When it comes to the significance of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice, Texas Governor Rick Perry seems to have more sense than most political pundits:
“There are great and talented people out there, but vice presidential candidates are interesting choices that will probably only make two or three days worth of news, unless they make some huge gaffe,” Perry told CNN in an interview at the Republican Governors Association retreat in Aspen, Colorado. “As long as it’s not me, I’ll be cool.”
Perry invoked another famous Texan, John Nance Garner, to make his point.
“I think it was ‘Cactus Jack’ Garner, who was VP under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said that being vice president is not worth a bucket of warm spit,” he said.
Because of its obsession with the horse race, the media will flip out when Romney announces his vice presidential choice, even if it’s someone as bland as former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty or Ohio Senator Rob Portman. But while it’s true that presidential candidates receive a small bump after choosing a VP, it almost always subsides. While a presidential nominee might hope that their choice delivers votes in November, the evidence shows that veep candidates have little impact. On average since 1920, vice presidential choices have produced a net gain of only 2.2 percentage points for the top of the ticket—in their home states.
It sounds obvious, but voters evaluate a nominee—not his running mate. Or, as Perry puts it, “Mitt Romney’s vision for America and what he says are what people are going to focus on, not the vice presidential candidate.” At most, the Veep choice will tell you about the nominee’s priorities. Sarah Palin underscored the extent to which John McCain was a gambler, and Romney’s likely choice—an “incredibly boring white guy”—will emphasize his allergy to risk of any kind.