After a strong showing on Super Tuesday, the Clinton camp is pretty confident Hillary has the nomination all but locked up. Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook sent around a memo Wednesday morning outlining his assessment that it will very soon be “mathematically impossible” for Sanders to make up his delegate deficit, even with his leads in several upcoming contests.
Primary anxieties eased, Clinton and her aides can now turn their attention to devising a strategy to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, and to compiling and vetting a shortlist of running mates to help them. It’ll be months before anyone’s choice for vice president will be named, but the process of vetting and picking usually starts about now. Here are a few good men (and one woman) who Clinton may have on her list.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who endorsed Clinton at an Iowa campaign event in December, is a good bet. “Those of us who know this man, and have seen him as our secretary of labor, are so enthusiastic about him and what he’s doing and what he stands for,” Clinton said. “I could not be more honored or really personally happier than to have him here with me in Sioux City.” She went on to hail Perez’s leadership at the Department of Labor, particularly his efforts to expand earned sick days and paid leave, telling the audience, “There is no greater advocate for working families” than Perez. High praise from a woman who has made her efforts advocating for working families one of the central messages of her campaign.
Perez, who was raised by Dominican parents in Upstate New York, has strong ties to labor groups and the Latino community — two factions that lobbied President Obama to nominate him for attorney general before he was eventually named labor secretary. Perez’s labor bonafides could help bring in labor movement diehards who’ve sided with Bernie Sanders in the primary. His background as a lawyer in the Department of Justice’s civil rights division would help the reputation Clinton has been working to build as the candidate who can do the most to combat racial injustice. He led the DOJ’s investigation into Trayvon Martin’s shooting by George Zimmerman. The DOJ was ultimately unable to find grounds to bring a case against Zimmerman, but Sanford police chief Bill Lee was fired after the investigation began.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who backed Clinton in October, is one of the most prominent progressives in the Senate. Outside of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, it wouldn’t get much better for the liberal base Clinton will need in the fall. Speaking of the fall, picking Brown might bolster Clinton’s chances of swinging the crucial state of Ohio in Democrats’ favor in November. The senator has a sterling progressive record: He’s voted repeatedly against measures banning same-sex marriage (including DOMA) over the course of his political career, he opposed the war in Iraq, and he’s proposed legislation that would break up the big banks.
Brown has been a fierce critic of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Clinton also came out against in the fall, and a strong advocate for LGBT voters and union members, groups that Clinton has made inroads with, and for veterans, a contingent with which she could use some help. And Brown seems eager to offer any help he can; as he told Chris Matthews, “I have total confidence that in this campaign, once she’s elected, she will fight for growing the middle class from the middle out, that she will pay great attention to working-class voters and giving them opportunity to join the middle class.”
When it comes to potential VP picks, Julián Castro is the first name on everyone’s lips — he’s the Sri Srinivasan of the Clinton ticket. His name has been floated so many times, Clinton has already had to address the question of whether he’ll be her vice president. (She didn’t tip her hand, saying only that she plans to “really look hard at him for anything because that’s how good he is.”) Castro is young and charismatic, and he has apparently been on the Clintons’ radar for years. A recent profile in Politico made it sound as if Bill Clinton has been grooming Castro for the job since the pair met at a fundraiser in 2008, inviting him to dinners and offering him advice for his 2012 DNC speech.
Still, his resume is thin compared with other modern VP picks. He was the mayor of San Antonio — one of the largest cities in the country, and the second largest in Texas — which could potentially help Clinton shore up support in the Lone Star State. He has experience at the federal level as secretary of HUD, but hasn’t done much to distinguish himself in the role. He’s one of the most prominent Latinos in the Democratic Party, but polls show, when it comes to Latino voters, Clinton really doesn’t need much help.
Along with Julián Castro, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is one of the most frequently named VP predictions. Before he was a senator, Booker was an almost mythic mayor of Newark, New Jersey. When a constituent tweeted concern that her elderly father couldn’t shovel his driveway, Booker showed up and dug the man out himself; another time, he literally saved a woman from a burning building. Booker has a strong record combatting gun violence, and guns are one of the issues Clinton has hammered Sanders on throughout the primary.
Like Castro, Booker is a rising star in the Democratic Party who has actively campaigned on Clinton’s behalf throughout the primary. Introducing Booker in Iowa, Clinton said, “I think you all got more than a little taste about why this young man is still so special to so many. He has given of himself in very personal ways, living with people who felt left out, left behind, working to improve their lives, to create economic and educational opportunity.” Perhaps winking at those who speculate Booker is at the top of a shortlist, she added, “It gives me such a sense of gratification that he is here, supporting me in this very important election, because there is nobody I’d rather have by my side.”
Laugh at the idea if you want, but don’t rule out a Clinton-Sanders unity ticket just yet. Consider the fact that the last two Democratic nominees for vice president — John Edwards and Joe Biden — were plucked from a field of the nominees’ primary rivals. Likewise, George H.W. Bush became Ronald Reagan’s VP after losing to him in the primary. Sanders’ strong showing in the primary has been good for Clinton; it’s compelled her to re-prioritize some his signature issues, like financial regulation, income inequality, and campaign finance reform — issues that will help her motivate the Democratic base in September.
As hard-fought as the primary has been, it’s also been incredibly civil. Over and over again in the debates and on the campaign trail, Clinton and Sanders have emphasized their similarities before highlighting their nominal differences. Clinton hasn’t ruled out the idea, either; here’s what she said when she was asked point-blank in a debate if she would have Sanders as her running mate: “I’m certainly going to unite the party, but I’m not getting ahead of myself. I think that would be a little bit presumptuous. If I’m so fortunate as to be the nominee, the first person I will call to talk to about where we go and how we get it done will be Sen. Sanders.”
To the same question, Sanders answered, “I happen to respect the Secretary very much, I hope it’s mutual. And on our worst days, I think it is fair to say we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate.” Come July, it’s tough to imagine a more powerful contrast Democrats could offer to the warring factions battling it out on the floor of the Republican convention than their two candidates together on a unity ticket.
It is, admittedly, improbable that Hillary Clinton would ask Elizabeth Warren to be her running mate. There’s the fact that Warren has spoken in the past about her disappointment witnessing Hillary Clinton’s political opportunism firsthand. And the fact that Warren has repeatedly said she is not interested in running for executive office. And the fact that Warren has refused to endorse Clinton (or Sanders) in the primary — an omission that likely stings Clinton loyalists as much as it stings Sanders’ supporters. And there is the fact that, despite their many differences, Clinton and Warren have a strikingly similar profile: they’re white, liberal, female current and former senators representing the Northeast. But it’s worth reminding ourselves how double-down ideological and regional backgrounds worked for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Warren could be Clinton’s perfect foil: If liberal skeptics’ biggest criticism of Clinton is that she’s too close to the banking industry, bringing that industry’s loudest critic on board would be a strong signal that she’s serious about her promise to crack down on Wall Street. And if women on the whole are not too excited about Clinton — in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders won women by double digits — maybe Warren could help. As writer Rebecca Traister recently argued in New York magazine, women, particularly single women, “have a set of needs that has yet to be met by government” — and they may be more energized by the Sanders campaign’s promises to meet those needs through a variety of programs than by the cautiousness Clinton has acquired over decades of working on these issues. Perhaps adding a woman who favors the same set of progressive programs Sanders does would bring those women on board.
There’s one other advantage of a fully female Democratic ticket: It could very well be the Kryptonite to Trump’s campaign. As the Times noted in a piece about Clinton’s general-election strategy, unlike the insults he flings at his male rivals, Trump’s attacks on women like Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina have consistently fallen flat — or backfired.