If Tim Pawlenty gets on the McCain ticket and the ticket loses, there’s an excellent chance Pawlenty will run for president in 2012 (or thereafter).
This observation seems intuitively correct, but is also based on recent history. Of the running mates on the last 10 losing tickets, most have subsequently run for president.
Here’s the list:
1968, Edmund Muskie: The Maine senator was not much of a national figure before Hubert Humphrey chose him as his 1968 running-mate. Gained enormous national exposure (as all running mates do) and made such an excellent impression that he started the 1972 cycle as almost the pre-emptive front-runner for the Dem nomination. Stumbled in the early primaries (perhaps because he choked up defending his wife’s reputation but that story has the ring of oversimplification) and never made it to the nomination.
1972, Sargent Shriver: George McGovern’s running mate in the 1972 Dem disaster, he sought the nomination in 1976. True, he finished a distant fifth in the New Hampshire primary and never made a dent in the race. But he still makes the point: Is there any way a man (albeit a Kennedy in-law) whose highest office was director of the Peace Corps could have imagined running for president if he hadn’t been on the ticket in 1972?
1976, Bob Dole: Have you forgotten that Dole was Gerald Ford’s 1976 running-mate? It was a big step up on national prominence for the Kansas senator, who felt emboldened enough to seek the Repub nomination in 1980 (he went nowhere), in 1988 (a serious bid) and in 1996 (when he received the doomed nomination).
1980, Walter Mondale: This might seem a tiny bit like cheating, since Mondale had actually been vice president 1977-81, which is perhaps an upgrade to his credentials, but he was the running mate on the losing Carter ticket in 1980 and went on to win the (also doomed) Dem nomination on the next round. That makes four straight running-mate losers who ran on the next round.
1984, Geraldine Ferraro: OK, Ferraro broke the streak and never ran for president. I didn’t say it was an iron law, only that there’s a pattern that makes sense in the potential Pawlenty case.
1988, Lloyd Bentsen: The 1988 Michael Dukakis running mate had run briefly and disastrously for the 1976 Dem nomination. He made a generally good impression as Dukakis’ No. 2 (most memorably with his snotty but effective “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moment in the vice presidential debate). In 1992 (although he was over 70), he openly explored running for pres, but was one of several Dem luminaries who decided (erroneously, as it turned out) after the first Iraq war that the first Pres. Bush would be unbeatable in 1992. So I’m not counting him as one of the running mates who ran, but he certainly doesn’t damage the trend. At this point in the retrospective, it’s four who ran vs. two who didn’t.
1992, Dan Quayle: Have you forgotten his two brief semi-entries in the presidential field? In 1996, the first cycle after he was the running on the losing GOP ticket, he was in exploratory bid mode when he withdrew, citing health reasons. In 2000, he actually got as far as announcing his candidacy, so I’m counting him. Running tally: 5-2. And again I ask, would he ever have run for president if Bush I hadn’t put him on the ticket?
1996, Jack Kemp: Dole’s running mate in 1996. He had run for president previously (1988) without much success, but he did not try again after the demise of the Dole-Kemp ticket, so I’m not counting him. 5-3.
2000, Joe Lieberman: He had never been a presidential mentionable before Al Gore put him on the 2000 ticket. He announced early and ran hard for the 2004 nomination. Lest we forget (which would be easy to do considering how things turned out), polls during 2002-2003 generally showed Lieberman to be leading the Dem field. Shall I repeat that? This makes Lieberman (who claimed that he was building “joe-mentum”) a very strong case for the power of the failed running-mate-ship to launch, but not sustain, a bid. Running tally 6-3.
2004, John Edwards: Another strong case. True, he had run strong for pres himself in 2004 and was the runner-up to John Kerry. But there’s little doubt that his running-mate-ship added to the strong position in which he started the 2008 sweepstakes.
Final up-to-date tally: Seven of the last 10 losing VP nominees subsequently ran for president, mostly in the very next round, and often with considerable impact on the race. Two of them (Mondale and Dole, although there was a gap before Dole won a nomination) subsequently won a presidential nomination. True, no one on this list actually became president. But I doubt the fact they had been on a previous losing ticket in the No. 2 slot was a major factor there. After all, hardly anyone gets to be president.
In fact, before I go into my last thoughts on the Pawlenty case, here’s a very hard political trivia puzzler. I’ll provide the answer at the bottom. Ready:
Who was the ONLY person, who had been the vice presidential nominee on a losing ticket, who subsequently became president? If you know this, you are a candidate for master of presidential trivia.
So, to clarify, I am not predicting that Gov. Pawlenty will be on the ticket. A lot of his veep buzz has died down lately within the punditocracy but I assume it’s still quite possible.
And I am not saying that he needs the national prominence that a place on ticket would give him to run for president in 2012 or subsequently.
I see Pawlenty as quite possibly having a future as a presidential contender however the ’08 veepstakes turn out. I’m just sayin’ that if he is on the ticket and the ticket loses, he will immediately be bruited as a potential 2012 prez contender and recent history suggests he is quite likely to seek the presidency.
So here’s the answer to the trivia question: Although this is often forgotten, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was then assistant secretary of the Navy, was the running mate on the 1920 Democratic ticket, led by the forgotten Ohio Gov. James Middleton Cox, which was crushed by the Republican ticket led by now-universally-not-admired Warren G. Harding. (The popular vote margin was a historic 60-34 percent.)