Election 2008: On the Campaign Trail

Dole, McGovern: Tips for Choosing a VP

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/90817449/90817431" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Barack Obama hasn't clinched the Democratic nomination yet, but he's already starting to look for a running mate. Likewise with the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain. NPR's Guy Raz talks with former presidential candidates Bob Dole and George McGovern, who have some advice on picking a vice president.

GUY RAZ, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Senator Barack Obama spends most of his time these days as a headliner, but today, for one day only, he was a stand-in. Senator Obama spoke at the commencement of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He was filling in for Senator Ted Kennedy, who had a seizure last week and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The Democratic presidential front-runner started his speech with a message from Senator Kennedy to his friends and to his enemies:

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois, Presidential Candidate): To all those praying for my return to good health, I offer my heartfelt thanks, and to any who'd rather have a different result, I say don't get your hopes up just yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Senator Obama isn't the Democratic nominee, but that hasn't stopped him from acting like one. Last week, he tapped Washington insider Jim Johnson to start looking for potential running mates. And while Senator Obama was on stage at Wesleyan, his likely Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, was firing up the grill at his vacation home in Sedona, Arizona.

And gathered around the picnic table, oh, just three of the guys he's most likely to choose as a running mate: Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Senator McCain's former rival, Mitt Romney.

Now, the choice of a running mate is the first big decision a potential president makes and if you screw it up, well…

Former Senator GEORGE MCGOVERN (Democrat, South Dakota, Former Democratic Presidential Candidate): You look like you're careless and then when you change your mind and pick somebody else, they accuse you of being a flip-flop person.

RAZ: And George McGovern should know. He's the Democrat who lost a 1972 general election by the one of the widest margins in history. McGovern says his candidacy was doomed shortly after he chose and then dropped his first running mate, Senator Thomas Eagleton. It quickly emerged that Eagleton suffered from depression and had received electroshock therapy, something he never revealed to McGovern before the announcement was made.

So I asked George McGovern what today's presidential hopefuls need to find out before settling on a running mate.

Sen. MCGOVERN: You talk to everybody you can think of who knows about his past history and his personal idiosyncrasies. You check out any charges of mishandling of funds, drunkenness, anything like that that might impair the capacity of that person to function in case he has to take over the presidency.

RAZ: But can a strong running mate really help put you over the top? Well, it didn't in Bob Dole's case. He was the Republican nominee in 1996. We caught up with him at the National Press Club this week and asked him how he chose Jack Kemp.

Former Senator BOB DOLE (Republican, Kansas, Former Republican Presidential Candidate): In my case, I had thought there might be an age issue and so I wanted somebody younger but somebody who could move right into government; you can't (unintelligible) that. McCain will have the same, you know, question.

RAZ: Bob Dole hasn't been consulted by the McCain camp yet, but he did offer this tip:

Mr. DOLE: Well, I think in this particular election with all these - you've got the first African-American, the first woman - you know, why not give it a little pizzazz on our side?

RAZ: For his part, George McGovern's been a little more circumspect these days. So, anyone asking you for advice on who they should pick?

Sen. MCGOVERN: No, not yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. MCGOVERN: I think they figure McGovern's the last one we want to ask. He got into all that difficultly picking his running mate. That may show good judgment on their part.

RAZ: That was Former Senator George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee for president, and earlier Senator Bob Dole, the Republican candidate in 1996. We spoke with both men earlier this week.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from