Vice Presidential Candidates Can Break -- But Not Make -- a Campaign

geraldine ferraroI was a few years shy of voting age when Geraldine Ferraro was the vice presidential candidate running with Walter Mondale. I remember being in awe and actually following the news reports when my dad sat down to watch the 6:00 evening news after work. Back then the news was not 24/7, and watching the nightly news was a ritual in many homes across America. New stories were fodder for dinner conversation, and the articles in weekly news magazines were the topic of discussion in government and civics classes. I followed it all through the pages of Time and Newsweek. I was intrigued seeing a woman sharing the stage with a presidential candidate. I had enough high school history to know that this was an historic moment. If I could have voted then, I would have surely cast my ballot for Mondale/Ferraro.


Fast-forward 20-some years, and we saw another female vice presidential candidate -- Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin represented the antithesis of Geraldine Ferraro’s position. Ferraro spent her career as a teacher, a lawyer, an author, and a member of the House of Representatives (not that she didn’t have her flaws and bruised reputation). She devoted her energy to advocating for women in domestic abuse situations and to bring wage parity to the workplace. Palin and Ferraro shared inexperience, but their presidential running mates supported them and took the risk. Mondale lost the election by a landslide, and in my estimation, he would have with or without Ferraro on the ticket. I think John McCain lost in large part due to his choice of running mate. Sarah Palin was a divisive, explosive running mate whom people either admired or loathed. In the end, she alienated too many voters.

Such is the risk in choosing a running mate. Few vice presidents have left an indelible mark in my mind. Many have been lukewarm and never shared the president’s limelight. There were boobs like Dan Quayle and foot-in-the-mouth cutups like Joe Biden. Mostly, the vice president seems to work in the shadows, and the American public isn’t tuned into the job (guilty as charged). But overall, I don’t think the vice presidential candidate trumps the presidential candidate. We vote for the president, and whomever is next in line to take a seat in the Oval Office is either a bonus or a gamble.

In this year’s election, it doesn’t matter to me if Obama runs again with Biden or chooses a new vice presidential running mate. He has my vote. Regardless whom the Republican candidates choose to share the ticket, they won’t have my vote. The running mate isn’t nearly as important as the candidate, so regardless whom Santorum, Romney, or Gingrich might select will have no impact on my decision. An admirable running mate will not a campaign make, but an incendiary running mate might a campaign kill.

This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. Read the original question and find links to all their responses here: Do Candidates' VP & Cabinet Picks Affect Your Vote?

Image via Wikimedia (public domain image from United States Congress)

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