The Economist describes the current GOP field (save Huntsman) as a “rum list” of candidates. Typical of a left-wing rag to be so partisan, but who could argue? This situation will however make the VP spot on the Republican ticket much more attractive to rising GOP stars and the race for the veep candidacy that much more interesting.

The Republican presidential candidates (again, other than Huntsman) benefit from comparisons only to the second-tier and third-tier politicians against whom they are currently running for the nomination. Since Huntsman is not going to win, that means whoever gets the Republican VP slot will instantly become the un-Dan Quayle, i.e., the VP candidate who looks more substantive, mature and impressive than the fellow with whom he shares the ticket. If you are Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rob Portman, John Thune, Mitch Daniels or any of the other A-listers who took a pass this year, the VP slot provides an opportunity to raise your national profile while inevitably making many people in the party mutter “How I wish we could flip the order on this thing”.

In the role of VP candidate who outshines the presidential candidate, losing is almost as good as winning. People don’t typically blame the VP candidate for an election loss, so presuming even modestly competent performance, the GOP veep candidate who loses in 2012 is in excellent position to run for the top slot in 2016. And if you win, you win. You have to be vice-president for 4 or 8 years, but public service always involves sacrifice, and you are still well positioned for a future presidential run.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.