A reporter asked me, “Do people run for VP, who in the past, how, has it worked or failed?”

My reply: I haven’t looked at this recently, but I recall when studying election forecasting 15 years ago, that the estimated effect of VP choice was something like +3 percentage points in the VP’s home state, so nothing huge.

What about national effects? In 1988, I recall that polls found that Bush alone (in a Bush vs. Dukakis matchup) did about 2 points better than Bush-Quayle vs. Dukakis-Bentsen. But this is probably an upper bound:
– Quayle was a horrible candidate
– And probably, when it came down to the voting booth, it’s my guess that less than 2% of people decided not to vote for Bush on the basis of Quayle.

So probably the biggest effect of VP is that this is a person who’s likely to become president. (I don’t have the stats on this, but the total probability must be pretty high.) If I were choosing, I’d pick the person I’d most like as a future president and probably not worry so much about electoral calculations, fun though they are to think about.

2 thoughts on “VP

  1. By my count, 14 of our 43 presidents had served as VP: Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Fillmore, Tyler, Johnson, Arthur, T Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, Nixon, Johnson, Ford, GHW Bush. My first thought was that this is disproportionately slanted towards the old days, but in fact 5 of the last 13 presidents had served as VP, which is damn close to 14/43 (and actually a bit higher!).

    Hmm, the fraction of presidents who had served as VP is not quite the same as the faction of VPs who become President, though it's close. (There have been a few more VPs than presidents). Looked at this other way, which is more relevant, there have been 46 VPs (including Cheney), and 14 became president, so a rough estimate is that a VP has about 1/3 chance of going on to become President.

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