a running mate
With President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney already pared, rumors were swirling over whom Kerry would choose as his running mate, even before his main rivals had dropped out of the race.
Historically, however, the person who filled the vice presidential slot wasn't always chosen by the presidential candidate.
Direct Election of the Vice President
Even when the top two vote getters were from the same party, problems still arose, as in the 1800 election tie between Jefferson and Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr.
"It got thrown into the House of Representatives," Clemens said. After 36 ballots, Jefferson was elected and a bitter Burr became vice president. "It is perhaps one of the greatest moments of our electoral history. From that point on the vice president got negotiated."
In 1804, Congress adopted the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, separating the balloting for president and vice president.
"The president had significant say but there's an attempt to make the vice president look like he was picked by the party," Clemens said. "Teddy Roosevelt, for example, was added, he wasn't McKinley's choice. It's fair to say that it was a process in which the party's wishes were paramount with the president having a veto."
What running mates bring to the ticket
Nonetheless, it has typically been the presidential nominee's choice, and how that choice is made depends on the goals of the nominee.
"The motivations have changed over the years," said Professor George Edwards, head of Texas A&M's Presidential Studies program. "John Kennedy selected Lyndon Johnson, someone who could win a state -- Texas -- and appeal to the South. When (Walter) Mondale selected (Geraldine) Ferraro, he was making another kind of statement, not to win New York (Ferraro's home state). When Ronald Reagan selected (George H.W.) Bush, it was unifying the party. (Dan) Quayle was generational. (Al) Gore was different, too. He was not picked for geographic reasons, age reasons, or ideological reasons. He just felt compatible."
According to Edwards, vice presidential picks have mainly been about balancing a ticket.
"You'll notice the one thing I haven't mentioned yet is who could be a good president," Edwards said. "That's hasn't played as prominent a role as many of us would like it to be."
Another factor -- compatibility -- also had been consistently ignored. Because two politicians are running mates does not mean they necessarily get along.
"It's not always the case," Edwards said. "(Richard) Nixon had a certain disdain for (Spiro) Agnew. He used to joke it was his protection against assassination because no one would want Agnew to replace him as president."
However, in recent elections, both leadership and compatibility have been taken into consideration when picking a running mate.
"If you're going to use the vice president in a fundamental advisory capacity, it has to be someone whose advice you'll respect," Edwards said.
According to Edwards, when vice presidents have been in agreement with their presidents, such as Gore was with Bill Clinton, and Cheney has been with George W. Bush, they have been able to play important roles.
"If they're chosen for an ideological balance, then they won't be on the same wavelength, and then not be likely to play a central role. They won't be compatible with the president's advisers."
The close race factor
"Quite frankly because the election is likely to be so close, I think there's a renewed pressure for bringing in a state or bringing in a constituency. They're going to think of people who can bring something to the ticket as opposed to being a good, wise person."
In this delicate decision, the vice presidential choice could hurt more than help, he said.
"In one state, like
Florida, a guy like (Democratic Sen. Bob) Graham could help. There
is state loyalty. But the other 49 states
don't care about that. Quayle couldn't have been very helpful. Spiro
was not very helpful. Ferraro's husband had some baggage. You've got
to be very careful. They have to do a careful vetting."
-- By Chris Nammour, Online NewsHour
The Online NewsHour's Vote 2004 is a part of PBS' By the People:
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