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2020 Veepstakes Guide: Part 1

Greetings and salutations! Today this blog will return to its erstwhile subject of American politics. The topic: who will be the Democratic vice presidential nominee?

I will go thru the most likely candidates, in order of their current price on PredictIt. This is a great method because I can make fun of PredictIt.* Each contender, after a short intro, will have two sections: Will They Be Picked? and Would They Be Good? The former section discusses the likelihood that Joe Biden will select this person (and whether I think PredictIt has correctly priced them.) The latter goes thru my thoughts on whether they'd be a good vice president, or a good president, if Joe Biden were to die or become incapacitated.

You may have noticed the conspicuous absence of an Are They Electable? section. In other words, how will they contribute positively or negatively to the Democratic ticket's chances of winning? First of all, running mates don't matter very much in electability. I mean, if someone is clearly incompetent, like Sarah Palin in 2008, then they can hurt the ticket. But if someone on this list would be a Palin-level blunder, they've got other issues going on.

Anyway, I think electability is very hard to judge beforehand, and the best estimates have a lot of uncertainty. Let's say we're comparing Stacey Abrams and Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar is stronger in the Midwest, whereas Abrams could help in Georgia and North Carolina. Which of those is more important? I have no idea. Comparing tiny electability tradeoffs is not what picking vice presidential nominees should be about. It should be about picking a good vice president. That's why I'll try to avoid the topic.

So let's go!

Kamala Harris (37%)

Kamala Harris is a California senator who previously served as the state's attorney general and as a lcal district attorney. She was considered a frontrunner for the presidential nomination, but her campaign imploded due to her being a black woman. (And waffling on Medicare and sounding a bit unknowledgeable and such, but whatever.)

Sen. Kamala Harris. Source: The Jerusalem Post.

Will She Be Picked?

Harris he has broad approval in the Democratic party. She's already been vetted for the presidency, having been a candidate herself, and, at the very least, it seems unlikely she will doom the ticket. Of course, one might argue that her bad campaign performance is a weakness, but history has many examples of ill-fated presidential candidates getting picked for VP–for instance, Joe Biden himself. Additionally, there have been some leaks out of the Biden campaign that suggest Harris is being strongly considered.**

You might be thinking about the moment from the first presidential debate when Harris attacked Biden about his record on busing, and how they could serve on a ticket together. I don't think either of them care. Other than that moment, they have gotten along fine.

I think Kamala Harris is one of the two most natural vice presidential picks. She reflects where the Democratic Party is right now, is well-known, and would not carry much baggage. Effective on offense and defense, I would be wholly unsurprised if she became the nominee. That said, there are many other good options. I think PredictIt's price of 37% is approximately right.

History has many examples of ill-fated presidential candidates getting picked for VP–for instance, Joe Biden himself.

Would She Be Good?

I like Kamala Harris a lot. I've mentioned how great her book (The Truths We Hold) is before, but it's very good. Her life story shows how she overcame adversity and championed programs that helped real people. For instance, Back on Track, a program designed to keep criminals from committing crimes in the future, succeeded, keeping good people out of jail. She obviously isn't perfect; her presidential campaign highlighted how incoherent she can be sometimes. She's something of a political chameleon. But I think she would be a fine vice president.***

Amy Klobuchar (19%)

Amy Klobuchar, representing Minnesota in the Senate, was also a presidential candidate who never caught fire, peaking with a third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. She has emphasized pragmatic progressivism and inclusion in her rhetoric.****

Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Source: ABC News.

Will She Be Picked?

You know how I said that Kamala Harris was one of the two most natural vice presidential picks? Amy Klobuchar is the other. Her campaign never antagonized Biden, and in fact they seemed to be arguing for much of the same things. She has a solid record of getting things done, and she would be ready to assume the presidency on Day 1.

I know I said I wouldn't discuss electability, but Klobuchar is a candidate who is objectively electable. Except for the recent primaries, she has won every election she has competed in. Furthermore, in her 2018 Senate election, she did 7% better than the Democrat running in the concurrent special election; in 2012 she got a whopping 14% more votes than Obama did. Like, if people actually cared about electability instead of some sexist construct of it, Amy Klobuchar is super electable.

What baggage does Klobuchar have as VP? I'm honestly not sure. Sure, the liberal wing of the party isn't enamored with her, but it's not like they have another choice. So I think that Klobuchar is underpriced at 19%. I'd put her chances closer to Harris's, perhaps at around 30.

I think that Klobuchar is underpriced at 19%. I'd put her chances closer to Harris's, perhaps at around 30.

Would She Be Good?

It's no secret that I supported Klobuchar for much of the presidential campaign. She is an extremely effective legislator, passing more laws than almost any other Democrat and bringing positive change to the world. Her platform may not be as liberal as I am, but she actually writes laws that get enacted while Bernie Sanders just shouts. That's why I'm pulling a New York Times and co-endorsing Amy Klobuchar for Vice President of the United States. (Who is my other endorsee? Read Part 2 to find out.)

Elizabeth Warren (13%)

This one's going to be fun. Elizabeth Warren, our third and final presidential-candidate senator, was responsible for the creation of the CFPB, a government agency that regulates the power of banks. Like Harris, Warren was a casualty of "electability."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Source: Slate.

Will She Be Picked?

Nope. I'm not even hedging. Here are three reasons why, each of them disqualifying:

(1) Joe Biden, at 78, would be the oldest President ever, and there's a very real chance he would die or become incapacitated in office. Elizabeth Warren is younger at 70, but she would be the second-oldest Vice President inaugurated, after Alben W. Barkley. Not exactly vivacious.

(2) Warren is too liberal for the ticket. She just disagrees with Biden on a lot of things, and they would have to either reconcile that or have a ticket where the presidential and vice presidential nominees propose different plans for America. Even if Biden wanted to extend an olive branch to the progressive New Order of the Democratic Party, other candidates like Harris and Stacey Abrams do that better.

(3) Biden and Warren just don't like each other. They've feuded for decades, primarily over bank regulations. It got personal, with Warren viewing Biden as in the pocket of big banks and Biden viewing Warren as an intellectualist professor. In fact, at a debate, Biden literally said that Warren had never accomplished anything of value in her life.

For all of these reasons, whether or not Joe Biden wants to make it look like he's considering Elizabeth Warren, he won't pick her. Her chance of selection is maybe 1%.

Biden and Warren just don't like each other.

Would She Be Good?

You know, I like Elizabeth Warren a lot. I supported her for president in 2020 for several years before the election began, and I think she has a solid record of achieving structural change in the world. The CFPB, which Biden downplays, is a great example. That said, I'm not sure she'd work well in a potential Biden administration, and I think the animosity would be unhealthy for the country.


Well, I've written a lot, but I have much more to say. Tune in next week for Part 2!


Next: Part 2

*For if you don't know, PredictIt is a site where people can bet on the outcome of current events. Then you can use that to give each event a probability. For example, I could say that, according to PredictIt, Hillary Clinton has an 8% chance to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. What that means is that I could pay 8 cents to PredictIt for a return of $1 if she is the nominee. Additionally, that means I could pay 92 cents to PredictIt to earn $1 if she's not the nominee. Finally, that means that the bettors on PredictIt don't know how to figure out who's running for president.

By the way, as I'm looking at PredictIt right now, you actually have to pay 9 cents to bet on Clinton and 92 to bet against. PredictIt has to make money, right?

Actually, to the best of my knowledge, PredictIt takes a 5% commission when winnings are withdrawn. That's how it makes money.

**There was an offhand comment by Dr. Jill Biden implying that she disliked Harris, but that was considered to be overinterpreted.

***Also, did you know that the Democratic Party has never nominated anyone for president or vice president from the entire West area of the country? That includes California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho–pretty much anywhere to the west of Texas and South Dakota. Obviously this isn't a big issue, but I kind of want to see it fixed. (Republicans have nominated many–just for president, John McCain (Arizona), Ronald Reagan (California), Richard Nixon (California) and Barry Goldwater (Arizona) come to mind.

****By the way, Klobuchar's husband John was hospitalized for the coronavirus recently. He's recovering well.


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