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 BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill 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 ShaheenKoch-backed group launches 7-figure ad blitz opposing .5T bill Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it MORE and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanKoch-backed group launches 7-figure ad blitz opposing .5T bill Overnight Hillicon Valley — Majority supports national data privacy standards, poll finds Senator calls on agencies to take action to prevent criminal cryptocurrency use MORE, former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, and former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: I never thought that I'd be saying, 'Yeah, go Liz Cheney' ABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult 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 KainePanic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B Democrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' MORE (D-Va.) and Governor Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence says he hopes conservative majority on Supreme Court will restrict abortion access Federal judge to hear case of Proud Boy alleged Jan. 6 rioter seeking release from jail The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit 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 RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (2012).

The exception was Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreTrump's election fraud claims pose risks for GOP in midterms Don't 'misunderestimate' George W. Bush Why the pro-choice movement must go on the offensive 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 CarterMeghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden America needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Afghanistan and the lessons that history does not offer MORE in 1976, George H. Bush against Ronald Reagan in 1980, John Edwards against John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies Kerry: 'We can't get where we need to go' in climate fight if China isn't joining in MORE in 2004, and Biden against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy 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.