A heartbeat away from the presidency: vice presidential trivia from Case, the site of the only vp debate on October 5th
Second-highest office in the world receives rare spotlight
The vice presidency of the United States is the second-highest office in the world and only a heartbeat away from the presidency. The U.S. Constitution assumes its existence, but does not specify how it should be filled. However, viewers will soon have a chance to get to know the candidates for vice president, and decide for themselves which one should be elected during the only scheduled debate between the two candidates on October 5 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
To follow are some interesting facts about the office and the people who have filled it:
- The first vice-presidential debate took place in 1976 between Senator Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate, and Senator Robert Dole, the Republican candidate. Vice presidents have debated in every subsequent election.
- The vice presidency was once occupied by the presidential candidate who came in second in the electoral vote count. That tradition changed with the enactment of the 12th Amendment in 1804, which specified separate votes among electors for president and vice president. The system evolved to one in which presidents and vice presidents were nominated together and ran on the same ticket, the system still in use today.
- The official vice presidential residency, at Number One Observatory Circle, was established in 1974. Its first occupant was Walter Mondale, following his election in 1976.
- Congress has proved to be a good training ground for the vice presidency in the 20th century. Since 1928, a period including 18 presidential elections, only two Democratic nominees – Henry Wallace in 1940 and Sargent Shriver in 1972 – did not previously serve in the House or Senate. Since 1940, the only two Republican nominees not to have served in Congress were Earl Warren in 1948 and Spiro Agnew in 1968 and 1972. Agnew went on to become, along with John Calhoun, one of only two vice presidents to resign the office.
- Most vice presidents seem to know that they are not generally considered to be in the limelight. Thomas Marshall, vice president under Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) once quipped, "Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again.”
- Vice presidential debates have produced several memorable lines and exchanges. In 1988, Dan Quayle, the Republican candidate and senator from Indiana said, “I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency,” to which Lloyd Bentsen, the Democratic candidate and senator from Texas replied, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Quayle and his running mate, George H.W. Bush, went on to win the election.
- Jack Kemp stated his guidelines for foreign police in the 1996 vice presidential debate, saying, “Diplomacy first, and don’t bomb before breakfast.”
"The office of the Vice President has gained a great deal of importance in recent years," said Dr. Alexander Lamis, professor of political science at Case. "It's amazing to think how much this office has grown in significance in just a few decades. Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney have all played a part in the office's growth.”
Dr. Lamis is available to speak on the history of the office of the vice president and perspective on the current presidential election and vice presidential debate.
About Case Western Reserve University
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