When Are Presidential Running Mates Chosen?

Mike Pence and Donald Trump
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America's favorite parlor game is betting on who will be the major party's presidential nominees. But a close second is guessing who the presidential running mates will be.

Presidential nominees often announce their choice of running mates in the days and weeks leading up to the nominating conventions. Only twice in modern history have the presidential nominees waited until the conventions to break the news to the public and their parties.

The party’s presidential nominee has typically chosen his running mate in July or August of a presidential election year.

Biden Picks Harris

Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced on August 11 that he had selected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris as running mate, making her the first Black woman to appear on a major party’s presidential ticket. Having quickly become the top contender for the vice presidential spot after her own presidential campaign ended, the 55-year-old first-term senator from California acknowledged her vital role in helping Biden win the Black vote. The announcement of Harris’ selection came less than a week before the start of the Democratic National Convention.

Trump Picks Pence

Pence speaks at a rally with American flags behind him.

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The 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced he had chosen Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate on July 14, 2016. Pence had previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives. The announcement came four days before the Republican National Convention.

Clinton Picks Kaine

Tim Kaine speaks at the podium while Hillary Clinton looks on
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The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton announced she had chosen Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate on July 22, 2016. Kaine had previously served as governor of Virginia. The announcement came three days before the party's convention began.

Romney Picks Ryan

Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney
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The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, announced he had chosen U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice presidential running mate on Aug. 11, 2012. Romney's announcement came about two weeks before that year's Republican National Convention.

McCain Picks Palin

Sarah Palin and John McCain
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The 2008 Republican presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. John McCain, announced he had chosen his vice presidential running mate on Aug. 29, 2008: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. McCain's decision came just days before that year's Republican National Convention, held during the first week of September.

Obama Picks Biden

Joe Biden and Barack Obama
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The 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, announced he had chosen his vice presidential running mate on Aug. 23, 2008: U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware. Obama made the announcement just two days before that year's Democratic National Convention. Obama would go on to defeat Arizona’s Republican Senator John McCain in the November election.

Bush Picks Cheney

Dick Cheney and George W. Bush

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The 2000 Republican presidential nominee, George W. Bush, announced he had chosen Dick Cheney as his vice presidential running mate on July 25, 2000. Cheney had served as White House chief of staff to President Gerald Ford, congressman and Secretary of Defense. Bush made the announcement about one week before that year's Republican National Convention, held in late July and early August of 2000.

Kerry Picks Edwards

John Kerry and John Edwards

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The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, announced he had chosen U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina as his vice presidential running mate on July 6, 2004. Kerry made the announcement just short of three weeks before the start of that year's Democratic National Convention.

Gore Picks Lieberman

Al Gore and Joe Lieberman
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The 2000 Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Al Gore, announced he had chosen U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut as his vice presidential running mate on Aug. 8, 2000. Gore's choice was announced less than a week before the start of that year's Democratic National Convention.

Dole Picks Kemp

Bob Dole and Jack Kemp

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The 1996 Republican presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, announced he had chosen Jack Kemp as his vice presidential running mate on Aug. 10, 1996. Kemp was a former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and congressman. Dole announced his pick just two days before that year's Republican National Convention.

Clinton Picks Gore

Bill Clinton and Al Gore
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The 1992 Democratic presidential nominee, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, announced he had chosen U.S. Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee as his vice presidential nominee on July 9, 1992. Clinton made his choice of running mate public four days before that year's Democratic National Convention.

Bush Picks Quayle

George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle
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The 1988 Republican presidential nominee, Vice President George H.W. Bush, announced he had selected U.S. Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana as his vice presidential running mate on Aug. 16, 1988. Bush is one of the few modern presidential nominees who announced his running mate at the party convention, not beforehand.

Dukakis Picks Bentsen

Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen
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The 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, announced he had chosen U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as his vice presidential running mate on July 12, 1988. The choice was announced six days before the party convention that year.

Mondale Picks Ferraro

Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro
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The 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President and U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale of Minnesota, announced he had chosen U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his vice presidential running mate on July 12, 1984. The announcement came four days before that year's party convention.

Reagan Picks Bush

George Bush and Ronald Reagan
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The 1980 Republican presidential nominee, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, announced he had chosen George H.W. Bush as his vice presidential running mate on July 16, 1980. Reagan announced his choice of running mate at that year's Republican National Convention, not beforehand. Bush went on to be elected president himself in 1988 in a landslide victory over Massachusetts’ Democratic governor, Michael Dukakis.  

Updated by Robert Longley