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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Vice Presidential Effect

At The New York Times, Nate Silver finds that the net benefit of a vice presidential nominee has been paltry. On average since 1920, the vp candidate has added only about two percentage points for the ticket in his or her home state.

There is (arguably) a small mistake in Silver's calculation, though it doesn't really affect his conclusion.  He lists Jack Kemp, the 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee, as coming from New York.  But at the time of the election, Kemp lived in Maryland.

Kemp had represented a western New York district in the House (contrary to myth, it did not include the city of Buffalo).  Much closer to Cleveland than to New York City, the district was isolated from the the state's population centers. And Kemp was a Los Angeles native with only a tenuous relationship to New York.  His 1986 opponent slammed him as a Californian who lived in Maryland and did not occupy his nominal district home.  A Washington Post reporter followed up with Kemp:

What about his New York residence?
"Hamburg," Kemp said.
Where in Hamburg?
"South Lake Street," he said.
Where on South Lake?
"You mean what number?" he asked incredulously. "You want to know the number?"
There was a pause. Kemp dug into his trouser pocket for his wallet and extracted his New York state driver's license. He glanced quickly at the fine print. "45," he said, dropping the license on the tablecloth. "45 South Lake."
There was little chance that home links would sway votes to the Dole-Kemp ticket in either New York or Maryland.  Similarly, it is no wonder that tickets including William Miller (R 1964) and Geraldine Ferraro (D 1984) lost New York.  As House members, they had represented only a tiny fraction of state voters.  People in New York City had no more in common with a guy from Niagara County than Upstaters did with a woman from Queens.