Here’s what we journalists don’t like to tell you or even admit to ourselves as we furiously stir the speculation, breathlessly thicken the suspense and whet Americans’ appetites for the big reveal of who will round out the Democratic and Republican tickets: Its impact on the election is close to nonexistent.
That’s particularly true this time around, and especially so with Clinton.
She can veer to the left, tack to the center, go for sizzle, settle for steadiness. She has all the wiggle room in the world. Seldom in a modern presidential campaign has the selection of a running mate mattered as little as it does for her.
She has been on Americans’ TV screens and in their brains for so long now that she’s like email or A.T.M.s: It’s hard to remember daily life before her. Opinions of her are fixed. Emotions are ossified. Her running mate won’t be some fresh lens through which voters notice new shadings and dimensions of her. There’s no sudden swoon for her around the bend, no fresh disenchantment in the offing.
But the most compelling reason that Clinton can pick whom she pleases is the ineffably large, epically polarizing presence of Trump. Any wavering voters who might be lured his way will be making a decision about him — whether he’s a protest vote with too high a price, whether a real leader can bloom where a peevish child still stomps and preens — and not about the appeal of Clinton’s No. 2.
“The Trump card overwhelms it,” said Doug Sosnik, a Democratic strategist who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House, adding that if either candidate’s vice-presidential pick matters at all, it’s Trump’s. “He might be able to reassure people that there’s an adult on site.”
Frank Bruni, “The Utter Inconsequence of Hillary’s Veep”, The New York Times (3 July 2016), SR3.