Would Biden-Abrams ticket be effective?

Published 4:16 pm Thursday, April 11, 2019

John Tures
Political science professor at LaGrange College

Rumors swirl around the country about a possible Joe Biden-Stacey Abrams ticket.

We haven’t seen this level of excitement in a VP candidate from Georgia since several Democrats (Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis, and even Barack Obama) considered Sam Nunn for a place on the ballot. But would it work? Rather than rely on simple speculation, I put the question to my students.

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When he interviewed me on WDEL radio, host Allan R. Loudell asked me if such a move was wise for Biden because it deprived him a chance to unify the party by adding a bitter rival to the second place position, in an attempt to heal a divisive primary. 

Wouldn’t Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, or Beto O’Rourke make more sense for the Democrats in 2020? 

Back in 2016, when Ted Cruz added Carly Fiorina to his ticket in the 2016 primary, my students collected data on “unity tickets.”

That’s when former primary rivals unite to take on a foe, either within the primary or against a rival party in the Fall contest.

Biden and Abrams would not be a unity ticket, unless they chose to run against each other, which hasn’t happened yet.

Neither was the Donald Trump-Mike Pence pairing, or the Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine ticket.

But Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden was, as the two were primary rivals. The same could be said for Ronald Reagan’s famous choice of George H. W. Bush. So which type of president plus vice-president selection is better?

Michael J. Buckley, Alexandra H. Butson, Keaton W. Coates, Anisa S. Cole, Brandon S. Collins, James R. (Reid) Emery, Jacob D. Gassert, Seth T. Golden, Helon H. Hammonds, Richard C. Howell, Alexander O. Hughes, Chandler E. Joyner, Mary E. Loftus, Miguel Martinez, Erin Missroon, Duncan M. Parker, Benjamin J. Puckett, Nicholas J. Rawls, Christopher A. Smith, Tressea K. Stovall, Brooke N. Turner, Stephen P. Wagner and Lindsey G. Weathers all gathered data on unity and non-unity tickets. And here is what we found.

We found that for all post-WWII tickets, the eight unity tickets won five times, for a 62.5 percent success rate.

The students found that only 12 of 26 cases of a non-unity ticket worked, for a 46.2 percent success rate.

Of course, the non-unity Team Trump-Pence won in 2016, but Clinton-Kaine team lost, despite winning the popular vote.