Predicting the Democrats’ VP shortlist

Predicting the Democrats’ VP shortlist
Joe Biden, Kamala Harris (Images: Left—YouTube screen grab, right—Bloomberg News video)

If you want to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to calling the 2020 election, PredictIt is the place to go. The website assigns a probability to candidates between 1% and 99% and then converts each into US cents.

Displaying now but continuously fluctuating, PredictIt has Harris leading the nomination race with 24 cents. Former Vice President Joe Biden is next at 23 cents, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren ranks third with 19 cents. As for their running mates?

Since it’s only mid-2019, PredictIt does not yet offer a prediction market in complete Democratic tickets other than the general question: “Will the Dem VP nominee be a woman?” — 60 cents “yes” and 40 cents “no.” Therefore, I will seize the opportunity and speculate on Harris/Biden/Warren potential VP nominees — as a Republican thinking like a Democratic strategist.

Will this presidential election be the most important in American history?

Starting with Harris, who can help make her ticket most competitive in a general election against Donald Trump? The first thing that comes to mind is that Harris, a non-white female, should select a male running mate.

The two men I believe have the best chance at the Harris VP slot are Julián Castro from Texas and Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio. Both are currently running for the presidential nomination, but are they doing enough to merit second place consideration?

Castro is the top choice of only 1.3% of Democratic primary voters, according to the RealClearPolitics  poll average, while Ryan fares even worse at 0.1%.

But popularity with primary season voters – or even widespread name identification at VP selection time – is not often a factor. (See Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden in 2008 and Gov. Mike Pence in 2016.) Instead, what matters most in the modern era are the constituencies a candidate can bring to the ticket or help boost a perceived weakness with the presidential nominee.

In Castro’s case, two huge constituencies could prove electorally decisive: He is Hispanic and from Texas. An extra bonus is his youth. Castro turns 46 in 2020, which would make him the first 1970s-born candidate and Hispanic to appear on a national ticket.

How important is the Hispanic vote? In 2016 Hispanics comprised 11% of the electorate when Hillary Clinton won them over Trump by 66% to 28%. In 2020, it is estimated that the Hispanic vote could increase by two percentage points. For a hint, look to the 2018 midterms when Hispanics also made up 11% of voters  — a record level of participation that is sure to increase in the presidential election.

And let’s talk about Texas. Already speculation abounds that it will be a swing state or possibly (gasp) go “blue” in 2020. With 38 electoral votes at stake, that would be “game over” for Trump and the GOP. Even if Texas stays in the “red” column, having Castro on the ticket means that Team Trump would have to spend mucho dinero to retain those 38 votes — drawing valuable resources away from more traditional battleground states.

The only downside of a Harris/Castro ticket is that two non-whites might be a bit overwhelming in a majority-white nation. And that is why Rep. Tim Ryan, a white male, age 47 in 2020, could also bring tangible enhancements to a Harris ticket.

Ryan first rose to national prominence in November 2016 when he boldly, but unsuccessfully, challenged Nancy Pelosi as party leader of the House Democrats. First elected to Congress in 2002, Ryan has long represented a white working-class district in northwest Ohio spanning from Youngstown to Akron. Theoretically “Trump Country” but not quite, since in 2016 Hillary Clinton won Ryan’s 13th Congressional District by a margin of 6.5%, while Trump won the state by eight percentage points.

Therefore in 2020, Team Trump considers Ohio’s 18 electoral votes “safe” without expending too much time or effort. And, similar to a Harris/Castro ticket in Texas, a Harris/Ryan ticket will make keeping Ohio “red” more challenging, irritating, and expensive.

Then we can expect strategically irresistible optics of Sen. Harris, a mixed-race female from the West Coast paired with Rep. Ryan’s white bread from the heartland.

Moving on to Joe Biden, if he wins the nomination there is only one name that stands out for veep choice — Kamala Harris. Biden is an “old white male” from a party growing younger, non-white, and female. That makes Harris, with her Jamaican father and mother from India, the obvious choice. A Biden/Harris pairing would ignite the Obama coalition like a firebomb with the popular former first couple virtually on the ticket.

And remember that in 2015, well before she was elected to the U.S. Senate, a Washington Post headline boldly asked, “Is Kamala Harris the Next Obama?” Also, there’s that little history of public affection between Barack and Kamala.

Undoubtedly, a Biden/Harris ticket will make Team Trump tremble.

Finally, there is Sen. Elizabeth Warren. As an “older” white female from Massachusetts, Warren’s ticket will need geographical, gender, age, and racial balance. Again, Julián Castro from Texas checks all the boxes. No need to go any further because a white female/Hispanic male ticket is political gold. Castro is even “qualified” by low-bar modern presidential standards, serving as Obama’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development and before that, mayor of San Antonio.

All of the above is meant to be entertaining speculation but still based in reality. Highlighted is the emergence of racial, ethnic, and gender identity in American politics with the pressing need to “balance” a presidential ticket.

With this rapidly, demographically changing new American electorate, I would bet that the Trump/Pence ticket will be the last time a major party pairs two white males.

To be determined is whether “double boy vanilla” can win in 2020.

Cross posted at RealClear Politics 

Myra Kahn Adams

Myra Kahn Adams

Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and political writer. She was on the 2004 Bush campaign's creative team and the 2008 McCain campaign's ad council. Writing credits include, National Review, Washington Examiner, World Net Daily, Breitbart and many others. Contact Myra at


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