Why Biden Probably Won’t Announce His Running Mate For Months

Speculation is swirling about who will be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate. MANDEL NGAN / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

With the presidential primary essentially settled, talk has already turned to who will be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate. But if history is any guide, we won’t know the answer for a few months.

In the modern era of presidential nominations, which began when a number of primary reforms were implemented in 1972, the presumptive presidential nominee has never announced his or her vice presidential pick before July 6. And we could be waiting much longer than that: A few running mates haven’t been announced until late August.

Running mates often get picked in late summer

When each vice presidential nominee was announced, since 1972

McGovernShriver*DAug. 5, 1972-23
CarterMondaleDJuly 15, 19760
FordDoleRAug. 19, 19760
ReaganH.W. BushRJuly 17, 19800
MondaleFerraroDJuly 12, 19844
DukakisBentsenDJuly 12, 19886
H.W. BushQuayleRAug. 16, 19880
ClintonGoreDJuly 9, 19924
DoleKempRAug. 10, 19962
W. BushCheneyRJuly 25, 20006
GoreLiebermanDAug. 7, 20007
KerryEdwardsDJuly 6, 200420
ObamaBidenDAug. 23, 20082
McCainPalinRAug. 29, 20083
RomneyRyanRAug. 11, 201216
TrumpPenceRJuly 15, 20163
ClintonKaineDJuly 22, 20163

*Sargent Shriver replaced Thomas Eagleton as McGovern’s vice presidential pick 23 days after the 1972 Democratic National Convention ended.

Mondale, Dole, H.W. Bush and Quayle were announced during their party’s convention.


But that wide date range obscures the fact that vice presidential candidate announcements are closely tied to the timing of the party conventions — which, of course, varies every election year. Four of the vice presidential nominees since 1972 were announced at the convention, and almost all the others were announced shortly before.1

For most of American history, vice presidential nominees were chosen during the conventions themselves, originally by the same chaotic, multiple-ballot process that was used to pick presidential nominees, but eventually at the direction of the presidential nominee, a trend that started with Franklin D. Roosevelt choosing Henry Wallace in 1940. And in 1984, Walter Mondale became the first presidential candidate to announce his running mate before the convention began (his pick, Geraldine Ferraro, also made history in another, more important way — she was the first woman on a major-party presidential ticket).

Since then, the No. 2 spot on the ticket has almost always been announced the week before the convention, with the median vice presidential announcement occurring four days before the convention gavels in. However, there have been some exceptions to this pattern. John Kerry revealed John Edwards as his choice on July 6, 2004 — 20 days before the Democratic convention — and Mitt Romney unveiled Paul Ryan on Aug. 11, 2012 — 16 days before the Republican conference.

This (plus failed presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s stunt of choosing businesswoman Carly Fiorina in 20162could suggest it’s becoming more common for candidates to announce their running mates weeks in advance. However, Cruz’s selection was seen as a desperate ploy to resurrect his sinking presidential campaign, and Romney’s was seen as an attempt to change the narrative amid a bad news cycle, so we should probably still only expect early announcements in limited circumstances. (And considering that Biden is leading Trump in most early polls, he does not fit the historical mold of a candidate who needs to announce his choice early.)

At one point, we probably could have expected Biden’s announcement in early July, shortly before the Democratic National Convention kicked off on July 13. But the coronavirus-related delay of the convention to the week of Aug. 17 probably also pushed back the timing of the veep pick. If Biden follows the pattern of past nominees, we can probably expect to learn the identity of his running mate the week of Aug. 10. And if you’re trying to plan when exactly to track airplanes or monitor finalists’ every move, might I recommend Friday, Aug. 14? The last five vice presidential picks have all been announced either the Friday before the convention or early that Saturday morning.

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