Donald Trump has teased viewers that he will reveal his vice presidential nominee at the Republican Convention, which begins on July 18 in Cleveland. Coming from a reality show star who respects the viewership value of building suspense for live television broadcasts, this sure-fire recipe for ratings is faithful to his media-savvy brand. Traditionally, after all, there’s little to keep a viewer tuned into the gavel-to-gavel goings on when there’s now so much choice elsewhere on cable and the unknowns are all known.
But don’t set your DVRs just yet.
In fact, if history is any guide, Trump will announce his pick on July 11, exactly 6.75 days before the gavel comes down on Cleveland. Later in the month, Secretary Clinton, assuming she will be the nominee, will reveal her pick for vice president on July 17, exactly 7.8 days before the festivities begin in Philadelphia begin.
How are we so certain of the dates of which we speak?
Applying a bastardized Nate Silver-like methodology, my friend Mark Botnick and I looked at the time spreads of VP-pick-to-Opening-Gavel (the “VPOG”) for each non-incumbent selection going back to the dawn of “the Age of Optics” in 1988 (“The Age of Optics,” another useful but unofficial epoch, is chronicled in my new book, OFF SCRIPT: An Advance Man’s Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide, out last month from St. Martin’s Press).
The average VPOG for Republicans over this 28-year time horizon 6.75 days; for the Democrats, it’s 7.8 days. Granted, extenuating circumstances of Olympics scheduling tend to play havoc with the timing of domestic political events, and two outliers in 2004 and 2012 skew the numbers, but averages are averages.
So, you can take Donald Trump’s word, or be guided by the certainty of history, dammit! Let’s review the VPOG history during the Age of Optics, where the only precedent for Trump’s plan can be found at dawn:
Republicans: George H.W. Bush announced the selection of Dan Quayle on August 17, after the GOP Convention started in New Orleans on August 15. (VPOG = 0 days)
Democrats: Mike Dukakis announced the selection of Lloyd Bentsen on July 12, six days prior to the start of the Democratic Convention in Atlanta. (VPOG = 6 days)
Democrats: Bill Clinton announced the selection of Al Gore on July 9, five days prior to the start of the Democratic Convention in New York. (VPOG = 5 days)
Republicans: Bob Dole announced the selection of Jack Kemp on August 10, two days prior to the start of the GOP Convention in San Diego. (VPOG = 2 days)
Republicans: George W. Bush announced the selection of Dick Cheney on July 25, six days prior to the start of the GOP Convention in Philadelphia. (VPOG = 6 days)
Democrats: Al Gore announced the selection of Joe Lieberman on August 8, six days prior to the start of the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. (VPOG = 6 days)
Democrats: John Kerry announced the selection of John Edwards on July 6, 20 days prior to the start of the Democratic Convention in Boston. (VPOG = 20 days)
Republicans: John McCain announced the selection of Sarah Palin on August 29, three days prior to the start of the GOP Convention in Saint Paul. (VPOG = 3 days)
Democrats: Barack Obama announced the selection of Joe Biden on August 23, two days prior to the start of the Democratic Convention in Denver. (VPOG = 2 days)
Republicans: Mitt Romney announced the selection of Paul Ryan on August 11, 16days prior to the start of the GOP Convention in Philadelphia. (VPOG = 16 days)
With the certainty of Nate Silver, I can tell you to set your watches to these numbers, folks. Now that you know exactly when to expect the VP selections for Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton, you can plan your VEEP viewing around it.
See you at the Big Reveal!