After Jimmy Carter clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, 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, Walter Mondale of Minnesota, and Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut; 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, Rep. Peter Rodino (D-Newark), 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
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 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.