Ten Miles Square


September 05, 2012 12:11 PM How Hillary Clinton Could Be on the 2016 Democratic Ticket

By Keith Humphreys

The many commentators (e.g., Mark Kleiman, James Carville) who have speculated that Hillary Clinton will be on the Democratic ticket in 2016 are wrong I think in one respect but correct in another. She will not get top billing, but if she wants it, the VP slot is hers.

Recognizing this possibility requires acknowledging that the Baby Boom is an old generation of declining size (I realize I just lost 90% of Baby Boomer readers with that sentence, but the truth will out). Age divided Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Democratic primary voters more than did any other demographic variable, including race, income and education. Hillary scooped up most of the elderly and late middle aged population while her younger opponent cleaned up with the under 45 set.

There is a disadvantage to having such a pronounced age-gradient in one’s popular support. My back of the envelope calculation is that about 2 million of the people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary will have joined the choir invisible by 2016. If elected President, she herself would turn 70 the year of her inauguration.

Just as we didn’t know that Barack Obama would rise to prominence four years before he captured his party’s nomination, we don’t know now about the charismatic young or middle-aged politician who will capture the public’s imagination in 2016. But there will be someone, and whoever it is will have an even larger age-related demographic advantage over Hillary Clinton than did Obama in 2008.

However, Americans are comfortable with the idea that the VP slot need not only be a place to groom the next POTUS. Many tickets have been what David Broder called the “adult supervision” package: a younger presidential candidate with a old Washington hand as VP (JFK ran with Johnson, Dukakis with Bentsen, G.W. Bush with Cheney, Obama with Biden).

That political tradition combined with the fierce devotion of Hillary Clinton’s grey-haired fan base could easily persuade a younger 2016 Democratic nominee to offer her the VP slot. Such a role might have great appeal for Clinton. She would not have to endure another grueling primary election campaign, could go down in history as the first woman veep, and could gain a White House perch to use her enormous political skills and powerful network to advance causes about which she deeply cares.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.


  • Doug on September 05, 2012 5:43 PM:

    Who was the "charismatic young or middle-aged politician" in 2004? While he has many fine qualities, charismatic certainly doesn't describe Sen. Kerry. The same applies to Mr. Gore in 2000. I would think that IF Mrs. Clinton wants the nomination in 2016, much will depend on the attitude of the person occupying the White House (I'm presuming the current resident continues his residency).
    It's almost certain that policies started during Mr. Obama's second term will need further care and handling beyond the end of the his administration. The current VP, Mr. Biden, would be more than capable of cementing such policies in place, while still leaving him plenty of room for implementing policies of his own. It's rare for a sitting President NOT to support his VP for the Presidential nomination if the latter wants it.
    The idea that SOLELY because of her age, Mrs. Clinton would lose in any primary battle to a "charismatic young or middle-aged politician" first requires a charismatic young or middle-aged politician who wants to spend the years 2015 and 2016 running for the nomination.
    It also helps if that person can also inspire his/her listeners the way Mr. Obama can...