Mark Cuban would be the Sarah Palin of the 2016 race. Hillary Clinton won't bite, right?
On Sunday's Meet the Press, Mark Cuban offered himself up to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as a potential running mate, if they agree to his conditions. Cuban, a political independent and tech entrepreneur best known as owner of the Dallas Mavericks, would seem to be a better fit for Trump, a fellow billionaire reality TV star, but Trump has already indicated he will pick a seasoned, vetted politician to help him deal with Congress. And besides, Trump doesn't take criticism lightly, and Cuban hasn't been especially positive about Trump's campaign.
So what about Clinton? Is there room on her ticket for a "fiercely independent" running mate? Let's look at the upsides first. For any #NeverTrump Republicans looking for a candidate to back, Cuban might sweeten the Hillary pot — the Anybody But Trump GOP already tried to recruit him for a third-party bid, but he declined, saying, among other things, that it is too late to jump in the race.
Cuban says he would want to nudge Clinton toward the political center, telling NBC's Chuck Todd that he appreciates her "thought-out proposals" but thinks Bernie Sanders "has dragged her a little bit too far to the left." If a big step to the middle is the direction Clinton wants to go, Cuban could help take her there, and if she captured enough moderate and right-leaning independents, she might not need the Sanders-or-Bust left to win. Cuban also makes a case for ObamaCare from an entrepreneurial standpoint, and if he could convince more voters to appreciate the health care law, that would help Clinton, who has been defending it.
Also, Cuban has relished the idea of getting to "throw bombs at Donald," and his verbal grenades could damage Trump in a way that barbs from a Democrat would not. Maybe the strongest argument for Cuban is that he's new to politics, an outsider — like Trump and unlike Clinton — and lots of voters this year seem to be clamoring for change. Clinton is so well-known that it's hard for her to get much notice in this Trump-drunk media moment. Cuban would change that. The owner of the Mavericks is just that, a maverick.
And that's where this little fantasy falls apart. Because surely you remember the last looks-great-on-paper maverick running for vice president.
Sarah Palin, the young, reformist governor of Alaska, provided an instant boost to the flagging presidential prospects of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in late August 2008. But that boost didn't last beyond three Palin interviews. Sarah Palin didn't cost John McCain the White House — the Great Recession had a bigger impact — but she almost certainly was a drag on his ticket.
The most important job a vice president has — in fact, the only responsibility laid out in the Constitution — is to be presidential understudy (and president of the Senate, a largely ceremonial role that occasionally calls for casting the tie-breaking vote). Is Mark Cuban ready to be vice president? Sure, who isn't? Is he ready to be president? That's a real question mark, especially for Democrats. Hillary Clinton is slightly younger than Trump (and Bernie Sanders), but she will still be 69 on inauguration day, and Democrats could be excused for wanting a Democrat as first in line to the presidency.
There's also the fact that Cuban is open to being on a ticket with either Trump or Clinton. That shows an open-mindedness in an increasingly polarized country, but it also suggests he wants to be vice president for reasons that have little to do with policy or politics or public service, that he either seeks power or he's just bored.
A Hillary Clinton-Mark Cuban ticket would only make sense in a crazy election like 2016. If Clinton tapped Cuban for her running mate, it would rightly be seen as an attempted "game changer," in 2008 parlance. It would appear to be a sign of desperation, of some need to shake up the race. It would, above all else, be a high-stakes gamble. Clinton isn't known for playing games of chance. And maybe, as John McCain found out in 2008, voters aren't really all that excited about electing a gambler-in-chief, either.