The Corner

Politics & Policy

Our Unexpectedly Abbreviated Campaign Season

If Joe Biden announces his running mate in the second week of August, as the Washington Post is reporting, he will be a bit on the later side, considering recent history.

  • Donald Trump announced the selection of Mike Pence on July 15, 2016.
  • Hillary Clinton announced the selection of Tim Kaine July 22, 2016.
  • Mitt Romney announced the selection of Paul Ryan August 11, 2012.
  • Barack Obama announced the selection of Joe Biden August 23, 2008.
  • John McCain announced the selection of Sarah Palin on August 29, 2008.
  • John Kerry announced the selection of John Edwards on July 6, 2004.
  • George W. Bush announced the selection of Dick Cheney on July 26, 2000.
  • Al Gore announced the selection of Joe Lieberman on August 7, 2000.
  • Bob Dole announced the selection of Jack Kemp on August 10, 1996.
  • Bill Clinton announced the selection of Al Gore on July 10, 1992.

If a nominee sees his running mate as a key asset — enabling twice as many appearances in twice as many states — then it makes sense to make the pick as early as possible. If a nominee sees his running mate as a potential liability — twice as many potential gaffes or off-message incidents on the trail, twice as many past political stances, votes, or scandals to explain away — then it makes sense to hold off until the last possible moment. (The closer the announcement is to the convention, the more it fuels interest in the vice-presidential nominee’s speech at the convention. The Democrats will be having a “virtual convention” in Milwaukee August 17 to 20.)

If Biden announces his selection sometime between August 10 and 14, his running mate will probably only campaign for a month or five weeks before ballots start getting cast in the 2020 election, as some states permit early voting to start as early as September 18. The early start for voting is prompting presidential-debate organizers to ask whether the first debate is being held too late. The first presidential debate is scheduled for September 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

This assumes the debates occur. Today in the New York Times, Elizabeth Drew calls for the presidential debates to be canceled — not for health reasons, but because “they reward precisely the opposite of what we want in a president.” (Many Trump fans will interpret the Times choosing to run this op-ed as an indication that fans of Joe Biden fear he will do badly in a debate against the president.)