VP Picks: The 5 best and 5 worst

Published 9:38 AM ET, Sat August 11, 2012
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Dick Cheney has been called the most powerful and influential vice president in American history. As the head of George W. Bush's vice-presidential search team in the 2000 campaign, Cheney brought decades of Washington experience to the White House and was heavily involved in most of the president's major decisions during his two terms. AFP/Getty Images
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower's VP pick in 1952, Richard Nixon, brought youth -- and California -- with him when he joined the campaign. The ideal running mate for the 62-year-old, Nixon balanced the ticket geographically and helped unite the Republican Party. But barely two months after the GOP convention, the New York Post published a story reporting that Nixon had established a "millionaire's club" to help pay his political expenses through huge donations from California businessmen. Getty Images
Another Washington insider, Al Gore, and his father both served as senators from Tennessee. Gore brought beltway know-how to a ticket featuring a little-known governor from Arkansas -- Bill Clinton. The bright and experienced Gore became Clinton's right-hand man and was critical to securing the election. AFP/Getty Images
After running against Ronald Reagan in the 1980 primaries, George H.W. Bush joined Reagan on the ticket and helped unite the Republican Party by balancing the ticket ideologically. Bush's background as a businessman, U.S. representative, United Nations ambassador, chairman of the Republican National Committee, diplomat to China, CIA director and presidential contender made him one of the most experienced vice presidents ever. Getty Images
Texas native Lyndon Johnson's southern roots helped John F. Kennedy carry the South and win the presidential election. As Senate majority leader, Johnson surprised everyone by accepting the VP position in 1962. To appease liberal Democrats, Kennedy's brother Robert Kennedy tried to talk the Texan out of the position, but Johnson refused, declaring, "I want to be vice president, and, if the president will have me, I'll join him in making a fight for it." After Kennedy's death, Johnson transitioned smoothly into his new role as leader of the nation. He went on to pass landmark civil rights legislation and was elected in his own right by a landslide. Getty Images
Sarah Palin seemed like a good idea at the time. The energetic governor from Alaska brought a jolt of enthusiasm and excitement to the Republican campaign of John McCain. But Palin's inexperience on the national stage left her seemingly ill-prepared. She made clumsy comments that were pounced on by the media -- including an awkward interview where she could not name any newspapers that she reads. Getty Images
Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to run on a major party national ticket in U.S. history. The New York congresswoman seemed prepared to run with Walter Mondale, but a televised VP debate against George H. W. Bush highlighted her inexperience. Ferraro was constantly bombarded with questions about her finances (her husband was a wealthy realtor and businessman) and targeted because of her gender. Barbara Bush once called her a "$4 million -- I can't say it, but it rhymes with rich." Getty Images
A first-term governor of Maryland and virtually unknown on the national stage, Spiro Agnew was drafted by Richard Nixon, ahead of GOP giants like Ronald Reagan and Nelson Rockefeller, because Nixon didn't want to be outshined by his running mate. Agnew made a number of gaffes on the campaign trail, including calling a Japanese reporter a "fat Jap." After taking office, he pleaded no contest to tax evasion and money laundering while governor. Later, Agnew made history by becoming the only U.S. vice president to resign his office while under criminal investigation. Getty Images
Dan Quayle was supposed to become the Republican JFK, but instead to many he was a laughingstock. During the 1988 vice presidential debate, Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen leveled a famous blow to Quayle, "Senator, I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. You're no Jack Kennedy." Quayle became the butt of frequent jokes, and many Americans never let him live down the incident where he misspelled the word "potato" at an elementary school spelling bee. AFP/Getty Images
Thomas Eagleton was a respected senator from Missouri when he was chosen to be Democratic nominee George McGovern's running mate. But after his selection was announced, reports emerged that he had been hospitalized for depression a decade earlier and made reference to electro-shock therapy. After only 18 days on the ticket, McGovern asked Eagleton to step down. The race became an embarrassing slaughter when McGovern and replacement running mate Sargent Shriver won only one state in the general election. Getty Images