Quora Question: Who is Hillary's Best VP Choice?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts before speaking in Brooklyn on June 7. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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Answer from Jeremy Arnold, writer, analyst, startups:

To give context as to what "best" running mate for Hillary might entail, let's review the six standards by which potentials will be measured:

  1. Inspirational Value. For Hillary to win, she just needs left-leaning voters to actually go to the polls. The demographics are firmly on her side. The real enemy is apathy. Her ticket could use an Obama-esque figure — someone capable of inspiring the youth and the disenchanted to make the effort.
  2. Debating IQ. Debates have an outsized influence on who goes home, and the VP match-up is no exception (Biden's performance in '12 helped slow the Republican momentum, while Cheney's appearance in '00 lent an aura of strength to the Bush campaign).
  3. White Male Appeal. The numbers are clear: Trump needs white voters, with the real battleground being working-class men without college degrees. The Democrats need to speak to the fears of that base by softly and relentlessly presenting a credible vision for why a leftist vote is the surest path to their financial security—as Bernie did so well during his campaign.
  4. Values Stewardship. If Hillary gets hit by a bus, will her replacement do justice to her platform? More urgently, will they make comparable appointments to SCOTUS in the midst of what could be an opportunity to tilt the court for a generation?
  5. Positional Suitability. Can they do the job of vice president well? That generally requires tact, intelligence, humility, people skills—and just enough bite.
  6. Net Gains. The Democrats can't afford to lose a senate seat. As great as a candidate like Sherrod Brown would be—and he would be a brilliant choice—the cost is likely too great.

So, with that framework in mind, a quick scorecard review of the top candidates.

Elizabeth Warren

  1. Inspirational Value: A+. She's fire on the podium, and on Twitter. Young people love her. She's more or less a female Bernie.
  2. Debating IQ: A+. She knows her numbers cold. Her rants are almost eloquent. She'd roast Christie or Gingrich alive.
  3. White Male Appeal: B-. She knows exactly what to say, but has a hard time shaking her professorial tone. That may alienate a small but costly minority.
  4. Values Stewardship: B-. She's more progressive than Clinton. Wall Street and the 1 percent (i.e., big donors) may balk at that risk.
  5. Positional Suitability: B. The only think keeping her from a perfect score here is her penchant for picking fights (however just).
  6. Net Gains: C+. Massachusetts has laws which call for a special election to replace migrated senators. But the Democrats wouldn't be guaranteed victory.

Tim Kaine

  1. Inspirational Value: C. He's another old white guy. He has 46,000 Twitter followers to Warren's 710k. There's a reason Obama picked Biden over him.
  2. Debating IQ: B. He's not a fountain of eloquence or a fast draw. But he's principled, not easily bullied, and I can't see him doing worse than a push.
  3. White Male Appeal: B. He's from the right state, and he has the right skin color. But he's also a relative unknown, with little star potential.
  4. Values Stewardship: B. He's only just come around on abortion rights. I'm not sure many progressives want another Catholic VP.
  5. Positional Suitability: A+. He's extremely qualified. Hard to find anything negative to say about him in that respect.
  6. Net Gains: B. While his seat would be safe, he arguably offers more value by staying in the Senate. The Democrats need strong committee leaders.

Julian Castro

  1. Inspirational Value: B-. He's young, but I see no evidence that young people actually like him. His speeches seem forced. He isn't media-savvy.
  2. Debating IQ: C. He can pull off a decent soundbite, but I'd be terrified at the risk of Christie doing to him what he did to Rubio.
  3. White Male Appeal: C-. Consider from the vantage point of an Appalachian welder. Rubio missed that demo, too—and he was a stronger candidate.
  4. Values Stewardship: B+. Castro seems to vote as per his handlers' instructions. Given the strength of those strings, there's little risk of him going rogue.
  5. Positional Suitability: D-. I'm not entirely sure why he's being considered. Even Palin had a longer CV than him.
  6. Net Gains: A. By all appearances, he was placed in HUD for grooming purposes. So moving him on should have minimal downsides.

Tom Perez

  1. Inspirational Value: B-. Very likable guy, but decidedly low-key. Says all the right things, but might fail to attract an audience to say them to.
  2. Debating IQ: B+. He talks like an informed policy wonk (which he is), but he has a sense of humor and "niceness" about him. He's also sneaky smart.
  3. Whte Male Appeal: B. The labor market will be a huge component of this election. He knows it like few others, and he tells a convincing story.
  4. Values Stewardship: A+. He's a through and through pragmatic Democrat. Maybe slightly left of Hillary, but not enough to be concerning.
  5. Positional Suitability: B. He's only held one elected office. But he's a well-respected, diligent technocrat with a compelling legal resume.
  6. Net Gains: B+. There's something to be said for stability in an important position, but there are plenty of adequate replacements.

Cory Booker

  1. Inspirational Value: A+. His Twitter pic is his Snapchat key. That says something about him. He gets it.
  2. Debating IQ: A-. He can get a little jumbled in his delivery, which might let someone like Christie score a point here or there. But he's solid overall.
  3. White Male Appeal: B+. He's from the northeast, and he isn't white.But he has a gift for narrative, coupled with undeniable charisma.
  4. Values Stewardship: A+. He's the embodiment of next-generation Democrats.
  5. Positional Suitability: B-. Hard to say if he's a Rubio or a Trudeau, which is to say that it's hard to judge his real competency. That's a risk.
  6. Net Gains: F. If it wasn't for his Senate seat, this wouldn't even be a conversation. He offers enough youth appeal that it might be worth the trade-off in his case, but Clinton would need to feel more pressure first. This is a choice you only make if you sense a real danger of losing without him.

I won't give full write-ups for Eric Garcetti, Xavier Becerra, or Tim Ryan—largely because I just don't see any of them as real options. They're list-fillers. Becerra is the strongest of them by far, but I suspect his opposition to the TPP and the old Vignali skeletons are significant strikes against him.

As for names which weren't on that list but should have been:

Kirsten Gillibrand—I have no idea why she hasn't been considered. Maybe too similar to Hillary? She could be Clinton's and Warren's love-child.

Austan Goolsbee—OK, this is a fantasy pick. He seems done with public service after dealing with the Great Recession for Obama. But I can't imagine a better face for this election. He's smart, an elite debater (part of the #1 national team when Cruz's was #2), and probably the best "explainer" I've ever seen.

Joe Biden—Gaffes aside, the current veep is great at what he does. He might not have the heart to continue after his son's death, but I imagine Clinton must be considering it if he's willing.

So who will she pick? In my judgment:

  • If Trump gains serious momentum in the near-term, she rolls the dice and goes for Brown or Booker.
  • If the status quo remains, she plays safe and goes with Kaine or Perez.
  • Warren probably makes the most sense, but Clinton doesn't seem to like her. It would be great for the party, but I don't see it happening.
  • Castro makes the least sense, but Clinton does seem to like him. It would likely be terrible for the party, which means it definitely could happen.

Who is the best VP candidate on Hillary's short list, leaked June 16? originally appeared on Quora—the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions: