Who should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate?

Who should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate?
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Some Democratic Party insiders and observers want presumptive presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Teachers face off against Trump on school reopenings Biden wins Puerto Rico primary MORE to select a 2020 rival as a running mate, such as Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), or Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Others are pushing for lesser-known officials like Congresswoman Val Demings (R-Fla.). Biden, himself, has hyped the V.P. qualifications of Democratic New Hampshire Senators Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' probe report MORE and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSenators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Livestreaming service Twitch suspends Trump account | Reddit updates hate speech policy, bans subreddits including The_Donald | India bans TikTok Senators move to boost state and local cybersecurity as part of annual defense bill MORE, former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, and former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesHow conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide Showtime miniseries to feature Jeff Daniels as Comey, Brendan Gleeson as Trump Top FBI lawyer resigns MORE.

Whoever is picked, we know from the last debate that she will be only the third female major-party vice presidential candidate in U.S. history.

So who should it be? Let’s see if recent history offers clues. There have been 12 presidential elections since 1972, the start of the modern presidential nominating system. Of the 24 major-party vice presidential candidates during this span, seven (29 percent) were incumbents running for re-election — for example, Biden in 2012.

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Another 13 vice presidential candidates (54 percent) were plucked from outside the presidential nominating process; in other words, they had not competed against the nominee. Since 1972, three pairs of national-stage newcomers have faced off; for example, one pair was Senator Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineFinger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (D-Va.) and Governor Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceUS testing official: 'Dr. Fauci is not 100 percent right' Pence says decision on removing Confederate statues should be made locally The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Justices rule Manhattan prosecutor, but not Congress, can have Trump tax records MORE (R-Ind.). Six of the other seven times when one ticket featured a V.P. outsider and the other did not, the ticket with the V.P outsider lost: Sargent Shriver (1972), Bob Dole (1976), Geraldine Ferraro (1984), Jack Kemp (1996), Sarah Palin (2008), and Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world MORE (2012).

The exception was Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreIntroducing the 'Great Reset,' world leaders' radical plan to transform the economy The 'blue wall' is reforming in the Rust Belt CNN coronavirus town hall to feature science author David Quammen, 'Empire' actress Taraji Henson MORE in 1992, which actually makes sense since Gore had established himself as a national candidate while running for president four years earlier.

Only four V.P. contenders (just under 17 percent) competed against their eventual running mate: Mondale against Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterJimmy, Rosalynn Carter implore public to 'wear a mask to save lives' How Trump can get his mojo back Voting can seem irrational — but you should do it anyway MORE in 1976, George H. Bush against Ronald Reagan in 1980, John Edwards against John KerryJohn Forbes KerryWe haven't seen how low it can go OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Sanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 | Park Police did not record radio transmissions during June 1 sweep of White House protesters | Court upholds protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears Biden-Sanders 'unity task force' rolls out platform recommendations MORE in 2004, and Biden against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump defends golf outings: It's my 'exercise' How Trump can get his mojo back Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm MORE in 2008. In two of these cases (Mondale and Biden), the candidate withdrew from the presidential race before the start of the caucus/primary season — and in Mondale’s case, more than a year beforehand.

It can be argued that selecting a vanquished opponent is good for the party, as it has the potential to unite disparate factions behind a common goal: winning in November. Tickets comprised of recent adversaries have been, at minimum, moderately scrutinized by the public, and in some cases (1980’s extended, the contentious battle between Reagan and Bush) thoroughly scrutinized. One of the biggest unknowns is how they will unify after trading barbs for months or a year or longer, which might be why Reagan-Bush remains the only example in the past 50 years of fierce electoral rivals joining forces.

And that highlights the biggest risk to choosing an adversary. It’s not just about two politicians learning how to walk and talk in lock-step. It’s also about whether voters buy into their partnership. 

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There is no right answer to “Who should join the Democratic ticket?” But maybe that’s not the right question. A vice presidential pick is not just a name or a voting record or policy statements. This person is being tapped to round out a story—a narrative that expresses, in simple terms, why this ticket deserves to win. A battle-tested, nationally recognized V.P. candidate might sound pretty good. But a battle-tested nationally recognized V.P. candidate who reflects the campaign’s core convictions and convincingly conveys its messaging . . . that sounds even better.

Why Biden? Why now? And what will this mean for America?

If Democrats cannot answer these questions, then it doesn’t matter who Biden picks.

B.J. Rudell is associate director of Polis: Duke University’s Center for Politics, part of the Sanford School of Public Policy. In a career encompassing stints on Capitol Hill, on a presidential campaign, in a newsroom, in classrooms, and for a consulting firm, he has authored three books and has shared political insights across all media platforms, including for CNN and Fox News.