A Vice Presidential Brand?

ASPEN -- I'm not really sure what "advanced evolutionary optimization technology" is or how it relates to the cerebral jiggles of John McCain and Barack Obama as they contemplate their vice presidential choice, but I'm a sucker for new age company names, and Affinnova of Massachusetts caught my attention. (Affinity + Nova (new) = Affinnova? New Affinity?)

The company claims that its technology has figured out the "ideal" vice presidential candidate for each party using the same techniques that big companies like Microsoft use to target consumers. The reasons seem conventional; he apparently scores the highest in certain category polls that Affinnova asked voters to fill in.

Among likely Democratic voters, Powell took first place, followed by former Vice President Al Gore and former Majority Leader Dick Gephardt who tied for second place. New York Senator Hillary Clinton came in fourth and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards finished fifth. Among likely Republican voters, Powell came in first with a slight lead. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney were tied for second (though within the margin of error for the Top Ticket). Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani came in fifth.

As a public opinion survey, Affinnova is on to something; I had first suspected that its numbers-crunching turned up a Colin Powell type as vice president, but there is plenty of evidence that voters who know they are thinking about Colin Powell would like to see him as their vice president; that is, both blindly and with information, voters seem to like Powell.

I have a few thoughts.

One is that the vice presidency is not and has never been a position that is responsive to, or even created to service, the public in the same way that the president services the public; (this is part of David Addington's argument, I know, but bear with me). It's kind of a post-facto-elected office; the identity of the candidate is chosen for them and voters don't have the opportunity to affirmatively choose... so it's hard to equate the decision to vote for a vice president with the decision to shop at Wal-Mart. (In general, folks tend to vote their ideologies, and swing voters tend to vote for attributes so you could easily argue that almost no one votes in the abstract for a vice president; that is, the choice between Wal-Mart and Target is already made. If they're instinctively Target-ous, they'll go to Target.)

The best way to explain how Affinnova works is to try out a survey -- click here.