Joe Biden has pledged to pick a woman as his running mate. The pledge, much like President Trump’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees, has touched off a frenzied guessing game. Who’s eligible? Who could help Biden the most in the Midwest? In the South? With African-Americans? With white suburban moms? And on, and on.
CNN has, of course, weighed in, listing ten possibilities including:
- Kamala Harris (CA)
- Amy Klobuchar (MN)
- Catherine Cortez Masto (NV)
- Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice (Obama administration)
- Elizabeth Warren (MA)
- Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (Atlanta, GA)
- Gretchen Whitmer (MI)
- Tammy Duckworth (IL)
- Tammy Baldwin (WI)
- Former State Senator Stacey Abrams (GA)
The first reaction of most Americans to hearing many of these names would be, “Who?” Cortez Masto, Duckworth, Baldwin, and Bottoms are basically unknown outside their constituencies and the Democratic salons of Washington D.C.
Until recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was also a mostly unknown Rust Belt politician, but she became a Democrat rising star during the coronavirus lockdown. Her ascendency may have been cut short on April 9, though, when Whitmer signed an executive order that enraged many Michiganders. The order tightened what were already some of America’s strictest coronavirus policies. Especially upsetting was Whitmer’s ban on the sale of garden supplies and lawn services. Michiganders subsequently led America in demonstrations against the lockdown. The backlash may have ruined Whitmer’s chances of becoming Biden’s pick.
Stacey Abrams used to be best known for losing the race for governor of Georgia, and never admitting to it. Now she’s best known for being the least qualified person to incessantly campaign for the VP slot.
Sen. Kamala Harris is best known for absolutely torching Joe Biden on his record on civil rights in the June Democratic debate. Hard to see her as a convincing running mate for Biden.
Susan Rice was last seen being caught lying about unmasking Trump campaign officials during the waning days of the Obama administration. That was after being passed over to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State because of her (Rice’s) central role in the failed Benghazi spin campaign. All that baggage probably isn’t something Biden wants to take on.
That leaves Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar on CNN’s list.
If the Biden campaign feels it needs to make amends with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Warren is probably his best option. Other than Bernie Sanders, Warren is the face of the far-left wing of the Democratic Party. Adding her to the ticket would signal that Biden is willing to defend the left.
Adding Klobuchar to the ticket seems likelier for Biden. Klobuchar’s moderate brand of Democratic philosophy is closer to Biden’s, and she hails from the Rust Belt, making her more relatable to the group of people who Biden needs most. Read more from my colleague David Franke on the possibility of Klobuchar joining Biden’s ticket here.
Many people jump to the conclusion that the candidate will pick one of his opponents from the party’s primary season, but that is rarely the case. Of the 12 people who have won the nomination as a Democrat or Republican in the last forty years, only three have chosen former primary opponents as their running mates. Instead, candidates choose a running mate who fills in the gaps of the weaknesses they perceive as most critical.
The tricky thing about predicting those vice presidential picks is that, often, candidates are much more in tune with their own weaknesses than are observers. Voters probably won’t get a great idea of what Biden is most afraid of until he makes his pick. Already they know he feels vulnerable for being a man in a party dominated by female voters. That’s why he’s promised to pick a woman. But will he pick someone very young? Someone of color? Someone who will appeal to progressives? Or possibly he’ll pick someone who can raise a lot of money in what promises to be a very expensive race waged almost entirely on television and online.
Even though her name isn’t on the CNN list, Michelle Obama is regularly touted as a possible pick by Biden. Obama would be an interesting choice because while she has no experience as an elected official, she polls well with demographics Biden needs to carry to win, such as women and African-Americans, and she could also raise a massive amount of money from her husband’s donor network. Obama’s addition to the ticket could be Biden’s most powerful choice.
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