We finally know who the major-party vice-presidential nominees are – Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana. Not surprisingly, much “veepstakes” speculation leading up to these announcements centered on the usual factors considered to be electorally advantageous: geography and demography.
But much of what you’ve been told about the importance of those usual factors is wrong. Based upon the available empirical evidence, it’s not at all clear that these candidate characteristics will have a significant effect on voters.
It’s true that voters may like a running mate more because he or she comes from the same state or belongs to the same demographic group as those voters. But rarely does this affect their votes. Except in extraordinary circumstances — such as when a running mate is extremely unpopular — people vote based on the presidential candidate, not the running mate.
Vice-presidential candidates are significantly more popular among home-state voters. But this does not translate into votes.