With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton expected to announce their vice presidential nominees in the next week or two, the media is frantically speculating about whether their picks will help — or hurt — their electoral prospects.
Will Trump try to shore up his support among evangelical conservatives? Or will he pick an "attack dog" who will tear into Clinton? Will Clinton want a progressive firebrand to win over Bernie Sanders die-hards? Or will she attempt to cut into Trump's big lead among white men?
What everyone takes for granted is that both Clinton and Trump aren't thinking all that much about who would be a good successor should they die in office. Instead, they're at least partially thinking about who will best help them win this fall.
Vox's Matt Yglesias has a good critique of this line of thinking, and makes the case that the VP pick should be done with governing in mind, rather than short-term electoral politics. All this got me thinking, though — why should we force presidential nominees to choose their successors in the heat of an election?
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The controversy over Ruth Bader Ginsburg attacking Donald Trump, explained
One obvious argument for keeping the VPs on the ballot is that it gives voters a possible veto over particularly objectionable choices. But given that voters don't seem to factor the VP nominees into their choices very much, why shouldn't the winner of the presidency make his or her pick after — rather than during — the heat of the race? Do we really want to risk letting the country fall into unsteady hands simply because Iowa looked like a battleground state one year?
On Tuesday, I talked to six political scientists who have studied the vice presidency in search of an answer for this question. It turns out there's actually a pretty good defense for keeping things as they are — just not the one I had expected.