Joe Biden’s next big decision: Choosing a running mate

PTI Washington | Updated on April 10, 2020

Joe Biden   -  Reuters

He’s said he can easily name 12 to 15 women who meet his criteria

Joe Biden faces the most important decision of his five-decade political career: choosing a vice president.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee expects to name a committee to vet potential running mates next week, according to three Democrats with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans.

Biden, a former vice president himself, has committed to picking a woman and told donors this week that his team has discussed naming a choice well ahead of the Democratic convention in August.

Selecting a running mate is always critical for a presidential candidate. But it’s an especially urgent calculation for the 77-year-old Biden, who, if he wins, would be the oldest American president in history. The decision carries added weight amid the coronavirus pandemic that, beyond its death toll, threatens to devastate the world economy and define a prospective Biden administration.

We’re still going to be in crisis or recovery, and you want a vice president who can manage that, said Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. This seems like a much more important decision than usual. Biden faces pressure on multiple fronts. He must consider the demands of his racially, ethnically and ideologically diverse party, especially the black women who propelled his nomination.

He must balance those concerns with his stated desire for a governing partner who is simpatico and ready to be president on a moment’s notice.

The campaign’s general counsel, Dana Remus, and former White House counsel Bob Bauer are managing the early process, gathering information about prospects. Democrats close to several presumed contenders say they’ve not yet been contacted.

Biden has offered plenty of hints about his thinking. He’s said he can easily name 12 to 15 women who meet his criteria, but would likely seriously consider anywhere from six to 11 candidates. He’s given no indication of whether he’ll look to the Senate, where he spent six terms, to governors or elsewhere.

Some Biden advisers said the campaign has heard from many Democrats who want a woman of color. Black women helped rescue Biden’s campaign after an embarrassing start in predominately white Iowa and New Hampshire. Yet there’s no firm agreement within the campaign that Biden must go that route.

The best thing you can do for all segments of the population is to win, said Biden’s campaign co-chairman Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

He has shown a commitment to diversity from the beginning. But this has to be based on, like the VP says, who he trusts.

Biden has regularly praised California Sen. Kamala Harris, a former rival who endorsed him in March and campaigned for him. When she introduced him at a fundraiser this week, Biden did little to tamp down speculation about her prospects.

I’m coming for you, kid, he said.

He’s also spoken positively of Stacey Abrams, who narrowly missed becoming the first African American female governor in U.S. history when she lost the 2018 Georgia governor’s race.

Yet those two women highlight Biden’s tightrope. At 55, Harris is talented and popular with Democratic donors, a valuable commodity for a nominee with a fundraising weakness.

But she’s also a former prosecutor who faces the same skepticism among progressives as Biden. Meanwhile, her home state is already firmly in the Democratic column and could make her an easy target for Republicans eager to blast the party as too liberal.

Abrams, 46, is a star for many younger Democrats, a group Biden struggled to win over in the primary. And she could help turn Georgia into a genuine swing state. But the highest post she’s ever held is minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, a possible vulnerability in a time of crisis

Published on April 10, 2020

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