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Lauren Stange

Since it has become clear that Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential candidate in the upcoming 2012 presidential election, then next big question is who Romney will pick to be his running mate.  As in every presidential election, the press tries to speculate who candidates will pick.  Studies have been conducted that try to pinpoint factors that predict which characteristics candidates look for in running mates; factors such as heritage, religion, and electoral pull.  While these characteristics have likely been taken into account in the past, the most important characteristic in a presidential running mate is stability.

Lee Sigelman and Paul J. Wahlbeck argue that in the current era, choosing someone that will balance the age of the presidential candidate and choosing someone from an influential electoral state are important.  By simply looking at the elections during the past decade, these claims don’t hold true.  Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden are all from states with only three electoral votes and John Edwards and Dick Cheney are aged within a decade of their running mates.

Sigelman and Wahlbeck do, however, make one important observation that can likely explain John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate.  The two claim that if the presidential race looks close, the candidates will play it safe and choose an expected running mate.  If the prospects are extremely good or bad, the candidates will choose someone more by preference or choose a dramatic choice in attempt to catch up, respectively.  Already behind in the presidential race with Barak Obama, McCain chose a dramatic candidate in hopes of shaking up the standings.

McCain’s failed attempt with a dramatic running mate supports the idea that candidates should choose a stable running mate that will not harm the campaign.  Danny M. Atkinson agrees with this idea, stating their findings that “the tendency is for the vice presidential candidate to hurt rather than help the ticket.”

Both former Vice President Dick Cheney and the current Speaker of the House John Boehner support the idea that a strong, stable running mate is more important than one that ties the campaign to certain constituents.  In regard to characteristics to look for in a running mate, Cheney said that race, gender and geography were insignificant compared to a candidate’s capacity to be president.  “It’s pretty rare elections turn on those kinds of issues,” said Cheney in regard to race, gender and geography.  Boehner mirrored these comments, stating that he thinks “the number one quality is, are they capable of being president in the case of an emergency?”

In all, factors that could potentially connect constituents to a presidential campaign, such as geography, race, religion and heritage, are not very important characteristics to base the selection of a presidential running mate on.  The more important concern is stability and choosing a candidate that is not likely to harm the campaign.

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