The other debate

October 4, 2012 

With the first presidential debate behind us, Americans can now look forward to the first vice-presidential debate.

That is not a joke.

The office of vice president has often been the butt of jokes, even by those who have held the office. Theodore Roosevelt called it “a stepping stone ... to oblivion.” Daniel Webster refused to accept a nomination from the Whig Party in 1848, saying, “I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead.”

But history shows that vice presidents must be ready to step into the Oval Office, and quite often do. Just like Matt Flynn waiting to take over Russell Wilson’s job as the Seahawks starting quarterback.

Of the 47 vice presents in our nation’s history, 14 have become president. Eight of those accessions occurred because the president died in office, either by assassination or by natural causes. Four were elected and one inherited the White House after President Richard Nixon resigned.

Of the 21 vice presidents since 1900, 17 have run for the higher office, though only six did so successfully.

The data suggest a reasonable chance that either Joe Biden or Paul Ryan could become our next president.

That means you must pay attention to the vice-presidential debate and forget the words of Franklin Roosevelt’s understudy, we forget his name, who said the vice presidency was “a spare tire on the automobile of government.”

Considering the bumpy road ahead, that spare might come in handy.

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