Picking a Vice Presidential candidate has been a long-standing tradition at each party’s convention when the presidential candidate is officially nominated. Some candidates, such as Sarah Palin, have made their voices themselves heard,while others, such as Tim Kaine, seem to blend into the background and allow themselves to be overshadowed by the President. Does anyone remember who ran as Mitt Romney’s vice president, or Al Gore’s, or even Hillary Clinton? What about great vice-presidents in history, aside from those who have taken over the presidency? Most people may be able to give a name, but might not know much more. Historically, the only time vice-presidents are important and well known when they have to step up and take over the president in the event of his incapacitation. So why would they matter in 2020?
In 2020, Kamala Harris and Mike Pence are running for Vice President. Harris was chosen before her party’s convention,in a break in tradition. In any other year, the Vice-Presidential pick would be of little importance. However, this year has two of the oldest candidates to ever run, one of whom has COVID-19, making the Vice-President incredibly important for voters.
Mike Pence is the incumbent Vice President. As former governor of Indiana, he was little known outside the area by the typical voter but the GOP loved him. As a Catholic, he could draw in the conservative Christians and had a clean personal background. Republicans in Indiana loved finally seeing one of themselves on the ballot and the rest of the Midwest shared that enthusiasm. Kamala Harris is a former Attorney General and senator of California. If not for her Presidential bid in the Democratic primary, she would have had about the same recognition of Pence going into the nomination process.
Both men running for President are well into their seventies. It is unfortunately possible that during the next four years something could happen and their vice president would need to step up. Past young presidents, such as Kennedy and Obama, did not have to worry about this factor when running. This means that the vice-presidential pick could become president before the next election.
First of all, Kamala Harris’ nomination is historic. She is one of the first women to be nominated for Vice-President and the first women of color. Simply by accepting the nomination, she has made history. Secondly, Joe Biden, should he win, would become the US oldest president ever and it is very likely he will be a one term president. Should she become Vice-President this year, it is likely that in 2024 Harris will run for president, and should she win, she would become the first female President in our country’s 200 plus-year history.
Earlier this week, the country was shocked when President Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and subsequently checked himself into the hospital. Despite the minimal communication about his condition while he is in the hospital, there is some that is known. Just on Sunday, he was administered steroids twice because his blood oxygen levels dropped so low. His age and weight also put him in high risk categories, meaning the disease is more likely to be fatal. While he appears to be in relatively good health and spirits, there are so many unknowns about the virus, unfortunately things could take a downward turn at any moment. While the President is receiving excellent medical care, the whole country is waiting to see if Pence will have to step up. The uncertainty of his medical condition may put Mike Pence in the spotlight in a way he has not been in his 3.5 years as Vice President. Trump having Covid-19, a virus that so much is unknown about and long-term effects are not known at all, could scare the tentative voter.
Typically, Vice-Presidential debates have not been of great significance either. This year’s debates; however, make the candidates even more visible and important. The first Presidential debate was an unmitigated disaster. Not much was said in terms of actual policy and the debate quickly devolved into personal attacks. The Vice-Presidential debate is likely the only place that policy points will be discussed in the depth debates are meant to allow. The candidates have seen how important it is to remain level-headed and calm during the debate and will strive to deliver their message. The debates will make the candidate choices more important.
If there are voters who are still undecided, there is a chance the Vice-Presidential picks will sway their decision. First, these voters will watch the debates and learn the policy points of the ticket. During the debates, they will see how the candidates interact with each other; if they yell and scream or remain calm. The voters will then look at the age of the two presidential candidates. They will see the unfortunate reality that they are old, and the Vice-President could have to step up.
Vice-Presidential picks are often overlooked and in office they often find themselves overshadowed by the President and not able to do much of significance. The world we are living in in 2020 changes that. A historic pick, the age and health of the presidential candidates and the debates will put the Vice-Presidential picks in the spotlight. With the possibility of either becoming president before the next election, people will have to look beyond the name at the top of the ticket and make sure they are comfortable voting for their second in command as well.