By Amrit Singh
Some say securing a nomination for Vice President is a decorous honor, that it is a reflection of a well-spent political life, and a step toward the estimable role of presiding over the Senate, getting to roll through the White House at all hours, and taking over the @VP Twitter handle. Others would say it's a toothless position with little tangible power, and is of real consequence only during election season, when the VP can become a marketable asset for the President-to-be to better sell him- (or her!) self to the public. (If you've been watching HBO's Veep, then you have lived through Julia Louis-Dreyfus' existential pain on these fronts. And many more.)
Once you get past the basic requirements for being VP (i.e. being worthy and eligible of sitting one heartbeat away from the highest office in the world), Vice Presidents are chosen for any of three primary reasons: 1) They can help carry a swing stage (like Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania, or, notably, Virginia); 2) they somehow enhance the President's profile (they are bold where the other is meek, experienced where the other is not, black when the other is white, whips when the other dabs, etc.); or 3) they possess the ability to get out there and campaign like a bulldog, litigating the case for the President on the trail with zealous fervor. Hillary is on the record saying she wants someone who is fully prepared, and with whom she feels some sense of camaraderie. And we should get this out of the way now, dear Berners: Senator Sanders is not being vetted by the campaign for the position. The major narrative around him this month will be when, or if, he endorses HRC. (According to Joe Biden, possibly speaking out of class, it's a when, not an if.)
Now, whatever your take on the Vice Presidency, the time to identify the top candidates for the job has come. July is upon us, and with it, each party's big National Conventions. The Republicans will go first, in Cleveland, starting July 15th, followed by the Democrats in Philly the following week. And when both are completed, we will have official nominees for the Presidency and Vice Presidency of each party. The campaigns are vetting various choices, so today, let's put on our Democratic hats and think about who they're likely eyeballing. We’ll begin with the most exciting (Elizabeth Warren) and end with the most likely (Tim Kaine), with the others in between.
ELIZABETH WARREN (Senator, Massachusetts)
A populist rabble-rouser par excellence with a preternatural gift for getting under Donald Trump's skin, Elizabeth Warren is a popular, if unlikely, possibility to be HRC's running mate. In a season where the left has lurched toward progressive ideals like rectifying the nation's vast economic inequities, Warren is the most prominent champion of such issues outside of a certain Vermont Senator named Bernie. So, she would give Hillary cred in a relatively weak area for her (convincing the 99 percent that she, a member of the 1 percent with incredible speaking fees, feels their pain). Warren is from Massachusetts, a solidly Democratic state, so not much help on the "swing state" criteria. But on the demographic front, Warren would help bring some upset Bernie supporters back into the Democratic fold. Also, she's smart (a former Harvard Law professor, which is pretty, pretty good). And she's a she. Is the country ready for an all-female ticket? On one hand, Hillary will likely do pretty well against Trump with women already, so she wouldn't gain too much on the gender front. That said, two ladies on the ticket would represent change in a change-oriented political season. And at a recent campaign rally the two displayed some remarkable chemistry, despite Warren's history of criticizing Hillary and their allegedly frosty relations. There are other perhaps stronger candidates, but none quite this exciting.
JULIAN CASTRO (Secretary, Housing and Urban Development)
Forty-one-year old Julian Castro is the young and telegenic Latino who presently sits as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. His name comes up all the time in talks about VP because he's a young and telegenic Latino, and this is a valuable asset given the growing Hispanic demographic in the country and the Democrats' hope to consolidate Latino support on the back of Trump's immigration and Mexican border policy. Weighing against Castro is the fact that the highest elected office he's held to date is as Mayor of San Antonio, and without any real foreign policy experience, he may not pass the one-heartbeat-away test. And as we know, Hillary wants camaraderie with her running mate, but as of one year ago, Castro and Clinton didn't really have much of a relationship. Also, he may not help with the Hispanic vote as much as you'd think. According to a Clinton aide, "Tim Kaine speaks Spanish much better than Castro does." So this one looks like it may be a long shot. Still, it’s worth getting to know Julian: Veep or not, he's a rising star, and likely to factor heavily into the optics and staging of the DNC.
TOM PEREZ (Secretary, Labor Department)
A longshot, but worth knowing: Tom Perez is the present Labor Secretary, and the man has a long and distinguished track record of progressivism working at the Justice Department on voting rights and other civil rights issues. He's Dominican, a good speaker, bilingual, and his work has made him popular with African-Americans. Against him is his lack of foreign policy experience, and the fact that he's not particularly well known or young or attached to a necessary geographical region.
XAVIER BECCERA (Representative, California)
The California Representative has some things in his favor: He's the highest ranking Hispanic legislator in the country (the no. 4 ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, where he's served for 24 years), he's eloquent in Spanish and English, he's good on camera, he has a sterling reputation ("totally an Eagle scout," he’s called in this NYT article) he's been campaigning for Hillary relentlessly, and and he's taking it to Trump in an incisive way. Of the other Hispanics in the Veepstakes (Lopez and Castro), it's said that Beccera is the most likely to turn out the Hispanic vote due to his popularity. That said, he's from California, which is a solidly Democratic state, and if Hillary needs specific demographic help, it's with white men. Xavier's got the goods, but maybe the wrong demographics.
SHERROD BROWN (Senator, Ohio)
While Castro is 41 years old, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has been in politics for 41 years. The veteran is known for his progressivism and his everyman Midwestern sensibility (he's a baseball nut, America), and, yes let's say it, he's a white male. He's smart (a Yale grad), ambitious (he became a state Representative at the age of 22), and literally an Eagle scout (take that, Beccera!). His signature issue is trade, and as a vocal critic of the international trade agreements that Bernie and Trump both lambast to popular effect, he could bring some heft to Clinton here (especially since her husband, Bill, signed the biggest of them all into existence with NAFTA). Against this scenario: Brown has a history of saying very liberal things, which would put him at a disadvantage when it comes to Clinton wooing swing voters and moderates. And here's some real inside-baseball for you: If Brown were to vacate his seat in the Senate, he'd likely be replaced by a Republican, so you can bet key Democrats like Harry Reid are going to fight against Clinton drafting Brown with all he's got. Timing is everything, Sherrod.
CORY BOOKER (Senator, New Jersey)
The African-American media darling is social media savvy and a talk show fixture, and while Hillary doesn't want to be outdone by her VP, she also could use all the charisma on her ticket that she can get. ("I’m careful with my words," she says.) The knock on Cory: He's not a (wait for it) white male, and he'd stand to help Clinton in areas she's probably already going to do pretty well with (blacks and Northeasaterners). Still, you can't knock Booker's brand-hustle or the "change"-based multiculturalism he'd bring to the ticket, and he's been campaigning for the job pretty hard at Hillary's side. Charm is a powerful thing.
TIM KAINE (Senator, Virginia)
Perhaps the most qualified, and the least exciting, is Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. Actually, I should say he's the most boring, because that's what he himself said to Meet The Press' Chuck Todd last weekend. ("But boring people are the fastest growing demographic in society," he quipped afterward, which was very good for the demographic of Dad-joke lovers nationwide.) Kaine is highly qualified by all of our measures: He speaks Spanish (a multicultural plus), he's from a swing-state (ding ding ding!), and as a white-male, he helps her in a demographic Trump will thrive with, i.e. white males. He's a friend of Obama's and reportedly admired in the White House. The knocks against him: Well, he's boring! And that means he won't excite the progressive left of the Democratic base that Sanders whipped up and presently has no home. So, hmm. Clinton-Kaine. Does it have a ring to it? With both politicians having a self-professesed history for moderate liberalism, maybe they could slogan with "A vote to stay sane with Clinton-Kane." Just maybe.
@FactsOnly is a weekly column and television segment written and hosted by REVOLT's Chief Political Correspondent Amrit Singh. He's on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, if you are social media savvy like Cory Booker and looking for more folks to follow.