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Vox's VP Generator: use political history to build Clinton and Trump's shortlists

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At this point in the contest, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have almost certainly begun thinking about potential running mates. Vice presidents are important, in part, for being the second person in the line of succession. But historically, campaigns have also considered electoral math with their VP pick.

In short, it is another person who can appeal to certain demographics where the presidential nominee falls short.

For example, Trump has polled poorly among women, so having a woman on his ticket might help. Meanwhile, Clinton needs Hispanics to turn out in swing states, like Florida and Nevada, and relying on Trump's anti-immigration platform might not be enough. All the while, both candidates are almost 70 years old, so it's quite likely they will choose a younger running mate.

Clinton and Trump are likely mulling over these factors. And to help, we made them (and you!) a tool to create a shortlist of vice presidential nominees.

It starts with about 1,000 names. It includes every current and former member of Congress, every current and recent governor, and every Cabinet member from the past two administrations. This covers basically everyone who could be vice president.

Since 1960, only one nominee wouldn't qualify under these criteria, and that's Sarge Shriver who in 1972 was George McGovern's running mate and came in after serving as US ambassador to France and as the first director of the Office of Economic Opportunity.

In addition, only people under 70 are included. That's because the oldest VP nominee since 1960 was Joe Biden, and he was 65 when elected.

So with these things in mind: Do you want a Republican woman with little establishment experience? A Democrat from a swing state who's had a long tenure in the Senate? Think about what the candidates need to shore up their tickets, and find out who is in that universe of people. Obviously, there are many considerations, but this helps you get to a shortlist — or at least a medium one.

You can play around with the tool here — and read below for a few historical tips on how campaigns typically make their vice presidential pick.

The vice presidential shortlist generator

Filter this list to get a shortlist of people who could be vice president.

There are two types of VPs that campaigns like

One thing you learn from looking at the modern history of vice presidents is that certain characteristics tend to have appealed to past campaigns.

Age: Since 1960, every vice presidential candidate has been younger than 65 at the time of the election. So our list only includes politicians under 70.

There seems to be a bit of polarization in age, with two types of nominees. Some are young up-and-comers (Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Al Gore, Dan Quayle), and some are older with vast experience (Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, Bob Dole). Generally, older presidential candidates seem to pick younger nominees, and vice versa. But the other consideration is that picking a younger nominee gives the party a presumptive frontrunner for the next election, whether they win or lose.

Gender: We have only had two female nominees: Palin and Geraldine Ferraro. Both lost.

Race: We have never had a nonwhite nominee. (Addendum: Reader Paul Weber e-mailed me and pointed out that Charles Curtis, vice president to Herbert Hoover, had a mother who was one-quarter Kaw Indian. He spoke Kansa and French before he learned English, and spent part of his childhood on a Kaw reservation.)

Swing states: Surprisingly, it's not common for a VP pick to come from a swing state. Only three times since 1960 has the vice presidential nominee come from a state that ended up having a general election margin of less than 5 percent. This includes Al Gore in 1992 (Tennessee), Spiro Agnew in 1968 (Maryland), and Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960 (Texas).

Most are from Congress: Only four VP picks since 1960 did not serve in either the Senate or House. This includes Palin (2008), Shriver (1972), and Agnew (1968).

House or Senate: The most common route to the vice presidency is through the Senate. More than half the VP picks since 1960 served in the senate, while only four candidates served only in the House (Ryan, Dick Cheney, Ferraro, and George H.W. Bush.)

Cabinet: Four VP picks since 1960 served in the Cabinet (Cheney, Jack Kemp, Bush, and Henry Cabot Lodge), but they all shored up their résumés with time in Congress. This is interesting because one named floated for Clinton has been Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who has not served in Congress.


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