Power of underdog growing

The first United States vice president thought the job was a tedious waste of time, but over the years the office has steadily gained in influence to its current apogee of power under Dick Cheney.

The first United States vice president thought the job was a tedious waste of time, but over the years the office has steadily gained in influence to its current apogee of power under Dick Cheney.

On Saturday Democrat Barack Obama named Senator Joseph Biden as his vice presidential running mate in this year's battle for the White House.

Under Cheney and his predecessor Al Gore, the vice president has become a true partner in government, valued for his Washington experience, policy input and ability to deliver change through Congress.

Inaugural president George Washington's deputy, John Adams, said the nation had created "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."

Vice president to Franklin D Roosevelt, John Nance Garner famously described his job as "not worth a bucket of warm piss".

In Adams' day the vice presidency was given to the man who came second in the presidential electoral college. This arrangement soon became untenable with the emergence of opposing political parties.

But within the parties, the winner of the nomination has often selected his top rival as running mate to unite different factions.

Considerations about geographical balance, and policy expertise, have also been paramount. Nine holders of the office have succeeded to the presidency unelected.

Four sitting VPs have been elected president. - Sapa-AFP

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