Covering politics in North Carolina and beyond, VoterRadio.com is streaming 24 hours a day. Listen live or on-demand.
Potential VP Picks Try Out in N.C.
By Brent Laurenz
Published: June 17, 2012
RALEIGH - If you want to play in the big leagues, you need to first make the team. The same goes for presidential politics. And in the competition to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee, the tryouts are being held right here in North Carolina.
A recent article in the National Journal outlines the steady procession of potential vice presidents through the Tar Heel State -- Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman -- and you can see how these contenders are being tested here.
It makes sense. North Carolina is a pivotal swing state that Barack Obama won in 2008, there are plenty of voters to talk to and even a healthy amount of money to raise. Also, if the Republicans want to win in November, they are almost certainly going to have to win in North Carolina first. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are becoming the first stop for the vice presidential tryouts.
Of course, our own Sen. Richard Burr was asked about his potential for being named Romney’s running mate, and he politely demurred, saying he’s not being vetted by the Romney campaign and doesn’t expect to be.
Burr would appear to make a sound pick, though, coming from an important swing state. He also has a reputation as a hard-working senator, would add geographic balance to the ticket and wouldn’t upstage the presidential nominee (see: Palin, Sarah 2008).
But Burr says he’s not being vetted and not interested, even though that’s what they all say. One of the funny things about wanting to be the vice presidential nominee is you can’t openly campaign for the spot.
Working against Burr is the fact that North Carolina doesn’t have a rich tradition of vice presidents over the years. In fact, of the 47 people who have served as vice president since 1789, exactly zero have been North Carolinians. The closest we’ve come recently was John Edwards in 2004, but, as we all know, that didn’t work out so well in the end.
Two of North Carolina’s most prominent politicians of the 20th century were almost picked as vice presidential nominees, but they ultimately didn’t make the ticket. Terry Sanford, governor from 1961-1965 and a U.S. senator from 1986-1993, was almost chosen to be Hubert Humphrey’s running mate in 1968, and there is speculation that John F. Kennedy would have replaced Lyndon Johnson with Sanford on the ticket in 1964.
Jim Hunt, our longest serving governor, was also a rumored vice presidential contender in 2000 for Al Gore. But even if he had made the cut, he wouldn’t have ended up as vice president anyway, unless with Hunt on the ticket Gore could have scrounged together an extra couple thousand votes in Florida.
So if Sen. Burr really is uninterested or unlikely to be chosen, then it looks like North Carolina’s vice presidential drought will continue. However, if we persist in being an important swing state and gain national importance and relevance, then surely the odds would favor us sending a vice president to Washington at some point.
It might not be in 2012 or even 2016, but I’m confident one day North Carolina will see a homegrown politician in the number two slot. For now, we’ll have to be content as the training ground for prospective nominees and a key battleground for control of the White House.