Update: No VP announcement, thought an Obama-Bayh ticket is still possible. One drawback: Republican governor Mitch Daniels is likely to win a second term, thanks to his almost unlimited campaign chest. Should Bayh become VP, Daniels would get to appoint his successor.
Barack Obama is coming to Elkhart Wednesday morning (August 6), and there's speculation that he may announce Indiana Senator Evan Bayh as his running mate. If that's true, he'll be following a hallowed tradition in American politics--a Hoosier vice presidential candidate.
I won't be there--I'll be in Davenport, Iowa, trying to catch up on my sleep, and then heading for work on the second shift at Galesburg, Illinois. But I'll be there in spirit. And just maybe, A Hoosier running mate may be the key to Obama's success.
The first Indiana vice president was Schuyler Colfax of South Bend, who had been Speaker of the House before agreeing to be Ulysses S. Grant's running mate in 1868. He was dropped from the ticket in 1872 because of his connection with the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal. While Colfax was never formally charged, the scandal ended his politcal career; he spent his final years giving lectures about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He died January 13, 1885, of a heart attack, in a Mankato, Minnesota railway station, after walking nearly a mile in minus 30 degree (Fahrenheit) weather.
After the end of Reconstruction, Indiana was one of three swing states. The Democrats controlled the "Solid South" once the black vote had been suppressed, while Republicans could count on New England the Plains, and most of the upper Midwest. Whichever party took New York and either Indiana or Ohio would win the presidency. Indiana, being the smallest of the swing states, was more likely to get the vice presidential candidate.
Thomas Hendricks had been a congressman, senator, and Indiana governor before becoming Grover Cleveland's running mate in 1884. In 1872 he had received 42 electoral votes for president because Horace Greeley, the Democratic candidate, died after the November election, but before the Electoral College met. He ran for vice president in 1876 with Samuel Tilden, who won the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College in what many believed to be a stolen election. Hendricks was a conservative Democrat with pro-southern views. His legacy as vice president is negligible, as he died just a few months after taking office. Cleveland was defeated in the 1888 election (though winning the popular vote) by Benjamin Harrison--the only Hoosier to win the presidency.
The third Hoosier VP was Charles Warren Fairbanks, the who was a U.S. senator until he became Theodore Roosevelt's vice president in 1904. The "Indiana Icicle," was a contrast to the ebullient president. His reputation as a teetotaler came to an end during his term, as "Lemonade Charlie" was seen drinking a Manhattan cocktail. Thereafter, he was "Cocktail Charlie." His name lives on, perhaps appropriately, in the city of Fairbanks, Alaska. In 1912, he ran for vice president with Charles Evans Hughes. Unfortunately for him, the Democrats nominated another Hoosier for the second office.
Thomas Riley Marshall, of Columbia City, Indiana, served as vice president for both of Woodrow Wilson's terms. As governor of Indiana, he had pushed through a child labor law, opposed Indiana's sterilization law, and opposed capital punishment, but most of his progressive legislation was thwarted in the legislature.
While Wilson kept Marshall on as vice president during his second term, the two men did not get on well; Marshall had little influence on the president. But he had some great one-liners. His most famous was when he was presiding over the Senate. After sitting through an interminable speech about "what this country needs," he is reputed to have said to the clerk, "What this country really needs is a good five cent cigar." Of his home state he said, "Indiana is the mother of Vice Presidents, home of more second-class men than any other state."
After 1920, Indiana became a solidly Republican state. Since the Franklin Roosevelt landslide of 1936, the last time the Hoosier State supported a Democrat for president was in the Johnson landslide of 1964. The only Hoosier VP since Marshall, of course, was Dan Quayle, whom George H. W. Bush chose for his youth and conservatism, not because he was from Indiana.
If Obama does name Evan Bayh as his running mate, Indiana could once again be a swing state. I'm convinced that had Al Gore made Bayh is running mate in 2000, he'd be finishing his second term. Barack Obama would do well to go to the Mother of Vice Presidents for the second spot on his ticket.