It is said that you learn something new every day and today I have learned that the shortened form of VP (Vice President) of the United States is “Veep”.
The forthcoming elections see Paul Ryan for the Republicans and Joe Biden for the Democrats fighting it out for the title and they are about to go head to head in a live TV debate later today. Joe Biden is already the Vice President, having held this office since 2009, while Paul Ryan is the Republican Congressman for Wisconsin.
As is always the case in politics, it is easy to find stories that will discredit the individuals and make us doubt their integrity. For instance, Paul Ryan once said he’d run a marathon in under three hours – but later admitted it was more likely four, while Joe Biden pulled out of the presidential nomination race in 1987 after allegations that he’d plagiarised part of a speech by the then Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock.
But what exactly is a Veep and do they matter?
Well they are expected to take over if the president is no longer able to govern – hence the phrase “only a heartbeat away from the presidency”. This has happened 14 times in total, including when JFK was assassinated and when Richard Nixon resigned. They preside over the Senate and cast a deciding vote. In the 1930’s, Vice-President John Nance Garner described the role as “not worth a bucket of warm spit”, but many vice-presidents now take on important portfolios and act as a “sounding-board” for the president.
Perhaps more attractive is the opportunity it can present. The VP office often serves as a springboard to a later presidential bid – George Bush Senior, and Al Gore were both VPs first.