Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are each vetting potential running mates as the White House hopefuls prepare for their national party conventions in late July. Here are some of the top contenders for vice president:
Background: Gingrich, who served in Congress from 1979 to 1999, was the architect of the “Contract with America” that helped Republicans take the House in 1994. As House speaker when Bill Clinton was president, Gingrich passed welfare reform and the first balanced budget since 1969. Gingrich resigned after a House reprimand for ethics breaches and embarrassing losses in the 1998 election. He ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Trump has sought a running mate who knows how Washington works, a key asset for Gingrich. He is the consummate insider, yet his blunt talk can come off as anti-establishment, a fitting quality for 2016. He’s a talented campaigner and sharp debater, unfazed by hard-edged attack politics. Weighing down his prospects could be Gingrich’s age, ethical lapses, stormy marital history and out-sized ego.
Governor, New Jersey
Background: A former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Christie unseated Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009 and won reelection in 2013. His battles against public employee unions made him a national star in the GOP. As chairman of the Republican Governors Assn., he built a large fundraising network for his failed 2016 White House run. Christie’s image was badly marred by a scandal over his aides punishing a mayor by closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge to create traffic jams in his town.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Christie proved his talent as an attack dog in the New Hampshire primary, lacerating Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in a debate. Christie is media savvy and good at raising money. But he is deeply unpopular in his home state, which strongly favors Democrats for president. Christie’s temper can be volatile, and critics say he’s a bully. The bridge scandal could also prove troublesome; Trump himself has cast doubt on Christie’s assertion that he knew nothing of the lane closings.
Background: An Indiana native, lawyer by training and former talk radio host, Pence served six terms in the House before winning the governorship in 2012. He focused early on education and economic issues, winning praise for communications skills and bipartisanship. He sparked an outcry in 2015 by signing legislation that, critics said, let businesses discriminate against gays and lesbians. After initially standing by it, Pence signed a hastily passed measure clarifying that discrimination remained illegal.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Pence is a favorite of evangelical Christians, whose support is crucial to Trump. He has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” Trump hopes to win the presidency with stronger support than Republicans normally get in the industrial upper Midwest. But Indiana — unlike such nearby states as Ohio and Michigan — leans Republican in presidential elections, so Pence’s presence on the ticket could produce little, if any, regional edge.
U.S. Senator, Alabama
Background: Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, is one of the Senate’s most conservative members and one of Trump’s top supporters in Washington. Some of his aides have gone to work for Trump. President Reagan appointed Sessions as a federal district judge in 1986, but he failed to win confirmation after Senate hearings explored allegations of racism, which Sessions denied.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Sessions is among the most hard-line opponents of illegal immigration, which would play to Trump’s base. He also has the federal lawmaking experience that Trump is seeking, as well as the fierce loyalty that Trump demands. But Sessions would offer Trump limited, if any, ability to expand Trump’s base of conservative white voters.
Background: Fallin, a former congresswoman, is the first woman elected governor of Oklahoma. A onetime hotel manager and real estate broker, she served as lieutenant governor for 12 years. She is a staunch small-government conservative who has stressed expansion of gun rights and limits on abortion.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Fallin’s record of traditional red-state conservatism could play well with the Republican base; she has been a national leader in opposing President Obama’s agenda to fight global warming. It could also help Trump, who is deeply unpopular among women, to have a woman on the ticket. But Fallin served only four years in Congress, giving her little of the lawmaking expertise that Trump is seeking. And she would carry minimal appeal among swing voters in battleground states.
U.S. Senator, Arkansas
Background: Cotton, a lawyer, joined the Army and was awarded a Bronze Star for serving in Afghanistan. He was elected to the Senate in 2014 after one term in the House and quickly made a name for himself with his hawkish foreign policy views. He sent an open letter signed by several lawmakers to Iran’s foreign minister during negotiations on the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, an unorthodox move that defied the norms of foreign policy being conducted by the government’s executive branch.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Cotton’s brash profile lends itself to the customary running mate role as chief attack dog. But his youth and short tenure in Congress would give Trump little of the institutional know-how he wants in a running mate. Cotton’s conservative red-state profile also would give no geographical advantage to Trump, who is already highly popular in the South.
HILLARY CLINTON, Democrat
U.S. Senator, Virginia
Background: Tim Kaine is Virginia’s junior senator, elected in 2012, and previously served as the state’s governor and the mayor of its capital, Richmond. Kaine served as Democratic National Committee chairman for two years, and was on President Obama’s shortlist for running mate in 2008.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Republicans need to win Virginia, and Kaine’s presence on the ticket could help keep the state in the Democrats’ column in November. Clinton may be facing pressure not to pick a white man as her running mate, but Kaine’s resume could mitigate some of the pressure: He is a fluent Spanish speaker with blue-collar roots and focused his law practice on housing discrimination. He also has strong ties to party leaders and donors across the nation because of his stint as DNC chairman. But he is a centrist, potentially alienating Bernie Sanders’ supporters. And he can be dull.
U.S. Senator, Massachusetts
Background: In less than four years in the Senate, Warren has established herself as one of the American left’s most popular leaders, on a par with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. A former law professor, Warren advised President Obama on setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash. In 2012, Warren ousted Republican Sen. Scott Brown, then quickly built a huge national following with her unabashed advocacy of liberal causes, from fighting Wall Street abuses to cutting the cost of a college education.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Warren has strong potential to mobilize Sanders voters who have resisted Clinton’s candidacy. The historic nature of an all-female ticket could enhance Clinton’s prospects. Warren has relished taking on Trump, mocking him with apparent glee. But with loyal Democrats already strongly motivated to vote against Trump, Clinton could be better served by a running mate more appealing to moderate swing voters. It’s also unclear how the outspoken Warren would adapt to the subservient role of vice president.
U.S. Senator, Ohio
Background: Brown served in the House from 1993 until his election to the Senate in 2006. He is known for his opposition to free trade deals and helped rally Republicans and Democrats against NAFTA in 1993.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Clinton gets along well with Brown, and Ohio will be a critical battleground state in November. Brown is also popular among the blue-collar voters whom Trump is trying to pull into his column. But if Clinton taps Brown as her running mate and they are elected, the Democrats will lose a member in the Senate because Ohio’s Republican governor will get to pick Brown’s temporary replacement. Brown is also a career politician known for having a sharp temper. He would not bolster Clinton’s hopes of attracting moderate Republicans who do not support Trump.
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Background: The former mayor of San Antonio has served two years as President Obama’s HUD secretary. The identical twin of a Texas congressman, Joaquín Castro, he worked as a White House intern when Bill Clinton was president. Castro is a lawyer by training. He gained national attention with his keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic national convention in Charlotte
Advantages/Disadvantages: Castro could help Clinton secure Latino support in three battleground states: Nevada, Colorado and Florida. His youth and charisma could prove to be an asset to Clinton, who is 68. But his limited experience in federal affairs could be troublesome. And Trump has already so thoroughly alienated Latinos that it’s unclear that Clinton needs help from her running mate to expand her support in that community.
U.S. Senator, New Jersey
Background: Cory Booker has represented New Jersey in the Senate since 2013. He was previously the high-profile mayor of Newark, N.J., known for his lively Twitter feed and on-the-ground work with constituents. He shoveled snow for residents and once ran into a fire to save a woman. Booker developed a national political profile with frequent appearances in the media. He is socially liberal but displays some centrist tendencies, such as supporting education reform and defending private equity.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Booker is young and African-American, adding diversity to the ticket. He is dynamic on the stump, a fluent Spanish speaker and a cheerful attack dog who appeals to the coalition of voters who turned out in record numbers to put Obama in the White House in 2008. Booker’s approach to crime and economic revitalization could help neutralize what some see as the criminal justice failures of Bill Clinton’s administration.
He does nothing for Clinton geographically since New Jersey is safely in Democratic hands. If Clinton taps Booker as her running mate and they are elected, the Democrats will lose a member in the Senate because New Jersey’s Republican governor will get to pick Booker’s temporary replacement.
U.S. Secretary of Labor
Background: The son of Dominican immigrants, Perez is a former federal prosecutor who was deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights when Bill Clinton was president. Perez later served as Maryland’s labor secretary. In 2009, President Obama named him assistant attorney general for civil rights. Four years later, Obama promoted Perez to the Cabinet, appointing him as labor secretary.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Perez has close ties with organized labor, a major base of support for Clinton. He could help Clinton win Latino support in key battleground states, but that’s not necessarily a top priority in a campaign against a Republican who is deeply unpopular among Latinos.