The November presidential election might sound far-off, however it’s time for the veepstakes – already. You understand, that favourite sport of pundits, politicos and political junkies who, each 4 years, obsess over the presidential candidates’ alternative for vp.

In fact, most states haven’t but held their presidential main or caucus. And nominations gained’t be made official till the summer season Democratic and Republican conventions.

However with President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on observe to win their celebration’s nominations, media headlines are already turning to the veepstakes. Who will Trump pick for vice president? Did he actually ask Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to be his operating mate? Will Biden drop Vice President Kamala Harris from the Democratic ticket?

As a political scientist who has studied veepstakes media coverage, I counsel anybody following the vice presidential race to take all of this feverish hypothesis with a grain of salt.

You’ll hear within the hypothesis, for instance, that vice presidents don’t actually matter as soon as in workplace and that the vp choose must be somebody who will help win the election by delivering a key state or voting bloc.

However what issues most to voters, in line with my analysis, and to the way forward for this nation is discovering somebody who’s properly certified to function vp – and president, if crucial.

Joe Biden wears a dark suit and holds hands with Kamala Harris, also wearing a dark blazer, and standing next to her husband, Doug Emhoff. They stand in front of a podium and American flags.

President Joe Biden holds fingers with Vice President Kamala Harris at a reception for Black Historical past Month on Feb. 6, 2024, on the White Home.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

What the media get unsuitable

Veepstakes media protection deserves its poor fame as little greater than an electoral parlor sport. Too dangerous: Given the vice presidency’s significance and the media’s alternative to coach People about who might be subsequent to serve within the workplace, it needs to be a lot greater than that. That is the conclusion from my 2023 guide, “News Media Coverage of the Vice-Presidential Selection Process: What’s Wrong with the ‘Veepstakes?’”

I used knowledge from presidential elections from 2000 by 2020 to conduct the primary systematic evaluation of veepstakes media protection. For every aggressive vice presidential choice course of throughout that point – 5 for Democrats, 4 for Republicans – I studied 10 “veepstakes guides.”

This implies articles or different information options from main media shops, akin to The New York Occasions, CNN and Fox Information, profiling quite a few vice presidential contenders. Usually, these profiles break down the perceived advantages and disadvantages related to selecting a sure candidate.

Journalists and their editors determine which standards to contemplate when making these evaluations. This enables me to characterize the media’s messages about what’s essential when choosing a vice presidential candidate.

So, if 75% of the profiles of potential Democratic operating mates in 2020 talked about age, however solely 40% talked about political expertise, I’d conclude that media protection, on the whole, portrayed age as a extra related choice criterion than expertise.

What does the proof present?

Veepstakes media protection tends to concentrate on whether or not a possible operating mate can help win the election – not on who will help the president govern as soon as in workplace.

From 2000-2016, for instance, 73% of the vice presidential candidate profiles referenced the candidate’s house state, race, age, gender or social class as a cause to pick out or reject them.

Whether or not a candidate was certified to serve within the White Home attracted a lot much less consideration. Simply half as many veepstakes profiles – roughly 38% – mentioned the candidates’ political expertise, working relationship with the presidential candidate or, extra typically, whether or not they had been as much as the job of being vp or president.

In actual fact, I discovered that journalists usually tend to talk about a possible operating mate’s physical appearance than whether or not she or he is certified to function vp.

A possible vice presidential candidate’s political or skilled expertise will get even much less media protection within the run-up to a detailed election. Solely when the end result looks like a foregone conclusion do journalists spend about as a lot time weighing a possible operating mate’s governing capacities as their electoral enchantment. Selecting a well-qualified vp is handled as a luxurious that just some presidential candidates can afford.

Protection across the 2024 GOP vice presidential choose is simply heating up. However sadly, I believe the nation is prone to see the identical sort of veepstakes protection in 2024 as in earlier elections: fevered hypothesis about who can ship an election victory, with some occasional commentary on who can serve successfully as vp.

A white middle aged woman with dark hair wears a sleeveless dress and presses her face up against Donald Trump, seen only from the behind. He wears a navy blue jacket.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, seen right here with former President Donald Trump in September 2023, has additionally been floated as a possible vice presidential choose.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Learn how to get it proper

The issue with veepstakes media protection, typically talking, is that it overstates the vice presidential candidate’s affect on voters and understates the significance of electing a properly certified vp.

Vice presidents have little in the way in which of formal, constitutional powers. They break ties within the Senate. And in what was once a easy ceremonial operate, in addition they open and count the states’ electoral votes after a presidential election.

They’re additionally first in line to take over as president, if crucial.

However over the previous half-century, vice presidents have gained quite a lot of informal power, too. In most administrations, they function high presidential advisers who play key roles in lots of main selections. It’s due to this fact essential for presidential candidates to decide on a operating mate who will help them govern as soon as in workplace.

Selecting a well-qualified operating mate can also be a great electoral technique. My co-author, Kyle C. Kopko, and I exhibit this in our 2020 guide, “Do Running Mates Matter? The Influence of Vice Presidential Candidates in Presidential Elections.” Voters reward presidential candidates for choosing somebody with the expertise essential to function vp by extra favorably ranking their judgment and delivering larger assist on the polls.

The other is true when choosing a less-experienced or poorly certified vp in a determined bid for votes – suppose Sarah Palin, in 2008. That technique backfires.

In brief, operating mates largely have an oblique impact on how folks vote by influencing what they consider the presidential candidates. Hardly ever does the selection of a vp have direct or focused results on voting. That’s to say, only a few folks change their vote just because they just like the vp or come from the identical state or demographic group.

The media’s position

A free press is important to democracy within the U.S. Amongst different issues, it could actually serve the American folks – to not point out presidential campaigns – by serving to to supply related details about contenders for the vice presidency earlier than they be part of a celebration ticket or get elected to workplace.

Informative information articles can present solutions to crucial questions: What are the potential operating mate’s {qualifications}? What strengths will she or he convey to the White Home? If elected, would the brand new president and vp work properly collectively?

My analysis means that that is the usual to which journalists and their audiences ought to aspire as they enter the veepstakes season. It is a consequential alternative that requires critical, substantive evaluation. You possibly can take note of those that deal with it as such – and ignore those that don’t.


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