In the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, only Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have assembled potentially winning campaigns. Joe Biden’s candidacy was floated over the weekend, but even his backers could not explain what he brings that Clinton and Sanders lack (Biden’s name was seemingly brought into the race to lessen any hurt feelings about his exclusion rather than as the start of a real campaign).
The field of likely Democratic presidential nominees is very small, and so is the supply of potential running mates. Who might it be?
Young and Non-White
Balancing a Democratic ticket headed by Clinton, Sanders or Biden calls out for a young, non-white running mate. HUD Secretary and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro seems the obvious choice. A Latino with a great personal life story, Castro is also a polished speaker with allies across the country.
Castro will be 42 at the time of the 2016 election. That’s a year older than Dan Quayle when George H. W. Bush picked him in 1988. John Kennedy was elected President at 43, so 42 is not “too young” for a potential president.
While I think Castro is the best choice, others are less enthusiastic. They believe he lacks national stature, with his position at HUD not seen as a platform for political advancement. They argue Castro won’t help Democrats win Texas, and that Latinos will overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic ticket whether Castro is included or not.
They also argue that while Bush won in 1988, Quayle could have cost him the election had Democrat Mike Dukakis not run such a poor campaign (Lloyd Bentsen’t debate takedown of Quayle—“Jack Kennedy was my friend and you are no Jack Kennedy”–remains a classic). Castro is light years ahead of Quayle intellectually, but his lack of experience may cause doubts.
If Castro is not the choice, what other young and non-white VP nominees are in the mix?
For a party whose victories in national elections depend on African-American and Latino votes, its only Senator or Governor from either group is Cory Booker (D-NJ). In addition to other factors that would make his selection controversial among teachers unions and organized labor, Booker fails to bring the geographic balance that a Clinton, Sanders or Biden would seek.
So if Democrats want to go young and non-white, Julian Castro has the field to himself.
Young, White and Charismatic
If Castro is not the choice, the VP nominee will have to be young, white, charismatic, and bring something to the ticket While former Maryland Governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley hoped to fill this role, the problems in Baltimore ended his chances (and in case you like O’Malley, realize he is the model for the duplicitous mayor in The Wire).
Unfortunately, not a single Democratic Governor fits the bill. The Governor that would likely bring the most to the ticket is Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, but while he might ensure Colorado goes blue he is not young and has no national exposure.
Nor is there an obvious Senate choice. The best Senate match for Hillary Clinton would be labor favorite Sherrod Brown of swing-state Ohio, but he will be turning 64 soon after Election Day 2016.
Virginia’s Tim Kaine will be 58, and is likely the second most talked about choice after Castro given his ability to keep Virginia blue in 2016. But “charismatic” is not a term associated with Kaine.
Grassroots favorite Elizabeth Warren is too similar to Sanders, and Clinton is not going to pick a female VP. Biden, who turns 74 in Nov. 2016, would also seek a younger match.
The political blowouts of 2010 and 2014 decimated the Democratic Party’s national bench. This increases Castro’s chances of becoming the first Latino on a national political ticket of one of the two major parties.