Given my love for the VP game, I feel as though I am qualified to make this pronouncement: This is the least interesting and, frankly, lamest veepstakes in modern memory.
I was reminded of the utter lameness at the heart of this veepstakes on Monday when Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator, campaigned together in Cincinnati. The coverage focused on the energy and passion engendered by the duo. Which is totally fine and fair. It's actually the sort of trying-out that you usually see on the regular during the veepstakes. The problem is that in this veepstakes, it's the exception not the rule.
Clinton and Warren in Cincy were an oasis in a desert of VP news. I am still thirsty. (That's a metaphor, folks. And, not a great one.)
With the slowness/lameness of the veepstakes confirmed — at least by me — the next question is why. Why is a process that has long captivated political junkies and casual political observers alike just not been all that interesting this time around?
I have a few theories!
1. Timing. The Democratic primaries officially ended 15 days ago. The Republican race ended 22 days ago. Both races were contested all the way until May, and the Democratic one was contested (Feel the Bern!) until D.C. ended the process on June 14. That's unusual in the modern era of politics where both parties do everything they can to truncate the primary process in hopes of picking a winner and saving time and money to concentrate on the general election fight against the other side.
What's even more unusual is how early in the summer both parties are holding their national nominating conventions. Republicans will gather in Cleveland on July 18; the Democratic convention opens a week later in Philadelphia. In 2004, the Republican Convention didn't even start until the end of August. Four years later, the RNC convention was Sept. 1 to 4. In 2012, the Democratic convention spanned Sept. 4 to 6.
Moving the conventions so far forward in the calendar — itself a move designed to end the primary and begin the general election as quickly as possible — would have been no big deal had the primaries not lasted as long as they did. As it is, there is very little time for the veepmachine to get revved up before we actually have the nominees making their picks public.
Life is 95 percent anticipation. This veepstakes just never got a chance to be anticipated.
2. The larger-than-life nominees. For the past eight years, Hillary Clinton has been the single biggest figure in American politics not named Barack Obama. Until, that is, Donald Trump decided he wanted to run for president and then, against all odds, became the presumptive Republican nominee.
Presidential nominees almost always overshadow their choices for second in command. After all, that's the nature of being president and vice president. But never before in modern political history have the two parties' presumptive nominees been such massive cultural figures about whom such strong opinions are held. You could go to Antarctica today and find someone who has been working in a remote laboratory for the past 18 months and ask them if they know the names Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and there's a 95 percent likelihood they would. That's very rarely true for two presumptive presidential picks.
What that means for wannabe VPs is that there isn't all that much oxygen left for anyone not named "Clinton" or "Trump." Compared with the ever-tweeting, constantly-controversial Trump, does Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich really move the needle in terms of attention or interest in the veepstakes? No.
And, while the idea of a Clinton-Warren ticket does approximate something close to the level of excitement we are used to seeing when the vice presidential pick is made, neither Julian Castro nor Tim Kaine — the other two people we know the Clinton team is vetting — do much of anything, even for many loyal Democrats. Hell, Kaine even knows it: "I am boring," he told "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd on Sunday.
3. The two campaigns aren't talking. The vice presidential game is always animated by this one key rule: Those who know aren't talking, and those who are talking don't know. (That's a pretty safe rule for life more generally.) Vice presidential picks are very closely held by a very small circle of people. Always.
But, the unique nature of the Trump and Clinton campaigns shrinks this circle down even smaller — for different reasons.
Clinton is, by nature, cautious with and suspicious of the media. As a result, her interactions with the media are very, very limited. (Clinton hasn't held a press conference in more than 200 days.) Her inner circle was built with her 2008 campaign's media leakfest in mind and, as a result, also tends to be very tight-lipped.
Trump is also openly disdainful of the media (although privately is far more solicitous). But, that's not really the issue here. What is the problem is that it's not really clear who Trump talks to or, more important, listens to when it comes to who he should pick as his vice president. Trump is sui generis, he is the only real adviser to the Trump campaign. And, he is also someone who prizes unpredictability and media manipulation. So, even if he talked more openly about his VP selection process, it's not clear to me that would actually shed much light on where he might end up with it.
It's probably a combination of those factors that have made this the dullest search for a vice president I can remember. I have only two thoughts that give me comfort in this dark teatime of the political junkie's soul: 1) It will all be over soon since the conventions are nearing, and 2) I can still while away my hours fiddling with our awesome pick-your-own-vice-presidential games (Republicans here, Democrats here).
That's going to have to be good enough. Sigh.