Dream Tickets

All the insta-speculation over some arranged Biden-Warren partnership whereby the sitting vice president of the United States agrees in advance to serve one term and then gracefully defer to his own vice president is an illustration of perennial popularity among media types of Dream Ticket fantasies whereby a preemptive Veep selection radically transforms the viability of a presidential candidate. There’s only one problem with such scenarios: it’s never happened before.

Lest we forget, until very recently the whole Veep thing was an afterthought taken care of at the Convention. Now it’s an afterthought taken care of after the presidential nomination is secured.

There’s one real-life exception: when shortly before the 1976 Convention Ronald Reagan announced that Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker would be his running-mate if he won the nomination. This gambit, designed by John Sears, was aimed at peeling off just enough Pennsylvania delegates to lift Reagan over Gerald Ford; it failed, and by most accounts, even backfired.

Beyond that, any advance ticket-making we’ve experienced has been solely in the realm of unsuccessful wheeling and political mischief-making. In the former category, we know now that in 2008 John Edwards was peddling himself to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as a potential running-mate (and then, when his leverage dropped, as Attorney General) in exchange for his support. Neither took his offers very seriously. In the latter category, it’s not unusual to see a last-ditch effort to stop a candidate barreling towards the nomination use “dream ticket” suppositions in order to build unlikely coalitions. I have a very distinct memory from 1972 of Shirley Chisholm appearing on a Sunday Show not too long before the Democratic Convention and floating a ticket of–I swear to God–Ted Kennedy and Wilbur Mills on behalf of what everybody was calling the “Anybody But McGovern” movement.

So absent some very tangible evidence to the contrary, I think we are entitled to view the Biden-Warren talk as political mischief-making compounded by the special media hype surrounding anything that might hurt Hillary Clinton, for which there is a bottomless appetite in media-land.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.