Vice President John Nance Garner famously opined that his office wasn’t worth a “bucket of warm spit.” Watching the events of this unusual election and the selection of both Governor Pence and Senator Kaine as running mates to Trump and Clinton, it is clear that the office has evolved far beyond that old characterization. The personal and professional baggage of both presidential nominees will force a further evolution of the office regardless of who wins.
Gone are the days when Harry Truman had to be convinced by Roosevelt himself to join the ticket in 1944. Keep in mind, he didn’t need convincing because he had a big problem with the President. He just didn’t think it was the best move. The two would only meet a handful of times before FDR’s death forced the former Kansas Senator behind the Resolute Desk during the climax of WWII. In fact, we didn’t even have a Vice President between November 22, 1963 and January 20, 1965. It didn’t seem to matter much to anyone.
There’s a reason why no Vice President until George H. W. Bush had ascended to the presidency absent the death of the President since Martin Van Buren. It’s just not viewed by the public as an office critical to the operations of government.
Since the 1940s ,Vice Presidents like Nixon, Humphrey and Cheney have certainly held important roles in shaping presidential Administrations. Even “Uncle Joe” Biden was an important voice for a President he once charged was too inexperienced to be qualified for the White House. But it will be Pence or Kaine who will complete the evolution of the office, making it an indispensable institution both politically and substantively for White House Administrations. Significant deficiencies at the top of each ticket this year will necessitate the completion of this evolution. Each man brings significant heft to the ticket and will likely play key roles if their respective running mate wins in November.
Governor Mike Pence is the steady, experienced hand Donald Trump needed on the ticket. Should Trump win the White House, it would be malpractice for the New York billionaire to ignore Pence’s counsel. Trump’s three biggest challenges are lack of government experience, a lack of message discipline and a perception of erratic temperament generally.
It’s worth noting that voters thus far don’t seem to mind much about each of those challenges, but winning the primary and winning the general election require two different approaches. When the time comes to pull the lever, these perceived deficiencies will be weighed against Trump’s significant proven appeal for being an outsider willing to be tough and bold. Overall, Trump needs to convince voters they should be confident in his leadership ability. Pence’s role will be the first proof for many of that ability. Later, a broader array of advisers including potentially Gingrich, Christie, Giuliani and other more experienced hands will need to reinforce that perception.
Mike Pence brings to Trump-world significant Washington experience that includes chairing the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He knows the halls of power and was largely well regarded in Beltway circles, particularly among conservatives. Pence is a self-made man from a Rust Belt state who worked in public policy and media before heading to Congress and later winning the Governorship of Indiana. This is a sharp contrast to varied perceptions and realities that Trump has lived in a bubble of privilege for his entire life.
He’s been a reliable conservative who can provide confidence to the Values Voters crowd. Governor Pence also has an economic record of cutting taxes and creating jobs that Democrats quietly acknowledge is impressive and hard to argue against. Should Trump use Pence on the stump to aggressively tout a pro-growth economic strategy to strengthen the middle class, he’d have the credibility of having put the numbers up on the board in Indiana.
On the Democratic side, Senator Tim Kaine has the potential to be many of the things Hillary Clinton is not – and quite possibly cannot be – in the eyes of the voters. For one, he’s likable. After talking to people who deal with Kaine in Washington and Virginia on both sides of the aisle, the consensus is that whether they agree with him on policy or not, he’s a nice guy. One of Clinton’s biggest flaws is that she’s perceived as cold, calculating, distant, fake and un-relatable. In a second Clinton Presidency, look to Kaine to work with Capitol Hill and bring a softer touch to Hillary’s well-known course language and divisive behavior.
Despite President Obama’s dubious and hyperbolic claim that Hillary Clinton is more qualified than anyone to ever seek the Presidency, Kaine is also more experienced than the top of his ticket. Tim Kaine has been a Mayor, Lt. Governor, Governor, National Party Chairman and U.S. Senator. He’s running with a nominee who was asked last year about her accomplishments in government and had trouble naming three.
While Kaine fits the first requirement of any Vice Presidential nominee, “do no harm,” and is considered a personality that won’t outshine Mrs. Clinton, he brings a depth and reputation for being a moderate that can be a benefit to attracting a broad array of voters.
Kaine is also Catholic. The Vice Presidency seems to be a glass ceiling for Catholics these days but regardless, his attendance of Catholic schools, time spent as a missionary, and willingness to use faith themes in his public life, if used effectively can give Clinton greater access to powerful faith-based voter segments increasingly alienated by the secular Obama White House. After all, most Americans won’t know that the DNC stripped faith-based initiatives from its platform this year. Kaine’s amiable way could provide great cover.
The Democratic National Convention has been all about making Clinton relatable, likable, authentic and trustworthy. It’s a tall order. While Clinton is expected to win Latino voters handily in the fall, trustworthiness and authenticity are critical to hold established, moderate Latino voters. Spanish-speaking, regular ‘Joe’ Tim Kaine is a far better messenger.
The job that’s a mere heartbeat away from the Oval Office has finally come into its own, giving Americans at least some hope that despite majorities disliking their choices this year, they can know the ‘number two’ is ready to influence, impact and lead if necessary. With the conventions over and the next Vice President introduced to the electorate, it wouldn’t be surprising if voters secretly wished the tickets were flipped.
This article was written by Tom Basile from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.