What is the Veepstakes?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

In American politics, the veepstakes is the process through which a Presidential candidate selects a running mate. Once the candidate settles on a choice, he or she becomes the Vice-Presidential candidate, and if the candidates win, the Vice-President will be first in line for the Presidency if something happens to the President. Typically, the veepstakes attracts a great deal of attention from political commentators and the general community, because many people are very interested in who will be chosen as the Vice-President.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

This term is a portmanteau of “stakes,” as in a contest or race, and “veep,” a contraction of “Vice-President” which is used in American political slang. It first appeared in 1988 in a political magazine.

The Presidential election year starts with a series of primaries, in which voters across the United States indicate their preference for the best presidential candidates within their political parties. The candidate who takes the most votes during the primaries is known as the presumptive nominee. Once a presumptive nominee emerges, he or she begins the long process of looking for and selecting a Vice-Presidential candidate. Typically, the winner, as it were, of the veepstakes is announced in the weeks leading up to the party convention, where the presumptive nominee is formally nominated.

The choice of running mate is complex. An ideal political ticket represents a balance of political views, ensuring that the ticket will appeal to a wide range of demographics. For example, a political candidate with weak foreign policy experience would probably choose a running mate who was strong in foreign policy, to increase voter confidence. While the two candidates generally have similar views on the issues, their blend of experience and background is designed to appeal to as many voters as possible.

Sometimes, competitors in the veepstakes are drawn from rivals who ran in the primaries. This can be a sound choice, because voters have already been exposed to the candidate, and the choice may also win over voters who supported the opponent in the primaries. Senators, governors, and other prominent political figures may also be tapped for the position. Typically, a large pack of individuals is identified in the early stages of the veepstakes as potentials, and their numbers dwindle over the weeks leading up to the convention.

The announcement of a Vice-Presidential candidate is usually well-timed for maximum exposure, and during the course of the veepstakes, the party and the Presidential candidate carefully vet all prospects. A wide variety of topics can be dredged up during an election, ranging from casual comments made in college papers to poor choices while serving in the legislature, and the campaign wants to be prepared for any potential problems. A candidate who is seen as a loose cannon or a political risk will not be considered in the veepstakes.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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