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US election word of the week: running mate

 © PhotoDiscIn this series we are looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the run-up to the Presidential election in late 2016. This week’s word is running mate.

As the Democratic convention gets underway in Philadelphia, both parties’ nominees have now announced their running mates. The running mate will become vice president if the candidate wins, and will step up to become president should anything happen to the incumbent. This is fortunately a rare occurrence: the last time it happened was in 1974 when Gerald Ford took over from the disgraced Richard Nixon on his resignation.



Running mate is one of the sporting metaphors that are so common in politics. Candidates run for office, of course, and the contest is frequently referred to as a race. The term running mate comes from horse racing, where it refers to a horse that runs in order to set the pace for another horse from the same stable in order to help it to win.

Look out for the next post in this series. You can find past posts on the language of American politics here and here, or search for other posts in this series using the tag US politics.

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Liz Potter

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