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Why Does the Running Mate Matter in a Presidential Race?

I asked this question over at this post at HotAir tonight after AllahPundit posed this question:

Your exit question: Would putting Fred on the bottom of the ticket warrant a SECOND LOOK AT McCAIN!, or is there simply nothing that can scrub the stain of amnesty from his soul?

Here are some of my comments I left and the ensuing discussion:

Question: What effect does a VP have on a President’s domestic and foreign policy, other than breaking a tie in the Senate?

I ask this, because I don’t really understand why it matters who is the VP when it comes to policy. People keep saying that a conservative running mate will help a liberal nominee with conservatives. Why? Why would a VP’s stances on issues matter? The President is the Executive and makes the decisions, not the VP.

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 12:38 AM


amerpundit on January 3, 2008 at 12:39 AM

How so? I don’t know any of VP Cheney’s positions on any policy other than foreign policy.

I’ll get more specific. McCain is pro-amnesty. Let’s say he takes on a pro-immigration enforcement VP. Why should what his VP thinks matter? Is McCain going to defer to his VP when it comes to immigration? And, if that is the case, then do I really want someone who runs his campaign on one policy position, but then defers to his VP’s position when in office?

I just don’t understand why I should care whom a nominee chooses for their VP. Unless the President dies in office, what does it matter who is the VP? Was Dan Quayle anything special? Did people decide to vote (or not vote) for President George H.W. Bush based on his VP selection of Dan Quayle?

Go another route… a Thompson/Romney ticket. Am I supposed to stop supporting Thompson, because I don’t support his VP choice and should be worried that Romney’s policy positions will become Fred’s when in office?

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 12:44 AM


Nothing, not even Tom Tancredo as his VP, could give Juan Plantation McShamnasty any credibility on “immigration”.

MB4 on January 3, 2008 at 12:41 AM

My thoughts exactly. Yet I see bloggers and political pundits all over pushing this sentiment that somehow a VP nominee with policy positions counter to the Presidential nominee is somehow supposed to matter. I don’t understand why. Unless McCain dies in office and the pro-immigration enforcement VP decides to completely switch course on Amnesty, what does it matter?

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 12:49 AM


As a tangential issue, what does it say about Fred’s commitment to conservative principles when the man is willing to endorse McCain for president?

Nessuno on January 3, 2008 at 12:47 AM

These are my thoughts on the matter as well. Personally, I don’t base my vote on endorsements, I base them on my positions on the issues. If Fred Thompson endorses John McCain, then he goes against my positions on the issues and thus loses my support. The only endorsement Fred can give, in my opinion, if he were to drop out and to stay consistent with conservative principles is to endorse Duncan Hunter, if Congressman Hunter is still in the race longer than Fred Thompson. If not, then Fred Thompson should just drop out and not endorse anyone.

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 12:55 AM


The Fredheads are going to have ‘issues’ if this plays out.

Drew on January 3, 2008 at 12:50 AM

I won’t ‘have issues’, I will simply admit that I was wrong about Fred Thompson and move on. I’m not sure why this campaign has to be filled with people demonizing every candidate’s supporters.

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 12:57 AM


Issues, my ass. Thompson is doomed.

aero on January 3, 2008 at 12:53 AM

I thought the analogy put out there the last day or so about this campaign being like the guy who can’t figure out why girls aren’t going for him, when he is everything that girls say they want. The reality is that girls don’t really want what they say they want. Same thing here. All the talk among the American electorate about wanting a focus on issues and wanting a leader, not a politician, etc is just talk. When it comes down to it, the American electorate is fickle and superficial.

Fred ran a campaign based on believing that the American electorate was sincere. He has found out that the American electorate is as insincere and superficial as most of the politicians they complain about.

Oh well. We will all get what we deserve come November.

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 1:02 AM


No one is going to endorse Hunter now. He is pretty much finished this campaign.

bnelson44 on January 3, 2008 at 12:57 AM

I know. I was just making the point that the only way for Fred to be consistent and stick to his professed conservative principles would be to endorse the only other conservative in the race. If he endorses anyone else, I will see is as politics as usual and admit that I was wrong about Fred being a principled conservative.

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 1:05 AM


There are a lot of those hardcore types who keep telling everyone Fred’s the only conservative and Maverick is a RINO. They are going to freak out if Fred throws his support to McCain.

Drew on January 3, 2008 at 1:03 AM

Well, that describes me, except for the freaking out part.

I guess where I am different than others is that I my passion is behind my positions on the issues, my principles and my values. I support Fred Thompson, because I believe he is a leader in line with what I believe. If he strays from that though, I won’t freak. I will simply stop supporting him.

I am not loyal to the man, I am loyal to the principles, values and positions on the issues.

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 1:10 AM


This is a great question, and I for one will be very interested to see what dynamic exists for the next VP. Many consider Cheney as the most powerful VP we’ve had, I think I am in that category myself. How much input they have is dependent on the Pres pretty much.

Spirit of 1776 on January 3, 2008 at 1:09 AM

I can see a VP nominee mattering if they had a lot of experience with foreign policy matters as Dick Cheney had. But as far as immigration or any domestic policies or appointing people to important positions in government agencies, nominees for the court, etc, I don’t see how the VP would matter.

Maybe having Tom Tancredo as a running mate would make people take a second look at John McCain, specifically because Tom Tancredo is so passionate about the immigration issue. But then one has to wonder who is giving up their passion? Is Tom Tancredo sacrificing his principles on immigration and supporting McCain’s position to be VP or is John McCain sacrificing his principles on amnesty and supporting Tancredo’s position to be President?

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 1:16 AM


Historically none. Cheney has been the exception. The historic role for a VP is to break ties in the Senate, be the attack dog for the administration against their domestic foes in the other party, and check each day to make sure the president is still alive.

bnelson44 on January 3, 2008 at 1:12 AM

That’s pretty much what I thought. So why do political pundits keep pushing this talking point?

I suspect it is because they want to try to convince people that the running mate matters, so as to prop up their weak candidate.

Also, as far as breaking the tie in the Senate. Is the VP casting his vote on behalf of the President’s position on the particular vote or on behalf of his own position on the particular vote? Let’s say the VP disagrees with a major policy of the President that is up for vote in the Senate… immigration bill for example. By all this talk about the opinions of the VP mattering, am I to assume that the VP would cast a vote contrary to the President’s policy position on immigration enforcement?

I don’t see that as likely. So, again, I don’t see why it matters who is the VP on issues such as social conservative issues, immigration, appointments, nominations for the Court, etc.

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 1:23 AM


With regards to John McCain and people saying they will not vote for him based on Amnesty…

The issue is not just McCain’s position in supporting amnesty, but also his viewpoint on those who oppose it. He came across as mean and demonizing of anyone who opposed it.

I have been a part of some very reasonable discussions of the pros and cons of amnesty, where I was not insulted as being a “nativist”, “racist” or stupid or somesuch other personal attack. Anti-amnesty people were not given that respect by Senator McCain (and others, President Bush included).

So that is really the kicker for me with John McCain. It is not just his position on the issues, but his utter contempt with which he treats his opponents. If he would have been a better statesman about defending his position and trying to convince others of his position, I would be a lot more open to him right now. But after watching the contempt he has for people who disagree with him, I eliminated him from consideration a long time ago.

Michael in MI on January 3, 2008 at 1:30 AM

January 3, 2008 , 1:53AM Posted by | 2008 Presidential Election, Fred Thompson, John McCain | 1 Comment