When a Presidential nominee selects his Vice Presidential running mate in any Presidential campaign, it can be regarded as a judgment of the Presidential nominee’s leadership.
It can also cause much grief, as too often, the combination of Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees does not work, whether elected or not.
Since the time of Richard Nixon as Vice President under Dwight D. Eisenhower, as the Vice Presidency has become a significant and powerful office, there has been much distrust, stress, and alienation between the people running for the top two offices, and if elected, has become a major problem that affects the nation.
Witness the following:
While President Eisenhower allowed Vice President Nixon to take on more authority as Eisenhower suffered health crises, the two men never were very close, and Eisenhower held off on backing Nixon publicly for a second term as Vice President in 1956.
Lyndon B. Johnson had very little role and a difficult relationship with President John F. Kennedy, and his brother, Attorney General Robert F.Kennedy.
When Nixon ran against Kennedy in 1960, his running mate, Henry Cabot Lodge, followed a very relaxed campaign strategy, taking long naps and breaks during the Fall campaign, and it was clear that the two men did not get along well.
When Lyndon Johnson chose Hubert Humphrey as his Vice President in 1964, he treated Humphrey in a very disrespectful way, similar to what had occurred to Johnson under Kennedy. Humphrey was ruined in his later Presidential candidacy by having to endorse and support the Vietnam War, a war he had grave doubts about, and was often left out of important cabinet meetings.
When Nixon became President, he looked at his Vice President, Spiro Agnew, in a less than respectful way, and just allowed Agnew to do “dirty work” of attacking liberals and the news media, and refused to keep him informed about many policies, and let him resign due to scandal, without a word of support.
When Nixon chose Gerald Ford after Agnew resigned, he saw him as a lightweight, who would insure his own survival in the Watergate scandal, an assumption that Nixon was totally wrong about!
George McGovern chose Thomas Eagleton in 1972, without any knowledge of his mental treatments and then, effectively abandoned him for Sargent Shriver, a Kennedy brother in law.
Gerald Ford got along well with Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President, but dropped him in favor of Bob Dole when he ran in 1976, a move that probably caused his defeat.
When Ronald Reagan chose George H. W. Bush in 1980, the two men did not trust each other, and had been major rivals, and although Bush worked hard for Reagan, there was no personal chemistry between them, and the Bushes were never invited to stay at the White House under the Reagan Administration.
Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, without knowing about the illegal activities of her husband, and they did not seem very close during the campaign.
George H. W. Bush did not have much confidence, or give much authority, to his Vice President, Dan Quayle, who was a major burden during his administration, due to Quayle’s blunders and misstatements.
Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen seemed like oil and water, when they ran together in 1988.
Much the same can be said for Bob Dole and Jack Kemp in the 1996 Presidential campaign.
The combination of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman never seemed to click during the 2000 Presidential campaign, and Lieberman publicly called for giving up the fight for Florida’s electoral votes when Gore was still suing for a recount against George W. Bush.
In 2004, John Kerry and John Edwards did not get along very well, as Edwards was very much his own man in his own mind.
And sadly, the same holds true for John McCain and Sarah Palin, with her becoming a major headache, embarrassment, and burden in 2008.
The only times running mates really seemed to work well together were:
Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie in the 1968 campaign.
Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale in the Carter Presidency, with Mondale practically seen as co-President.
Bill Clinton and Al Gore in the Clinton Presidency, until the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when there was a falling out between the two men, which affected the 2000 Presidential campaign.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the second Bush Presidency, although their relationship started to deteriorate in the second term.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden, presently, in the Obama Presidency, working very well together, as united as Carter and Mondale were in the 1970s
This is all discussed as reality in our history as Mitt Romney edges closer to the Presidential nomination of his party.
And even if, somehow, Rick Santorum, or someone else ends up as the Republican nominee, who is chosen to be his Vice Presidential running mate will be crucial to the campaign, and if he wins, to the office of Vice President, and to the nation.