There is now a better than even chance that either billionaire reality television star Donald Trump or amateur Grandpa Munster impersonator and Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz will be the Republican nominee for President of the United States.
The prayers of sleepy Ben Carson’s supporters will not be answered.
The jig is up for faux-moderate John Kasich.
The only hope members of the Republican establishment have of keeping Trump or Cruz from being their party’s standard bearer is Marco Rubio. As writer Ana Marie Cox once quipped, he is the “Benjamin Button” of American politics. Indeed. He is a man who seems young in appearance but whose positions on the issues more closely resemble that of a Sanka-sipping, Fox News-watching, doomsday-prepping, angry, old, white dude.
The fractious base of the Republican Party is salivating. They fell in line for that Republican-in-Name-Only, John McCain, and for that boring squish, Mitt Romney. Now, they finally have the chance to see one of their own… go down in flames in a General Election.
While the 2016 Republican primaries have offered an unending stream of bizarre, outrageous, and unintentionally illuminating moments for media run on an endless loop and for comedians to ridicule, over the past couple weeks my thoughts have shifted to the next stage in the process of picking a president: choosing a vice president.
If you thought McCain’s selection of Alaska’s then half-term governor was odd, wait until Trump or Cruz have to sit down with their closest advisors and make a decision.
Aside from the normal qualifications – someone who is constitutionally eligible to be President – over the years presidential candidates have used their choices of vice presidential running mates to fortify perceived weakness and to underscore strengths.
Paul Ryan helped Romney assuage the worries of Beltway conservatives who didn’t trust him.
Joe Biden helped Barack Obama appeal to working class, Midwestern, white voters who had favored Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries.
Dick Cheney helped George W. Bush legitimize his foreign policy credentials (ultimately resulting in a deadly, unfunded war in the Middle East that destabilized the region and led to many of the problems we face today, but that’s beside the point.)
Al Gore helped Bill Clinton emphasize the need for passing the torch to a new, younger (than Reagan or Bush) generation.
Jack Kemp helped Bob Dole appease conservatives who thought the Kansas senator was too moderate, and to win over young people because Kemp once played football or something.
Dan Quayle was meant to help George H.W. Bush appear less old and stuffy. So what if he was a walking gaffe machine with severe spelling limitations?
George H.W. Bush helped Ronald Reagan strengthen his relationship with establishment Republicans and bring the party together after the pair faced-off in the 1980 primaries.
Yes, presidential nominees tend to pick vice presidential nominees who, at least in theory, will buttress their electoral prospects. But the vice presidential running mates gain something tangible too.
When each of these vice presidential nominees made their decision on whether or not to join the ticket, they no doubt considered what repercussions such a move would have on their own political prospects.
“Could we really pull this off and win?”
“Would it help or hurt my shot at one day being president?”
And, yes, I suppose they probably thought about the impact such a commitment would have on their families and other less exciting issues too.
For every Veep candidate going back decades, the answer to these questions and concerns was to forge ahead and join the ticket, regardless of how things eventually played out.
With Trump and Cruz the whole scenario gets flipped on its head.
Donald Trump is likely to embarrass his running mate time and again, slinging insults while taking pains to avoid the truth whenever possible. He will not win.
Ted Cruz is so extreme that his running mate would spend most of their time perpetually answering for the candidate’s fringe opinions. He will not win.
Whoever accepts a vice presidential nomination from Trump or Cruz will squander any hope they have of one day being commander-in-chief, let alone second-in-command. They will be forever tainted by Trump or Cruz, and relegated to contracts with conservative media or some nondescript, right-wing think tank.
That narrows the pool of likely candidates to those who dream of one day being like Sarah Palin and cashing-in on their notoriety once the dust settles after a crushing defeat in November.
For 2016, then, the question is not, “Who will Trump or Cruz ask to be their vice presidential nominee?” The question is, “Who on earth would ever say ‘yes’?”
Copyright 2016 Karl Frisch, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-969-2829 to carry Karl’s column in your publication.