Now the fun begins. Everybody has an opinion on who the Donald and Hillary should pick for running mates. It’s the most harmless fun of the campaign because none of the speculation means anything. But it might beat a game of Solitaire on a dark and rainy night.
The Great Mentioner, the oracle of columnist Russell Baker’s clever imagination, is as busy as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The lists of “those being mentioned” is a long one, and not very exclusive. Dead or not, even Harold Stassen can’t be counted out in a year like this one. If the gay 90-year-old bridal vote can be persuasively quantified, Harris Wofford could be a late contender.
The only votes that count in this game are the votes of Hillary and the Donald, and they don’t yet know themselves who to make No. 2. They’re still weighing the reasons why none of them is perfect. The only perfect players in the game, in their not-so-humble opinion, are themselves, and even the Donald, with an ego as big as Mount Olympus, can’t choose himself.
The old considerations of ideology, geography and temperament no longer necessarily apply. A good vice president is expected to live by the oath of Hippocrates, “first, do no harm.” Nearly everybody in the Democratic Party is a liberal, every Republican is a conservative, so there are no competing ideologies. Geography counts for a little, but not as much as it once did. Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Al Gore of Tennessee were sons of neighboring states, joined at Memphis, and Bubba’s choice of Al surprised everybody. It turned out that it didn’t matter; another precedent shattered.
Presidents and vice presidents must be from different states, but changing your registration, like changing your sex, is quick and easy. Dick Cheney was a Texan, too, but when George W. picked him for running mate Mr. Cheney caught the next plane to Cheyenne and became a trans-Wyomingian before trans was cool.
Running mates were once chosen for their skill at insult, invective and verbal abuse. Barry Goldwater picked an obscure upstate New York congressman, Bill Miller, in 1964 because “he’ll drive Lyndon Johnson nuts.” In the event it was Mr. Goldwater who suffered outrageous allegations of nuthood, and even suffered a long-distance psychiatric diagnosis by a panel of learned psychiatrists assembled by a magazine. They judged him nuts, of course, lest they not get their promised free subscription to the magazine.
Donald Trump will need no help with the invective and the insult, and Hillary Clinton is a lady, and ladies never countenance wickedness. Even Bonnie softened the rougher edges of Clyde, though Bonnie could handle a Thompson and smoked cigarettes. This leaves both presumptive nominees to get on with choosing whom they please.
Some of the names bandied about for the Donald’s running mate — all identified as coming from “senior campaign aides” even if some of the aides only get to smoke the occasional cigar on the outer fringes of the inner circle — are more fanciful than others. No one turns down an actual invitation to join the ticket, but they all have to pretend they’re not interested. An effective way to rule yourself out is to try to rule yourself in. The idea is to respond to speculation with a demurral fully focus-group tested.
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is an attractive possibility for the Republicans. Florida, like Ohio, is crucial for both tickets, and President Obama carried Florida four years ago by only 2 points. “Well,” he says to such speculation, “I predict Donald’s going to have a big win. I like my job. I worked hard to get this job. I’m going to stay in this job. I’m going to finish this job. I’ve got two years and eight months to go.”
A kind word about a prospect from a presumptive nominee can set off a burst of fresh speculation. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who is nobody’s idea of a running mate to drive anybody nuts, got such a kind word this week. “I think John will be very helpful with Ohio,” Mr. Trump said just as the governor was calling his presidential race quits. Could the Donald, being his own dispenser of insult and invective, see Mr. Kasich as his needed softer, nicer side? Not likely, but the talk freshened up the speculation.
Nearly every Democrat thinks Elizabeth Warren is all Hillary needs to make the ticket whole. Such a ticket would be a triumph of estrogen, the female hormone, but it’s a ticket popular with everyone but Hillary. Professor Warren may be waiting for the Hillary grand jury and bigger game. Biden-Warren sounds more likely than Clinton-Warren.
• Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.