Institutional Change and the Dynamics of Vice Presidential Selection


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: We would like to thank Sarah Binder, Barry Burden, Joel Goldstein, Sunshine Hillygus, Paul Light, and participants in the American Politics Research Workshop at Harvard University for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Mark Hiller is a third-year law student at the University of Virginia.

Douglas Kriner is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston University and author of articles in the British Journal of Political Science and Legislative Studies Quarterly. He is currently completing a book on congressional checks on presidential war making.


The influence of the vice presidency has expanded dramatically in recent years, yet scholars know surprisingly little about how presidential nominees choose their running mates and how the selection process has changed over time. This study argues that the confluence of two events—the McGovern-Fraser reforms of the early 1970s and the exogenous shock of George McGovern's ill-fated selection of Thomas Eagleton as his running mate in 1972—changed the factors driving running mate selection. Specifically, in the post-1972 era, presidential nominees have looked less to traditional incentives such as ticket balancing and more toward governing experience to help them in the general election and, if they succeed, in the White House. We test a model with empirical data from 1940 to 2004.