female U.S. Senator, Klobuchar has the distinction of being one of the most popular in the Senate (ranked #7 at 56%, per Morning Consult). As a 2020 candidate, she placed well in New Hampshire before suspending her campaign. Klobuchar also sits on numerous committees and is well versed in the procedures, equipping her with the knowledge and experience to run the Senate as is the job of the Vice President.
Weaknesses: Despite her best efforts, Senator Klobuchar did not fair very well in the 2020 nomination, winning only 7 delegates before bowing out. While she’s likely to be helpful in the mid-west, Biden won those states handily in the primary — meaning she may not be as helpful as she could be.
Ideal running mate: Biden or Sanders. Klobuchar could work surprisingly well for either. With the former, she solidifies a moderate approach to governing and provides a Midwestern perspective. For the latter, she helps his campaign appeal more to moderate and independent voters.
Obviously, I have no idea who the vice presidential nominee will be. For all I know, it could be Representative Tulsi Gabbard. Still, whomever winds up being chosen will need to complement the winner of the primary. We will find out in June!