St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Uh oh! Trump plays the 10-character card!

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may have stumbled on a winning strategy in naming Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice-presidential running mate. It's all about the numbers, but not the numbers you expect. Indiana's electoral votes have nothing to do with it.

As I wrote nearly eight years ago, there is a certain magic to presidential tickets consisting of exactly 10 characters (not counting the space or hyphen between the names). Trump Pence is exactly 10 characters (not counting The Donald himself, a real character of a different sort).

For the past half century, the surnames of the winning presidential ticket have added up to exactly 10 characters 9 times out of 12:

1968 and 1972: Nixon Agnew
1980 and 1984: Reagan Bush
1988: Bush Quayle
2000 and 2004: Bush Cheney
2008 and 2012: Obama Biden

Two of the three exceptions were 1976 and 1996, when neither major party ticket consisted of 10 letters. And when 1976's winning Carter Mondale ticket ran for re-election, it faced a 10-letter Reagan Bush ticket and lost, marking the first time since 1932 that an incumbent president was defeated for reelection.

This presents a last-minute quandary for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Her surname has seven letters, so that a 10-character ticket would require a running mate with just a three-letter surname. Names that short are, so to speak, in short supply. It gives her "short list" a whole new meaning, and the people heretofore on that list, Tom Kaine, Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren, don't come close. There are no Democratic U.S. Senators with a three-letter last name. The only 3-character Democratic governor is David Ige of Hawaii, but he is relatively unknown, comes from a state whose electoral votes are in the bag, and lives and works several hours away from campaign appearances on the U.S. mainland. There are two choices (maybe just one) from Congress, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Jackson Lee may not work because she uses her combined maiden and married surnames as her name and is regularly alphabetized under Jackson not Lee.

While defying a strategy with a 90% success rate might be troubling, Mrs. Clinton can be encouraged by the single instance when a 10-character ticket lost to a non-conforming ticket. In 1992, the successful 1988 Bush Quayle ticket lost to a team headed by a Clinton. That win was aided in no small measure by the presence of a significant third candidate, independent Ross Perot. The current tumult in the Republican Party may allow Libertarian Gary Johnson to offer similar help to Mrs. Clinton this year.