Like all of you, I read the Esquire article promoting Congressman Elijah Cummings (D- MD) as a potential Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 2016.
I have commended Representative Cummings for his leadership during the recent crisis in Baltimore. He really showed his mettle. That said…Vice President? His selection wouldn’t be a bad choice, but I am not certain he would be a top 20 pick, maybe top 50.
He checks some boxes. He is a capable legislator, a better-than-average Member of Congress. I am sincerely not trying to gosh-darn him with faint praise. Really. He is sufficiently progressive for most Democrats. He would hold his own on the debate stage against whomever the Republicans dredged up, which is not a trivial matter. He would be qualified to become President, which is a far more significant measure. That said, I am not convinced he is the best option from Maryland, much less all of the other states in the Union.
Of course much depends on several unsettled factors. The identity of the Democratic nominee is not yet known. Yes, I have done the math just like you have. I know Secretary Hillary Clinton is well poised to become the presumptive nominee in the near future. But what if Senator Bernie Sanders becomes the nominee? Or what if a political earthquake occurs and a third person receives the Democratic nomination this summer? The article assumes Clinton, but it’s not a done deal…not yet.
Congressman Cummings might match up better for Senator Sanders, although I think Bernie, if I may be familiar, and perhaps a majority of the Democratic Party might prefer a woman as a running mate…with Senator Klobuchar, Senator Gillibrand, or Hillary Clinton herself being interesting choices.
Part of my issue with Cummings, frankly, is his age. With the two most likely Democratic nominees being rather mature citizens from a certain generation, I would prefer a bit of youth with the #2 pick. Yes, both Clinton and Sanders seem indefatigable, but we have all seen the age progression that occurs. POTUS years are not the same as non-POTUS years. I don’t think it is a bad idea to have someone in their 40s or 50s holding down the VP slot. I like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Sherrod Brown, but they are in the same age range as Cummings.
Moreover, despite the recent GOP successes in our corner of the universe, Maryland is not a swing state. Electorally, there is little to be gained by such a choice. Thus, while former Governor Martin O’Malley would be a qualified selection, he doesn’t help with the math to 270 electoral votes. The same logic applies for Secretary Tom Perez, who like O’Malley, I would probably pick ahead of Cummings.
So who then? I would short list Secretary Julian Castro. His presence would likely not flip Texas, not in 2016, but I believe that that state will realign and become more competitive in the not-too-distant future. Clinton – Castro would be a heck of a good ticket. The case for Castro is simply more compelling than the case for Cummings. I may expand on this later.
And of course there is the double-down philosophy. Let’s see who did that in recent history, oh yes, Bill Clinton with Al Gore in 1992. Two modern (for the time), accomplished Southern Baby Boomers. Clinton-Klobuchar would reflect a similar line of thinking; Clinton-Gillibrand might be trickier, given the electoral issues related to residency. Of course the NY-NY angle probably doesn’t help Clinton, unless Trump is 1) the nominee and 2) greatly expands the playing field…in which case Clinton has much bigger problems. Klobuchar would definitely offer more upside than Cummings from an electoral perspective.
It’s too bad that Kamala Harris isn’t a Senator yet, although if California is competitive in 2016, see the note on Gillibrand.
Personally, I think Senator Cory Booker and Governor Deval Patrick would be better choices than Cummings. Both are statewide office-holders, NJ is more of a swing state than MA or MD. And yes, Patrick turns 60 this year, but he is a youthful almost 60.
While not a fan of dynasties, I do admit that a Clinton – Obama (Michelle) ticket would be instant-awesome-in-a-can.
In short, I know those of us in the Free State admire Congressman Cummings. I do. Many of us think he should have run for the Senate this year. I did. Would I be OK with him as the Democratic Vice Presidential choice? I would.
But I think there are better options, from both the political and governing points-of-view, and I think the Democrats need the strongest ticket possible to win this November. Hopefully by a wide enough margin, with sufficient coat-tails, to allow Congressman Cummings to become Chairman Cummings.
Stay tuned, as more will follow.