History tells Obama to pick an experienced running mate

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Who did presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois choose as his running mate? Was it Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware or Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius? Or will it be some surprise dark horse?
The Conventional Wisdom states that a vice presidential pick really isn't that important. There's a lot of evidence to support that view: A bad CW pick, who either proves hapless or embarrassing -- like Sen. Dan Quayle, R-Ind., did for Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988 or Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, D-N.Y., did for Sen. Walter Mondale, D-Minn., in 1984 -- can weigh down a presidential candidate like a heavy anchor around the neck of a swimmer.

In fact, Bush coasted to an easy victory in 1988 against Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis for the Democrats, even though Dukakis had one of the most impressive and effective vice presidential candidates in recent memory -- Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas. And Mondale in 1984 was a dead duck up against President Ronald Reagan anyway. It wouldn't have mattered if he had chosen Bruce Springsteen as his running mate: He was going down, no matter what.

But there have been a number of occasions in American political history when choosing the right running mate did decisively tip the scales: Franklin Roosevelt would never have won the Democratic presidential nomination in the first place, back in 1932, had he not cut a deal with House Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas. Garner's support proved crucial in putting FDR over the top at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

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Michael H. Ebner - 8/20/2008

Remember that Dwight D. Eisenhower selected Richard M. Nixon in 1952, then a first-term senator from California.

FDR never could resolve the matter, selecting three different vice presidents (Garner, Wallace, and Truman) during his four runs for the presidency.

Wilson selected Thomas Marshall of Indiana, whom he rarely saw or consulted.