Home>Campaigns>Before Carter picked Mondale, Rodino was on the short list

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino (D-Newark) in the Oval Office with President Jimmy Carter. Photo courtesy of the Peter W. Rodino, Jr. Archives at the Seton Hall University School of Law, Rodino Law Library.

Before Carter picked Mondale, Rodino was on the short list

Newark Democrat withdrew for health reasons

By David Wildstein, April 19 2021 10:09 pm

When Jimmy Carter picked Walter Mondale as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1976, a New Jersey congressman was also a finalist.

After Carter clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, campaign manager Hamilton Jordan began to develop a list of potential running mates.

Jordan started by setting up a rating system for all Democratic U.S. Senators and Governors, as well as prominent House members and big-city mayors.  Initially, he awarded up to 15 points for ability and integrity, and up to 10 points for acceptance within the Democratic Party.

The system resulted in a list of fourteen potential VP candidates: U.S. Senators Alan Cranston of California, Philip Hart of Michigan, Mike Mansfield of Montana,  Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, and Mondale, a senator from Minnesota;  Governors Reuben Askew of Florida, Jerry Brown of California, Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, and. Patrick Lucey of Wisconsin; Res. Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts, Henry Reuss of Wisconsin, and  Al Ullman of Oregon; and Mayors Thomas Bradley of Los Angeles  and Henry Maier of Milwaukee.

That means at least four New Jersey Democrats didn’t rank high enough to make the cut: Gov. Brendan Byrne, U.S. Senator Harrison Williams, and Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson.

By the end of the process, Carter’s short list included just one of the fourteen names from Jordan’s ranking system: Mondale, who wound up being offered the job.

Carter had made it clear that as a former governor, he wanted his running mate to be a Capitol Hill veteran

By the end of the process, Carter’s short list included just one of the fourteen names from Jordan’s ranking system: Mondale, who wound up being offered the job.

Mondale was picked over a final short list that included six add-ons to Jordan’s first draft – five senators and a congressman from New Jersey: Edmund Muskie of Maine, the 1968 Democratic vice presidential candidate and, for a while, the front runner for the 1972 presidential nomination; John Glenn of Ohio, a former astronaut who was the first American to orbit the earth; 1976 presidential candidates Henry Jackson of Washington and Frank Church of Idaho; and Adlai Stevenson III of Illinois, the son of the former presidential candidate.  The congressman was Peter Rodino (D-Newark).

The seventh name on the list was Rodino, who won national fame as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during President Richard Nixon’s impeachment inquiry.  Rodino later withdrew his name, citing glaucoma issues that might have resulted in cataract surgery.

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