No discussion about possible presidential nominees gets far without the words "vice president" turning up. John Edwards doesn't seem quite up to the task of beating Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but how about nominating him for vice president again (as in 2004)? Or, if Clinton is the nominee, might she feel obligated to name Obama instead (or vice versa)? And, over on the Republican side, if McCain gets the Republican nomination, who should be his running mate? One may wonder whether Mitt Romney, or even Rudy Giuliani, would be willing to accept the second spot; and anyway having two white males on the ticket might seem too much of a muchness in 2008, especially if the Democrats are adventuresome. But how about Condoleezza Rice?
Don't kid yourself that the vice presidency is too trivial a post to contend for, however much a person may claim to spurn it. The average politician would kill for a chance at it. Serving four years in supremely comfortable surroundings while just one heartbeat from the presidency is the ultimate dream job. For one thing, its sheer prominence laid the foundation for five vice presidents to go on to the presidency. And the death of the president, through ill health, an assassin's bullet or resignation put nine others in the Oval Office without even having to run for it. Added together, that's a third of America's presidents. It's true that some people (like Romney and Giuliani, mentioned above) have held political positions so high, or acquired reputations so formidable, that the vice presidential nomination might at first seem too trivial for them to consider. But you can be sure that even they would think long and hard before declining the offer.
The first impulse, in considering who should receive the vice presidential nomination, is usually a sentimental inclination to choose the big loser for the top spot. Thus, as noted above, if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, Obama springs immediately to mind for the vice presidency. Similarly, if McCain is the Republican choice, his chief rival -- Romney, say -- will be touted for second place. But these automatic reactions don't necessarily prevail. Would the Democrats, having scored a first by nominating a woman for the presidency, be eager to double their bet on novelty by naming an African-American for the vice presidency? Or would they be wiser to pick a more conventional choice, like Edwards or Bill Richardson? The Republicans, conversely, if they name McCain or Romney for the presidency, may be on the lookout for a more original selection for vice president -- perhaps Rice, as suggested above.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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