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The Kamala Harris Pick: Geographic Balance Takes Back Seat to Gender, Race

  • August 12, 2020

In truth, for all the talk about geographic balance in presidential tickets, it has been decades since that was on the top of the punch list for presidential candidates looking for a running mate. Mr. Biden’s list of finalists this year was evidence of that: Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, was one of the few who fit that old model.

“Geography died a long time ago as a decisive factor,” Anita Dunn, a top Biden adviser, said of running mates in presidential elections.

In 2000, Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee at the top of the ticket. In 2004, John Kerry picked a Southern running mate, John Edwards, who lost his home state of North Carolina. And in 2012, Paul Ryan did not help Mitt Romney in Wisconsin.

“Geographic balance seems to be a thing of the political past with our 24/7 media cycle,” said Scott Reed, who was the campaign manager for Bob Dole’s 1996 bid for president. Mr. Dole chose Jack Kemp of New York as his running mate; they lost New York to Bill Clinton.

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said historical patterns had become increasingly clear. “A vice president doesn’t bring you states,” he said. “The last vice president who brought a state was Lyndon Johnson in 1960.”

Gender and race are another matter, especially in today’s political environment as Democrats seek to prevent Mr. Trump from winning a second term. Mr. Biden had said late in the primary season that he would select a woman as his running mate, and he had been lobbied aggressively for months to select a Black woman.

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