Trump, Clinton's record unpopularity paves way for a VP that matters

Story highlights

  • Clinton and Trump carry high unfavorability ratings
  • They likely hope for a popularity bump from a VP pick

Washington (CNN)Polling shows that the likely general election matchup between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will feature unprecedented negative favorability ratings: 49% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Clinton, while 57% viewed Trump unfavorably, according to a recent CNN/ORC poll.

These are the highest unfavorable ratings for any likely general election candidates since CNN began its polling.
A CBS/NYT poll released Thursday offered more insight: 64% of registered voters felt that Trump and Clinton were not "honest and trustworthy;" 66% said Trump doesn't "share their values," compared to 60% for Clinton; and 70% Trump does not have the right temperament to be president.
While another pair of candidates might be successful in shifting public opinion as they move to a general election and more voters begin to get to know them, that's likely less true of Clinton and Trump who have been public figures for more than 20 years.
One potential prescription for each: The veepstakes.
Conventional political wisdom says that a VP pick should "do no harm" and offer up a viable campaign surrogate for the candidate who can also serve as an attack dog.
Past precedent -- with a few exceptions -- shows that vice presidential picks don't offer a popularity bounce for the campaign. In 2008, for example, CNN polling found that neither Barack Obama -- who picked Joe Biden -- or John McCain, who selected Sarah Palin, received a measurable bounce after announcing their picks. In 2012, Mitt Romney actually lost two percentage points after announcing Paul Ryan as his running mate, though that was well within the poll's margin of error.
But this year, the deep unpopularity of both Clinton and Trump may help them buck that trend.
Here's a look at some of their weaknesses, and the potential choices that could help:
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Donald Trump

Experience: While Trump's outsider appeal has catapulted him to the top of the Republican Party, Trump himself has said that he wants a VP who has legislative experience who can help him work in Washington.
Who fits the bill:
  • Rob Portman, senator from Ohio
  • Jeff Sessions, senator from Alabama
  • Newt Gingrich, former House speaker
  • John Thune, senator from South Dakota
  • Bob Corker, senator from Tennessee
Women: Trump's controversial comments about women have been well documented. With a showdown against Clinton looming, a female voice might help soften Trump's image and blunt gendered attacks against him.
Who fits the bill:
  • Joni Ernst, senator from Iowa
  • Jan Brewer, former Arizona governor
  • Mary Fallin, governor of Oklahoma
Foreign policy: Trump lacks experience in this key aspect of the presidency, especially compared to Clinton, a former secretary of state. Picking an established foreign policy hand could ease concerns over his so far unpredictable policies.
Who fits the bill:
  • Bob Corker, senator from Tennessee
  • Jeff Sessions, senator from Alabama
  • Dan Coats, senator from Indiana
Diversity: Trump's comments on Latinos and Muslims have drawn ire and condemnations from all over the world. Outreach to minority communities would be a key part of a successful Trump VP pick.
Who fits the bill:
  • Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico
  • Marco Rubio, senator from Florida and former presidential candidate
Geography: A traditional calculation in VP selection, if Trump picks the right running mate who is popular in a key swing state, it could help offset his unfavorable numbers in that state, if not the whole country.
Who fits the bill:
  • Rob Portman, senator from Ohio
  • John Kasich, governor of Ohio, former presidential candidate.
  • Marco Rubio, senator from Florida and former presidential candidate
  • Rick Scott, governor of Florida
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Hillary Clinton

Trustworthiness: Polls show that many voters find Clinton to be untrustworthy. A pick who voters trust could help bring these numbers down.
Who fits the bill:
  • Tim Kaine, senator from Virginia
  • John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado
Progressive: Clinton could try to bring down here unfavorable ratings within her own party by picking someone with progressive credentials who could help unite the party.
Who fits the bill:
  • Tom Perez, secretary of Labor
  • Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts
  • Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont and Presidential Candidate
  • Sherrod Brown, senator from Ohio
Diversity: While Trump's presence on the other side of the ballot will help, rallying key Democratic voting blocs -- Hispanics and African-Americans -- may help Clinton in the fall and bring down any unfavorable numbers in these key demographics.
Who fits the bill:
  • Xavier Becerra, representative from California
  • Julian Castro, secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Tom Perez, secretary of Labor
Geography: The same logic holds for Clinton: In a race for 270 electoral votes, the right running mate can help offset unfavorable numbers and deliver a key state.
Who fits the bill:
  • Tim Kaine, senator from Virginia
  • Sherrod Brown, senator from Ohio
  • John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado