NEW YORK – The former Vice President hasn’t said much about his own choice for a running mate beyond that she will be a woman with whom he is “simpatico” and she will have to pass layers of advisors’ vetting. After that, Biden can tap into his own experience serving two terms as number two.
Biden’s current leads in national and swing state polls may give him more latitude to opt for someone he wants as a partner in government, rather than someone seen as politically advantageous.
“He really doesn’t have to overthink it,” said one Democratic consultant with knowledge of the process, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the process. “I think a lot of this is in his head. He doesn’t need a pollster to tell him where to go.”
The political benefits of a running mate are also often overstated, experts say. Joel K. Goldstein, perhaps the nation’s leading scholar of the Vice Presidency, calls it “a difference at the margins.”
“It's not going to shift a huge block of voters, but it may shift some voters and in a close state that can make a difference,” said Goldstein, Vincent C. Immel Professor of Law Emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Law in Missouri. “It may send messages about how Biden goes about decision making, what he values, how good a decision maker he is, that sort of thing."
Unlike previous elections, there doesn’t seem to be a need for a candidate to placate one wing of the party; the desire to beat President Trump may be enough to paper over differences.
But there are calls for racial balance, particularly for Biden to pick a Black woman. Biden recently said four are now in the running, not specifying who.
“Black women voters have shown up for the party. And so I think that it is important for the party to also show up for black women,” said Aisha O. Dew, a Democratic consultant in North Carolina.
Observers see pros and cons in each potential V.P. Biden, 77, may favor experience in the U.S. Senate, where he served 36 years; and in foreign policy, where he has significant experience.
“When you've spent that much time working in those institutions, it's really molded who you are,” said Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas, a nonprofit media organization working on message development for progressive issues.
“I think it shapes his outlook on Washington, on politics, on America. And if you have somebody who shares those outlooks, it's a common ground.”
Based on published reports, and our own reporting, the following are candidates Biden is considering, along with commentary from Dew, Espinoza and Goldstein. The Biden campaign didn’t return a request for comment.
Voting rights advocate and author; former candidate for Governor of Georgia; former minority leader of Georgia House of Representatives.
Initially seen as a leading contender for Biden’s running mate, Abrams’ name is now bandied around less. Her limited experience in elected office may be a liability. But if Biden wants to motivate younger voters, “Stacey Abrams definitely charges up that audience,” Espinoza says.
Congresswoman for 37th Congressional District in Los Angeles; Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. Former Speaker of California State Assembly.
Bass is increasingly seen as a viable candidate and is making her interest known. She recently walked back comments seen as deferential to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro -- a sign she is seeking to defuse a potential political liability.
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS
Mayor of Atlanta
Bottoms’ limited national experience may be seen as a liability, but her national exposure soared during recent protests over racial relations, as well during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has also been a recent resurgence in prizing mayoral leaders as apolitical “problem-solvers,” and Bottoms may benefit from it. “Mayors have a very compelling story to tell in Washington, D.C. right now,” said Espinoza.
Congresswoman for 10th Congressional District in Orlando. Impeachment manager during impeachment of President Donald Trump. Orlando’s first female police chief.
Demings’ law enforcement background makes her an intriguing, if risky choice during this charged moment, according to observers. It’s already inviting scrutiny. Demings has also called for changes within departments - writing in the Washington Post an opinion piece after the death of George Floyd that began with a question for “my brothers and sisters in blue.”
“What in the hell are you doing?” she asked.
“What better to have someone from within the system to also help reform the system from a place of leadership at the highest level?” asked Dew.
Senator from Illinois. Former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient who flew combat missions.
As a Black Hawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard, Duckworth was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and lost her legs and partial use of her right arm. Her compelling history, and Thai-American background, is catapulting her to the top of the Vice Presidential shortlist, at least according to pundits. A V.P. nominee is also traditionally the “attack dog” to go after the other ticket, and Duckworth has recently shown a willingness and ability to tangle, particularly with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“The disadvantage would be that she's relatively new to the national stage,” Goldstein said. “And the question would be: Is she ready for it or not?”
MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM
Governor of New Mexico. Former Representative for New Mexico’s First Congressional District.
Grisham is the first Democratic Latina elected governor, and while New Mexico is expected to vote for Biden, her appeal could translate across the state line in Arizona, which the party hopes to capture for the first time since 1996. She also would add regional ballast to a ticket headed by a former Senator from Delaware.
“She comes from the west. That's a very nice balance,” said Espinoza. “You don't see a ton of regional geography on tickets as much as he used to.”
Nonetheless, Espinoza anticipated she would not be chosen, but looked at instead for a Cabinet post in a Biden administration.
Senator from California. Former Presidential candidate. Former California Attorney General and San Francisco District Attorney.
Perhaps no candidate for Biden’s running mate is analyzed more than Harris. Her presidential campaign fizzled earlier than expected, but she is admired for her political skills, even if these days the pandemic is turning the campaign trail into remote TV interviews from politicians' homes.
Still, if Biden names Harris, it’s possible their tense exchange during the first Democratic debate in June 2019 over busing and his working with segregationists will play on a ceaseless cable news loop. Wednesday, Politico reported that a Biden confident, former Sen. Chris Dodd, was “stunned” that she had no remorse about the incident.
Tuesday, a picture of Biden’s notes from a news conference indicated that he wanted to convey he didn’t hold any “grudges” against Harris. What does that mean for her chances? Unclear.
There’s more: “I know that there are some folks who are maybe a little skeptical of her law enforcement background as attorney general or as district attorney,” Espinoza adds, but says: “I think it would be hard to find a candidate that would be better suited for Biden than Kamala Harris.”
“She's great,” adds Dew.
Former Ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Advisor to Barack Obama.
Rice is the only one on Biden’s (expected) list without experience running for office. Given the job of V.P. is inherently political, that may worry Biden, Goldstein said.
“Will she have the same credibility in talking to a member of Congress or in talking to a foreign leader about political risks, given that she's never experienced that world personally in the way that they have?”
But Biden worked extremely closely with Rice during the Obama administration. She could also be delegated to oversee a foreign policy portfolio, leaving Biden to take lead on domestic issues and working with Congress.
“I think that she would definitely be able to help in the midst of this crisis that we're in right now,” Dew said. “She’s definitely a proven leader from an internal perspective in the government.”
Senator from Massachusetts. Former Candidate for President.
Warren is perhaps second to Harris in proverbial ink spilled on V.P. intrigue. A former rival for the nomination, Warren endorsed Biden on April 15. Perhaps more than any other woman on this list, her nomination would inspire deep feelings, for or against.
A beloved leader of the party’s left flank, she could cut through skepticism about Biden’s commitment to a progressive economic agenda. At the same time, that may alienate the moderates and conservatives Biden also wants.
What’s more, if she leaves the Senate, Massachusetts’ Republican governor would name a replacement – temporarily, but during the pivotal early days of a Biden administration.
Dew adds: “It should most likely be a woman of color or a Black woman. But I don't think that that takes her out of the running altogether.”
Governor of Michigan
A first-term Democratic governor who leads a state Trump narrowly won, Whitmer was repeatedly mentioned several weeks ago as she helmed Michigan during a deadly COVID-19 surge, but her name has since faded.