As both Barack Obama and John McCain tantalize the nation with their respective “short lists” of potential running mates, a lot of Americans seem to think the vice presidential choices will be more important this year than in the past, according to the latest FOX News poll.
The new survey also shows that a majority of Democrats feel Hillary Clinton would be Obama’s best choice as a running mate.
While a majority of voters (55 percent) say vice presidential running mates will have about the same impact on their vote as in previous elections, a full one-third (33 percent) say it will be more important to their vote than before. A scant 10 percent think the “Veep-Stakes” is less important this year than in the past.
Democrats are 10 percentage points more likely than Republicans to view the choice of vice-president as more important to their vote than in earlier years.
When presented with a trio of potential vice presidential choices for each candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney delivered the most positive boost to a ticket—inducing fully 28 percent to say they would be “much more likely” to vote for McCain if Romney were on-board. Delaware Senator Joe Biden was the next most helpful running mate—with 27 percent of voters saying his presence would make them “much more likely” to vote for Obama.
Not far behind were Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh who each moved 20 percent of voters to a much greater likelihood of voting for the candidate at the top of their respective tickets. Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge was the next most effective vice-presidential option (18 percent “much more likely” to vote for McCain), followed by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (17 percent “much more likely” to vote for Obama).
Among the critical “swing” constituency of independent voters, Biden packs the biggest punch for the Democratic ticket (23 percent “much more likely” to vote for Obama), while Romney has the best impact for the Republican ticket (20 percent “much more likely” to vote for McCain).
Interestingly, a substantial share of voters (43 percent) think Clinton is the best vice presidential choice for Obama. A slim plurality of all voters (45 percent) feels that other candidates would be a better choice. Among Democrats, a 56 percent majority says the former first lady is the best option for the number two spot.
Women are evenly divided on this question, with 42 percent feeling Clinton is the best choice and 43 percent feeling another would be better.
Clinton’s presence on the Republican ticket as McCain’s running mate would create an interesting set of results. More than one-third of all voters (35 percent) would pull the lever for a McCain-Clinton ticket, while slightly more (39 percent) would opt for the Democratic ticket. Some 26 percent of voters would be undecided in such a contest—about double the level of indecision in the head-to-head Obama-McCain match-up.
Among independent voters, the hypothetical race with a McCain-Clinton pairing would result in a dead heat (31 percent to 31 percent).
The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from August 19 to August 20. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Ernie Paicopolos is a Principal at Opinion Dynamics Corporation.