From this week on we have to hear the name, the gender reveal party was already mid-March. In a TV debate with Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden then promised to “actually” choose a woman as a vice presidential candidate if he won the Democratic nomination. Biden was forced to make that commitment after the Democrats started their primaries as a “diversity party,” but then narrowed the highly diverse field to two white men in their late seventies in six weeks.
As a prelude to the Democratic convention where he will be officially crowned candidate in mid-August, Biden wants to announce his choice this or next week. Even after “thorough background checks” he will not take it lightly. Many factors play a role.
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Ideally, one offers running mate an electoral bonus. She comes from a state or minority where the candidate herself is less well and thus gets extra votes. Or she makes up for certain weaknesses. For example, in 2016, Trump chose evangelical Christian Mike Pence to allay doubts among conservative voters. Obama chose a seasoned politician with Biden in 2008 to make up for his own lack of experience.
Biden’s long experience as a senator (37 years) and vice president (8 years) gives him the leeway to choose an inexperienced buddy. At the same time, after winning in November, he would take office as the oldest president (78) ever, while a virus that is risky for the elderly haunts. It makes several years of experience in national politics a requirement for the person who will soon be “one heartbeat away from the presidency”.
Course of the party
In addition, Biden will probably only serve one term. In addition to a running mate, he also points out as the favorite for the Democratic candidacy in 2024 and thus determines the course of the party in the longer term. A party that, it turned out, at the primaries, is divided between the young, idealistic and multi-ethnic supporters of Bernie Sanders and more moderate, older white and black Biden voters.
What makes his puzzle even more difficult is that the left-hand wing insists on a woman of color. She already did that before the anti-racist protest wave, since then this plea has strengthened. Media have been speculating for weeks that it is indeed a woman of color.
You can bet on Bidens choice. And although few had money on Sarah Palin in 2008; usually betting offices offer a certain amount wisdom of the crowds. The name that has been at the top for weeks: Kamala Harris.
Kamala Harris – Senator California
Her own presidential campaign never got off the ground: in January, Kamala Harris (54) quit the race before the first primaries. Six months later, the former public prosecutor in San Francisco and current California senator is the number one favorite for the vice presidential nomination.
Tuesday Biden was photographed with a piece of paper full of praises about Harris. “Is not resentful,” “talented,” “great respect for her.” That lack of resentment would be the collision between him and Harris during Democratic debates in 2019.
As the daughter of an Indian-born mother and a Jamaica-born father, she then addressed Biden about his former association with senators who supported racial segregation. Fragments of it will be material for Republican TV commercials. She also did business in her prosecution years that made her seem less progressive. Harris can argue sharply. A ‘disadvantage’ is that she is from California: that state wins Biden anyway.
Elizabeth Warren – Senator Massachusetts
As the last woman with a serious chance at the Democratic candidacy, Elizabeth Warren left the presidential race in early March. After a strong campaign – she had a policy plan ready for every problem – and a brief favorite role in the polls, the Massachusetts senator got way too few people behind in the primaries.
If Biden chose her as his running mate, it would mainly be a reward for that substantive campaign. Warren is more progressive and gained fame in the previous crisis as a professor with ambitious economic reform plans.
From an electronic point of view, however, Warren’s name on the ballot paper would bring few benefits. She and Biden are too similar for that: two white Seventies from the northeast of the country. After dropping out, she rallied behind Joe Biden and not behind his more progressive rival Bernie Sanders, with whom she is more in line with the program. That speaks to her now: Bernie fans who are already skeptical about Biden will also find Warren too right.
Val Demings Representative Florida
Until recently, few Americans outside of Florida had heard of Val Demings (63). She has been in the House of Representatives for the Southern State for three years, now she would already be a potential running mate to be.
Her life course appeals to the imagination: as the daughter of a housekeeper and a cleaner, she rose to become Orlanda’s first female chief of police. After 27 years of police, she got into politics and early this year she got a key role in the impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Deming’s big advantage is that she comes from Florida: every election a crucial one swing state. Her police background is also interesting, as a debate is raging about police reform. Trump’s campaign thereby paints the fear image that Democrats want to lift the police. Demings would counter this accusation.
Three years in Congress makes her inexperienced, and other black talents like Stacey Abrams and Keisha Lance Bottoms would have already dropped out for that reason. For several weeks, Karen Bass, who is leader of the black squadron of the Democratic faction in the House, has been called a more promising candidate.
Susan Rice – Ex safety advisor
Of all the candidates he would consider as a running mate, Joe Biden has worked most closely with Susan Rice. Within the Obama administration she was successively ambassador to the UN and National Security Adviser. The top official thus brings more managerial and international expertise than other candidates mentioned.
Biden could send her as a vice president to every corner of the world to put out international fires. This can be useful, since after any gains in November he will have his hands full with the domestic crises (pandemic, corona recession, anti-racism protests) that Trump then leaves behind.
A major drawback is that Rice has never fulfilled a democratically elected position – she never even made a shot at it. If Biden chose her, the Democratic ballot paper would feature a candidate without electoral experience for the first time since 1972. The question is whether voters find that insurmountable: Trump won the presidential election in 2016 without ever holding an elected office.
Tammy Duckworth – Senator Illinois
Tammy Duckworth (52) can tick many boxes that make her suitable as a vice presidential candidate. As a Senator for Illinois (since 2012), she has plenty of political experience in Washington.
Born in Bangkok to the daughter of a white American veteran and a Thai mother of Chinese descent, she is also a woman of color. The war veteran has a special life story: she lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down outside Baghdad in 2004.
In 2018 she wrote parliamentary history: as the first sitting senator, she gave birth to a child at the age of 50. And then Duckworth is also from the Midwest, which can help Biden win some crucial states. Others from that region, such as Gretchen Whitmer and Amy Klobuchar are said to have already lost weight or thanked them. Duckworth’s flaw is that, like Biden, she is moderate, which will make her too right for the party’s progressive wing.
A version of this article also appeared in nrc.next dated August 3, 2020