Sheryl Sandberg: A Bold VP Choice for Hillary

Sheryl Sandberg: A Bold VP Choice for Hillary
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For a state left out in the cold in most presidential elections, California may be looking at a crack in the ice – that is, if Hillary Clinton selects Rep. Xavier Becerra, whose home district is downtown Los Angeles, as her running mate.

If indeed the choice is Becerra, it would mark the first time that a Californian has earned a spot on a prominent national ticket since back in 1992, when Adm. James Stockdale graced the vice-presidential debate stage as Ross Perot’s No. 2 (surely you remember this line).

Otherwise, the California presence in party ticket balancing is few and far between. Dianne Feinstein, at the time the mayor of San Francisco, was vetted by Walter Mondale’s campaign in 1984. So too was then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. Pete Wilson, in 1976 the mayor of San Diego, was one of several Republicans considered by Gerald Ford.

Otherwise, as far as the speculative overkill otherwise known as the “veepstakes” is concerned, you have to go back six decades and beyond to find a steady California presence: Richard Nixon as the GOP running mate in 1952 and 1956; Earl Warren as Tom Dewey’s sidekick in 1948.

Maybe Becerra makes the cut. Or maybe he doesn’t, as Clinton’s strategic choices are plentiful.

If she wants to choose the nation’s first Latino running mate, Becerra presumably is at or near the top of her list (he brings nearly 25 years of congressional experience, plus he’s been a good surrogate speaker). Then again, HUD Secretary Julian Castro already has been road-tested (he attended Stanford, so there’s a weaker Bay Area tie-in).

But if it’s a California solution the Democrats seek, the party should shift it sights north from L.A. to Silicon Valley.

What about: Vice President Sheryl Sandberg?

Here are five arguments in favor.

She’s Always Been With Her. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and author of the “Lean In” philosophy that morphed from a 2010 TED Talk into a women’s movement, already is in Clinton’s camp.

Then again, that’s not breaking news. Before coming to California, she worked for Larry Summers during his tenure as Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary.

Still, her presence on the ticket gives the Clinton campaign two things other potential running mates would lack: she’s a feminist icon (maybe more so than Hillary or Elizabeth Warren); she’s known the nominee for years, so the partnership wouldn’t look as smiley-faced staged.

She Might Help With Younger Women. Feel free to argue that two women on a presidential ticket would be overkill in an election in which the gender gap already is shaping up as historical.

But look inside the women’s vote and Clinton has work to do.

A CNN polling analysis of Democratic votes in 27 states showed Clinton with a 61 percent to 37 percent lead among women over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Yet among millennial women, Sanders led by an average of 37 percentage points.

One can argue that Sandberg, who turns 47 in August, is maybe herself a little too dated and white-collar elitist to reach that crowd. Besides, with Donald Trump as the opponent, Hillary might get this segment of the vote naturally.

Then again, at 22 years Clinton’s junior, Sandberg has closer ties to that generation – there’s a heartwarming story of personal loss, and she doesn’t have Clinton’s baggage of being perceived as too power hungry and too reliant upon her husband’s connections.

She’s an Outsider. One other thing Sandberg isn’t: a member of the political class.

If you think that’s a liability, just ask Trump – or Sanders, a longtime presence on Capitol Hill without causing much of a ripple.

Where this could be especially beneficial: talking about the economy – a topic Clinton is taking on this week in a speech marketed as an assault on Trump for being self-interested and underhanded.

Keep in mind that Sandberg, hailing as she does from a tech sector that cares little for Trump (given his extreme views on trade and immigration), could take that argument nationwide.

She Wouldn’t Be Asked to Do Much. We’ve grown accustomed to vice presidents who’ve changed our perception as to that job and a bucket of bodily fluids. By some estimates, the most influential of all 47 “veeps” have been the last two: Dick Cheney and Joe Biden.

That changes in a Clinton 45 White House. Madame President would know first-hand how foreign and domestic policy, Congress and the West Wing all operate. And she’s already carved out an economic growth and job-creation role for her husband.

Factor in the legions of Clinton friends, hangers-on and opportunists who’ll all grab a piece of the action and that doesn’t leave much for a vice president other than the traditional joke of funerals and fundraisers.

Sounds easy enough for someone with limited Washington experience.

She’d Be a Rare Bold Move for Hillary. Finally, the elephant in the room: No matter how long a list of potential running mates, we can expect Hillary Clinton to make a “safe” pick because . . . well, that’s how she rolls.

What’s “safe” in 2016? Try Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Cory Booker, Castro and Warren also fall into that category, as they’re known commodities. Over the next month, you’ll be sick of hearing their names.

Sandberg, on the other hand, would be a shocker. Not since 1936 and Frank Knox, a Chicago newspaper publisher and FDR’s future Navy secretary, has a non-politician been added to either a Democratic or Republican ticket. Pundits might even affix a new and more flattering set of adjectives to Clinton: “daring,” “venturesome,” “unconventional.”

And that may be the best argument in Sandberg’s favor: a big plot twist in a year of political surprises.

Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow who follows California and national politics. He can be reached at

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