I think the VPs should have some effects.
Their positions become part of the candidacy to some degree, about one half of their position scores should be added to the primary candidates rating. So if the candidate is say, Unions -20, then the main candidates score should be adjusted by -10.
VPs also give speeches, rally support and hold fundraisers. This effect should work in the background, based on where they are located at the time (better yet in the foreground), or as a bonus to the main candidates activities. Another approach would be to give a +/- 1 to 3 points to the candidates effective scores in each category as the VP will add strengths and weaknesses to the players campaign.
Other Things I would like to see:
1. Ability to create a party platform through a utility, a php page output, or an in game interface.
2. Some nod towards third party effects or the ability to use third party candidates.
3. Voter turnout. Awareness is apparently the in game result of this, but it would be cool to get stats on voter participation and have a slight bit of randomness that is visible in this regard. Alternatively an ability to cap the awareness level in the xml files would be nice.
4. Ability to cap the issue drift. No single issue is going to have a 0/100% score during exit polls regardless of the candidates position or lack of position. A certain percentage of people will always favor the candidates position on an issue regardless of how insane it is. Some issues are constructed in a way that it is difficult to gain any support for, as some positions are universally unpopular. If its universally unpopular then its not an issue, and even if it is widely considered to be a bad idea, a certain percentage of the population will think its a good idea regardless.
5. Ability to cap the total number of decided voters. A certain percentage of people are not going to decide until they walk into the booth. They are going to vote almost randomly, possibly with some bias towards the dominant party. When polled they will report as undecided. This is the element of uncertainty at election day. The game handles this somewhat invisibly, but there is always a certain number of people that just won't be able to make up their minds. Undecided voters may or may not turn out.
6. An issue may get a high thumbs down and report something like, "candidate favors this position but hasn't made it a major issue in their campaign". I have seen this on minor issues where the candidate has a preset position score, even when the state has multiple TV ads on the topic and at least one speech. This may be a text string issue, but it is annoying to see it when it happens. If I remember correctly, this also tends to happen when both candidates are on the same side of an issue. The one who's party prefers the issue gets credit for it and the other party gets hammered.
7. An option to allocate more than 50 points in the editor to an issue. Extreme candidate positions can be edited in manually, but it is inconvenient. If a candidate makes it through the primaries, chances are that personally important items have made their way onto the party plank. A way to directly modify the party plank would be even better.
8. Ability to set the starting cost for an endorsement or specific operative types by editing the xml files. While the base cost can be set, it does not appear that they can be set individually. This would be useful in building interesting scenarios.
9. A help/readme file for editing scenarios. While most of it is intuitive, if its been explained on these boards (such as how to edit a candidate) it might need to be in the game.
10. Ability to sway independents. Example independent starts as -2, a good speech/ad may increase the issue importance, it may also move the independent position to +2 or -6. Since this appears to be a core mechanism, not sure how viable it is, but it seems extremely difficult to get an independent to switch sides on an issue, instead they just become more aware and entrenched in their positions. This makes sense for the core constituency, but not so much for independents. If the mechanism is only vertical then perhaps it should be possible to move a voter from one constituency to another instead.
11. A slider that governs how easy it is for an issue to rise and fall in importance. During particularly rough times it may be very difficult to make a minor issue into a major one (times with serious war and economy issues), during more stable times minor/secondary issues can easily take on a life of their own. In the absence of really serious problems domestic social issues can skyrocket into the medias attention, sex scandals, alien conspiracies, special interest groups agendas and so forth. In the current (2008 environment) it is difficult for any issue to upstage the war and the economy. In a year without a serious war and a stable economy almost anything can take center stage, much like the things that the media gets onto during a slow news day.
10. A cooler scenario randomizer. These Features
1. Radio buttons for issue importance, (so key issues that you find interesting or are relevant to the time period could be highlighted).
2. Candidates influence on party platform (low to extreme) may be a quick and dirty way to generate unique platforms, since they can be molded around a candidates predispositions.
3. Special Interest Cost, Operatives Cost. These could be sliders to adjust the base cost.
4. Party Base slider(s) These would affect the overall presence of base republicans/dems in the scenario, and how many were independent at the outset. Example at 50% the starting number of "party faithful" is half the normal amount.
5. Party Loyalty slider(s) this would determine how easy it is to get a voter to switch sides on an issue, or move incrementally from dem-indy-repub on an issue.
6. Hardcore Party Members slider. This would indicate how many voters would never under any circumstances become independent or switch to the other party, and will always vote along the party (or candidates) lines.
7. Demographics controls. Probably applied to the country as a whole. Male and female voters is fairly constant so would not be necessary. Simplest form would be sliders for these (minority presence, population age, wealth distribution). Wealth distribution would basically determine the size of the middle class, which varies considerably throughout the US history and has significant impacts on voter bases.
8. Incumbent party and approval ratings. This can be used to slant the scenario difficulty outright in terms of difficulty level. Popular incumbents tend to get successors, unpopular ones make the road harder for the next candidate. A re-election bid checkbox might be an interesting addition to this.
9. Existing elements of the generator (randomize population, state wealth) could be given slider/radio which represents the degree of randomization. Example a low degree of randomization might affect the states wealth by 10%, or its electoral votes by +/- 20% and so forth. A high degree of randomization would work as the current method does and completely shuffle everything.
Overall, a well done scenario generator would go a huge distance in keeping the game replayable for an extremely long time. The better the generator the easier it would be to replicate different election cycles. If the outputs could be saved in some manner, particularly cool scenarios could be traded.