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April 17, 2008

Twenty-Eight Governors Who Won't Be Running Mates

posted by Josh Goodman

Lots of writers enjoy speculating on vice presidential possibilities (myself included). As a result, we get maddeningly long lists of potential running mates which might very well bear little resemblance to the actual short lists of the candidates. So, for the sake of everyone's sanity, I'd like to do the exact opposite: speculate on who won't get picked.

Here are 28 governors who absolutely, positively won't be running mates this year. Probably.

Truth be told, it's been so long since a sitting governor ended up as a running mate (the last one was Spiro Agnew in 1968) that it's hard to know what standards John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will use. But, because McCain, Obama and Clinton are all U.S. senators, there's a good chance that 40-year drought will end, thanks to the irresistible force of vice presidential selection: balance.

In spite of the uncertainty, I can think of six key reasons to exclude certain governors, which I've ranked roughly in order from most prohibitive to least. 1) They're foreign born. 2) They're unpopular back home. 3) They're significantly out of step with their party on key issues. 4) They've just been elected for the first time in the past two years. 5) They're from small states. 6) They're facing tough reelection bids this year.

Note that extenuating circumstances can keep many of these from being absolute dealbrakers. Charlie Crist is the popular governor of Florida, so he stands a chance despite being new to office.

Note also that, while I've placed each governor in one of the six categories, in some cases it's a combination of factors that rules them out. Colorado Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter isn't just pro-life, he's also newly elected. Don Carcieri, Rhode Island's Republican governor, has seen his approval ratings take a hit lately, in addition to being the governor of Rhode Island.

Without further ado, here's the list, along with some explanations.

1) Foreign born. Does Article Two of the Constitution implicitly require that the vice president, in addition to the president, be a natural-born citizen? Or would a foreign-born vice president not be allowed to take over the office of the president? I doubt we'll ever find out. (UPDATE: In the comments, Fred notes the 12th Amendment of the Constitution, which includes, "But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.")

-Arnold Schwarzengger (R-CA)

-Jennifer Granholm (D-MI)

2) Unpopular. It's always a bonus when a running mate can help the ticket carry a state. Well, these governors are unpopular enough that they might cause the ticket to lose their home states. Plus, their low approval ratings would guarantee negative press coverage of the selection.

-Jon Corzine (D-NJ)

-Matt Blunt (R-MO)

-Rod Blagojevich (D-IL)

-Martin O'Malley (D-MD)

3) Out of step with the party. Republican Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut signed the nation's first gay civil unions law that wasn't prompted by a court order. She's also pro-choice. She's one of a group of governors who regularly commit partisan heresy to the point that it's hard to imagine them on a presidential ticket.

-Jodi Rell (R-CT)

-Dave Freudenthal (D-WY)

-Brad Henry (D-OK)

-Joe Manchin (D-WV)

-Linda Lingle (R-HI)

-Jim Douglas (R-VT)

4) Newly elected. As I argued the other week when writing about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the resumés of runnings mates actually might matter more than the resumés of the presidential candidates themselves. Voters have all of Barack Obama's speeches, press conferences and debate performances to decide whether he's ready to be president. But the media can define running mates in a matter of days (see: Quayle, Dan), largely on the basis of biographical information. That means governors who took office in 2007 or 2008 (without serving in a major office beforehand) are unlikely to win the veepstakes.

-Mike Beebe (D-AR)

-Chet Culver (D-IA)

-Deval Patrick (D-MA)

-David Paterson (D-NY)

-Steve Beshear (D-KY)

-Jim Gibbons (R-NV)

-Bill Ritter (D-CO)

5) Small state. Here's a thought experiment: Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean nearly won the Democratic nomination for president in 2004. But, without a presidential run, would Dean, a successful governor for a decade, ever have been seriously considered as a vice presidential candidate? I think the answer is no. Large state governors tend to be better known nationally (quick, name the governor of North Dakota) and choosing a political unknown is regarded as risky.

-John Baldacci (D-ME)

-John Lynch (D-NH)

-Butch Otter (R-ID)

-Mike Rounds (R-SD)

-Ruth Ann Minner (D-DE)

-Don Carcieri (R-RI)

-John Hoeven (R-ND)

6) Tough reelection. Running for two offices at once often raises legal problems. Invariably, it creates political headaches, as voters question the candidate's commitment to either position. In 2000, Joe Lieberman was reelected to the U.S. Senate as he served as Al Gore's running mate, proving you can run for something else while seeking the vice presidency. But that doesn't make it easy, especially for governors whose opponents are more than nominal.

-Christine Gregoire (D-WA)

-Mitch Daniels (R-IN)

I could add a seventh category for governors who aren't noteworthy enough for there to be any particular reason for them to be picked (Ted Kulongoski, Dave Heineman, Mike Easley, I'm looking at you), but I suppose I've done enough eliminating for one day.

Previously in my vice-presidential series:

-Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin

-Bill Richardson

-Tim Kaine and Ted Strickland

-Tim Pawlenty


Sam Reasonable

Don't be silly. Maryland goes Democratic AGAIN in 2008 by a wide margin if the ticket has Governor Martin O'Malley and if it doesn't.

If it does we'll get a VP with a track record of attacking issues and solving problems that Republicans never had the guts to address. That's what he's done.

That where we are today and that's what we need in America.

Drew Pritt

I think you didn't do your research well.

* Mike Beebe was Attorney General, State Senate President, and a State Senator for 20 yrs. He has a Horatio Alger story and could be a great ticket balancer for Obama since he's from the South, close to the Clintons, and is a great public speaker who is VASTLY popular here.

* Steve Beshears was Lt. Governor and Attorney General prior to being elected Governor, though his poll numbers have dipped. But the campaign manager for him was Obama's chief advisor. Also, Beshears is from a key border state and is a good public speaker.


What? MD goes Republican with O'Malley on the ticket? What are you smoking?

Ben Keeler

The only one of your list I could see being picked is Easley, and that is a long shot.


R: Item # 1; From the 12th amendment:

"no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."


R: Item # 1; From the 12th amendment:

"no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."


The right nominee for VP for the Democrats is General Wesley Clark. Extremely bright, from the Clinton camp and thus helping to heal the wounds and finally, someone with military and foreign policy experience that Barack needs.

Josh Goodman

Fred, thanks for pointing that out.
O'Malley has been a successful governor in terms of getting his way in the legislature, but his popularity has really taken a hit, in large measure because of the take hike. I was thinking of him as somewhat of a hybrid -- he's both newly elected and some polls have shown his approval rating in the thirties. Maryland is Democratic enough that it probably wouldn't end up in play, but I don't think he'd help right now. I do think there's a good chance he weathers this storm and ends up in a strong position for reelection.
Drew, your point about Beebe and Beshear's experience is an interesting one. As a reporter who covers state government, I'm sympathetic to the argument that experience in state office (besides just the governorship) should count for something, but I doubt most people in the national media think much of the Kentucky lieutenant governorship. It's the perception that they're not qualified, regardless of the reality, that makes them unlikely picks. I also tend to think that they might be too conservative. If you believe Bob Novak, Beshear helped scuttle an effort by governors to reduce CO2 emissions: . During the 2006 campaign, Beebe equivocated as to whether he would support gay adoption (let alone domestic partnerships or civil unions). For now, I think Beebe has to content himself being a governor who, as you say, is vastly popular.


Rick Perry (Texas) just announced that he'll be running for re-election. Considering that he endorsed Guiliani early in the presidential race, I'm guessing that McCain won't pick him to be VP.

BTW, I think Wesley Clark would be a great VP for the Dems.

Bob Green

Most Governor's fail the "needs foreign policy experience" test for Senator Obama. Other than Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico). And Sen. McCain needs someone who can step into the Presidents shoes immediately, because of the Senators advanced age - this really let's out most people, Governor or otherwise and he needs a person strong on finance and budget.


Umm.. I'm a liberal Democrat living in Maryland, and I cannot STAND what Martin O'Malley has done to this state. Higher taxes, failed economic policies, higher college tuition, higher emissions and driver's license fees, higher license plate registration fees, driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. THIS liberal will NOT vote for a Presidential ticket with O'Malley o it, EVER!


WOW! It is hard to take seriously any opinion offered by someone who thinks Howard Dean "nearly won" the nomination in 2004.


Sam Reasonable: "If it does we'll get a VP with a track record of attacking issues and solving problems that Republicans never had the guts to address. That's what he's done."

Riiiiight, he imposed the largest tax increase in the history of all 50 states just as we are entering an economic downturn. This was done to allegedly close a budget shortfall, then he raised spending by almost the exact amount as the tax increase. He lied about 'fixing' the BGE rate increase, and in fact his policies promise to drive prices higher still. He's a moron and deserves his 37% approval rating.

Hell, if they put him on the ballet as VP, I'd vote for the Democratic nominee just to get him the hell out of Maryland.

Irv Cohen

Obviously not a female governor unless Hillary has the chance to turn it down. Wesley Clark good for Obama. Colin Powell better than Obama for Hillary if he could be persuaded. McCain should go with Governor Huckabee because he is an excellent speaker and could motivate the base to come out and vote. This group probably won for Bush in 2004. And he must avoid a Nader-like run from the right which could dim his chances.

Larry McD

Either Item 4 should be "New to Job" or David Paterson shouldn't be on the list. That's like Gerald Ford saying he's "running for re-election."

Russ Feingold is the best possible running mate for Obama. Barack has said he wants an experienced administrator with strong domestic policy credentials whose philosophy reflects his own. Feingold gets two out of three plus he's a powerful speaker/debater and one hell of a campaigner.


And don't forget governors that are closeted, like Charlie Crist. That is not meant to be anti-gay. As a gay man myself I would love to see one on any ticker, but as much as he is talked about and could be a great pick, I think we can safely be disqualified.


not that i think Manchin belongs in the top tier of consideration, but he really could deliver WV (and help with the 'Mountain East' including Eastern OH). and its hard to envision ascenario where Obama winning WV and losing the national election.

and although Manchin is contrarian on a few issues...hes a team player and a populist and could be a decent weak VP in the (gulp) Quayle mold.

Kevin Hayden

So who's left that would be considered good?

I'd love to see an ex-Gov considered: John Kitzhaber of OR. A cowboy-booted guy who could get the GOP on board his Dem platform at times, a popular Western image governor, also a former ER physician with big cred on healthcare.

The only drawbacks: might be a little too shaggy and mustachioed, and also might refuse a subordinate slot.

But he sure would be kickass in a debate.


Coming from Maryland I couldn't agree more. O'Malley is out of touch with his constituents. He has used strong arm tactics to get his way with the state legislature effectively throwing members of his own party under the bus. I know he is hoping that come election time voters will forget his practices and policies thus allowing his career to move forward but I believe the citizens of Maryland are smarter than that. After all, this is what doomed the career of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in a state that favored her party by over 2 to 1.

Josh Goodman

I was a little bit torn about Manchin, since he's popular and, as you say, there's an electoral logic to him having a place on the ticket. One question I mulled over is whether there's any chance of a pro-life governor ending up on the Democratic ticket or a pro-choice governor on the Republican ticket. Manchin would be pretty hard for a lot of Democrats to swallow, since he's gone so far as to headline a fundraiser for West Virginia's for Life. I don't have any great insights as to whether abortion would be a litmus test for the Democratic candidates, but with Manchin there were a couple of secondary factors that pushed him over the edge in my mind. He's up for reelection this year (although not in a tough race) and his experience would be called into question (he was first elected in 2004).


In the end, I just don't think Manchin passes the 'heartbeat away' test. He's the wrong sort of politician, not easy to imagine Joe Manchin leading the free world. He looks more like a highly effective County Commissioner.

As for the abortion issue, look at Casey and Obama over the last few weeks. The image they project is constructive and sincere. It sould work just as well for Obama/Manchin.


The is one other really big problem with Manchin, the guy isn't all that smart. He is a good politician, but not too smart and it is beginning to catch up with him in West Virginia. One of his best advisors is now gone, and he has had a substantial policy win for a long time. This last legislative session he lost all his big initatives. A trumped up County Commissioner is dead-on.

Gene Martinez

The "dream" VP pick for Obama? Al Gore. If Obama would offer Gore the power to reshape both energy and environmental policy with complete authority over the Cabinet, this might be a position that Gore would take. Plus Gore's experience on foreign policy issues would be an asset for Obama. Obama/Gore would generate the highest possible turnout for democrats and could produce a landslide victory!

Lance Boyle

Tim: "Hell, if they put him on the ballet as VP, I'd vote for the Democratic nominee just to get him the hell out of Maryland."

So true. I wouldn't be surprised if that attitude didn't help send O'Malley to Annapolis over Governor Bob. Not all of voting Baltimore is liberal, and many of us were glad to boot him up and out of here.

Drew Pritt

HELL NO to Joe Manchin!!!!!!!

"hes a team player and a populist"


I challenge you to return to West Virginia in 1996. That was the year Manchin faced off against my cousin, former State Senator Charlotte Pritt. Manchin had a campaign fueled by the lobbyists and special interests. My cousin Charlotte had a campaign with grassroots and populist appeal.

In the end, Charlotte beat "HOW LOW WILL YOU GO" Joe Manchin in the primary. In the General Election, Manchin endorsed the REPUBLICAN nominee, after he demanded all the Democrats support the Democratic nominee in the primary!!!!

Also when they both served in the State Senate, Charlotte Pritt was for Collective Bargaining Rights, killing the gasoline & grocery tax, and an advocate for senior citizens. Joe Manchin opposed all of those issues. Populist he is not!

HELL NO to JOE!!!!!!!

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