The influence of the vice president

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) speaks with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden before signing the STOCK Act into law at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 4, 2012 in Washington, D.C. But does the vice president have any real influence on a president’s economic outlook and policy?

Jeff Horwich: Here at Marketplace we love playing "spot the veep" as much as anybody: Pawlenty, Jindal, Portman -- all those names are bouncing around this week. But after the parlor games, how much difference does a vice president make when it comes to shaping economic policy?

From Washington, here's some historical perspective from Elizabeth Wynne Johnson.


Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: It's the office once famously described as "not worth a bucket of warm spit." In the 19th century, vice presidents had little to do with policy, economic or otherwise.

That changed in the 20th century, but only to a point. According to Senate historian Donald Ritchie, Gerald Ford wooed Nelson Rockefeller by promising him a big say over domestic policy.

Donald Ritchie: Rockefeller was a big-government person. He was a Republican but he was in favor of stimulating the government, he was in favor of big spending projects. And Ford was a Midwestern conservative.

And Rockefeller never did get much of a say, after all. Ford's chief of staff made sure of that. Historically, vice presidents affect policy most through relationships, says Prof. James Thurber of American University.

James Thurber: Many vice presidents are influential because they go to the Hill and get reactions and give feedback to the president. There's nothing like a vice president that's had experience on the Hill.

It certainly beats a bucket of warm anything.

I'm Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.

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