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The 2024 Election Could Come Down to the VP Choices

Cui bono from the vice-presidential options?

Presidents and presidential candidates are, for the most part, powerhouse personalities that attract allegiance and demand attention. But even then, they often need a helping hand with an elusive slice of the electorate. Whether it is a state they want to sew up or a demographic that is wavering, vice presidents are a tool to gain an edge. But with the 2024 candidates already on the campaign trail, the VP stakes this November have never been higher or more important.

The Kamala Conundrum

President Joe Biden – more than any other candidate – appears to suffer under the weight of his 2020 Kamala Harris decision. The VP has proven to be awkward, unpopular, and – even to her once-sycophantic supporters in the Fourth Estate – an albatross around the president’s neck. Chatter inside the Beltway has vacillated between the impossibility of ditching the first female – and first non-white – vice president, and how to deal with a prickly pear of a problem: From word salad diatribes to professional failure in each of her assigned “czar” roles, Ms. Harris is proving to be something of an electoral liability.

The president is 81 years old and, should he win this November, will be 82 when he begins his next term. But unlike many other octogenarians, his 80 is not the new 60. The chance of VP Harris ascending to the presidency is a stark and constant undercurrent. The fact is, now that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is stepping down, she is the most unpopular high-office figure in the nation. RealClearPolitics average of polls suggests she is more than 18 points underwater.

Even more so than in 2020, when Biden promised he would be merely a “transition” candidate, the chance of a President Kamala Harris finishing the next term is growing in probability. And the voters are well aware of it.

Has RFK Jr.’s VP Pick Helped or Hurt His Cause?

The big question on everyone’s lips is from whom will Robert F. Kennedy Jr. take votes? In the early days of his insurgent third-party bid, pundits assumed that the Kennedy scion would draw voters from each party in roughly equal numbers. However, his recent pick of Silicon Valley lawyer Nicole Shanahan as running mate may not have borderline Republican voters flocking to his cause.

Shanahan is smart, attractive, successful, and has a war chest that the campaign can exploit – much of it courtesy of her ex-husband, Google co-founder Sergey Brin. But she also has a track record of being a solid Democrat and having spent her own cash to help get Biden elected in 2020. Her left-leaning bona fides may rally the electorate on the East and West coasts but are not at all likely to attract voters in the heartland, especially in the crucial swing states.

And then comes the specter of Shanahan being a second-place pick. As Liberty Nation’s Senior Political Analyst Tim Donner recently noted:

“Kennedy had an open, unlimited field of known and unknowns from which to select his vice presidential choice. As an independent candidate without a party structure to involve itself in the selection, he was free to head in any number of possible directions.”

And yet he chose Shanahan, a candidate almost certain to put off the more conservative-leaning of his potential supporters. It seems that Kennedy’s original intent was to make a play for former Democrat Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, but she wasn’t keen to play ball. “I met with Kennedy several times, and we have become good friends,” Gabbard said in a statement. “He asked if I would be his running mate. After careful consideration, I respectfully declined.”

Notably, very few major polls have been released regarding a five-way presidential race (encompassing the level of support for Kennedy, Jill Stein, and Cornel West) since Shanahan was picked for the spot.

Trump Will Do What Trump Does

Surprisingly, considering Donald Trump’s now-contentious relationship with his own former VP, Mike Pence, his choice of number two is probably the least likely to impact his electoral chances. No matter what happens, 45’s White House involvement will be over and done with after the 2028 election. So, whoever gets to run on the ballot with him this November will be doing so with an eye to the presidency in four short years.

Trump will likely choose someone who will excite his base and pay dividends in terms of voters he or she can bring into the big tent. His core voting bloc will want someone with solid MAGA credentials, but he’ll also want a personality that can bring along more traditional Republicans. A small but significant number of conservative voters may not want Trump back in the Oval Office but are willing to cast ballots for him to oppose the continuation of Democrat dominance.

As Trump continues to outpoll Biden both nationally and in the all-important swing states, the Republican VP slot is becoming a valuable commodity for those with an eye on their political futures.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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