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Why the Vice President Pick Matters

A presidential nominee’s running mate needs to be capable of more than governing

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On the latest Keepin’ It 1600, Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer discussed the Republican National Convention and Donald Trump’s and his kids’ speeches before turning to the Democratic ticket. At the time, Hillary Clinton hadn’t announced her running mate, but Jon and Dan discussed why the selection of a vice presidential candidate is important beyond one election cycle and one administration. Read an excerpt from their conversation below and listen to the whole podcast here. The transcript has been edited and condensed.

Dan Pfeiffer: What’s your guess? Is it [Tim] Kaine?

Jon Favreau: My guess is Kaine, even though that was not my choice … I like Tim Kaine. Remember what [David] Plouffe said on this podcast: [The VP pick] really is the most overcovered story and overestimated how much it matters politically before you win. I don’t think any VP necessarily helps [Hillary Clinton] win a certain state … that’s all overstated. I think if you’re talking about who can govern — who can help her govern — then Tim Kaine, Cory Booker, Tom Perez, Tom Vilsack are all good candidates. And so it probably matters less than we think. But, you know, I still think like a Tom Perez or a Cory Booker brings a little more excitement to the ticket than a Tim Kaine and a Tom Vilsack.

D.P.: I agree with all that … The immediate politics — particularly when the pick was Mike Pence, who is boring and forgettable — the immediate politics don’t really matter that much. The most important thing is who’s going to be vice president. The Perez-Booker thing is really interesting to me because we have to begin building the Democratic Party for after the Obama-Clinton era is over.

The challenge you have is [that] when you have the White House, your members of Congress, your congressional leadership get a lot less attention. They just are not as well known because they’re not giving big speeches attacking the president. They do not become the de facto spokesperson for their party. They’re just legislators, so we’re going to have a limited capacity to build stars for 2024 (if all goes right). The VP pick is important for that reason.

Having someone who can actually take the mantle of the presidency in a crisis, who would help govern, is more important than that. But as [people] who are concerned about [winning] presidencies for the rest of our lives, we really wanna build up the bench here.