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

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

He has already committed to picking a woman as his running mate.

Posted: Apr 10, 2020 6:08 AM
Updated: Apr 10, 2020 6:12 AM

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 the 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, which, 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.

Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster based in the battleground state of Wisconsin, said it will be impossible for Biden to choose someone who will please everyone.

“You can ask too much of a vice president pick to bridge everything — ideology, generational gap, gender, race, experience,” he said. “There’s going to be something wrong with every one of these choices.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is Democrats’ only nonwhite female governor. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has reportedly vouched for his state’s Latina senator, Catherine Cortez Masto. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth is a veteran who lost limbs in combat. She's of Thai heritage and has notably jousted with President Donald Trump. And Rep. Val Demings, a black congresswoman from the swing state of Florida, helped lead the House impeachment efforts against Trump.

Yet all four women are relative unknowns nationally.

Biden could go beyond Washington to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, one of the three Great Lakes states that delivered Trump his Electoral College majority in 2016. She's won plaudits during the pandemic and meshes with Biden’s pragmatic sensibilities, winning her post in 2018 with promises to “fix the damn roads.”

But it's not clear that a 48-year-old white woman from the Midwest brings Biden advantages he doesn’t already have or can’t find elsewhere.

It’s a similar conundrum for others, including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former rival who fits seamlessly with Biden’s politics. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, could offer a bridge to progressives, but several Democrats said her age, 70, is a bigger liability than potential policy differences with Biden.

Perhaps helping Biden, several African American advocates and progressive leaders said the Democratic ticket’s policies and empathetic appeals are what’s most important.

Black voters “have to trust the messenger,” said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of Black PAC, and “a black woman could stand up and have moral authority to lead on those big issues facing the country right now.” But, Shropshire continued, that doesn’t mean a white, Asian or Latina vice presidential nominee could not “speak to the systemic issues, the structural issues that allow for inequalities to persist.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20573

Reported Deaths: 878
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin6918534
Ramsey231697
Stearns192312
Nobles14572
Anoka116455
Dakota105935
Olmsted55110
Washington50626
Kandiyohi4541
Clay36623
Rice3652
Scott3462
Wright2401
Sherburne2081
Todd1970
Benton1662
Carver1612
Mower1501
Steele1400
Martin1245
Blue Earth1121
St. Louis11113
Pine850
Freeborn840
Winona7715
Carlton730
Nicollet683
Cottonwood620
Polk582
Otter Tail550
Itasca527
Goodhue522
Watonwan500
Chisago481
Dodge430
Meeker420
Crow Wing421
Le Sueur411
Chippewa400
Jackson390
Morrison380
Murray350
Becker320
Lyon310
Douglas290
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Rock210
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Fillmore171
Mille Lacs161
Wabasha160
Swift150
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Beltrami120
Wilkin113
Norman110
Kanabec111
Cass113
Faribault110
Brown112
Pipestone100
Marshall80
Pennington70
Pope70
Aitkin60
Wadena60
Yellow Medicine50
Koochiching50
Lincoln50
Mahnomen51
Renville50
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Big Stone30
Redwood30
Traverse30
Grant20
Houston20
Clearwater20
Hubbard10
Kittson10
Lake10
Roseau10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 17227

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3714108
Woodbury255524
Black Hawk167639
Linn92775
Marshall86611
Dallas84914
Johnson5987
Muscatine54339
Wapello5004
Crawford4772
Tama39023
Louisa3347
Scott3319
Dubuque31916
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2310
Pottawattamie2106
Sioux1990
Washington1798
Allamakee1184
Wright1170
Plymouth1080
Warren1060
Story941
Poweshiek888
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Boone540
Des Moines531
Mahaska526
Cedar451
Guthrie433
Taylor370
Benton371
Jones360
Monroe334
Iowa320
Clarke320
Osceola320
Shelby310
Buchanan310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Fayette260
Hamilton260
Madison241
Monona230
Cerro Gordo221
Lee220
Winneshiek210
Davis200
Lyon190
Grundy190
Harrison190
Floyd181
Jefferson150
Cherokee150
Butler150
Mills140
Delaware140
Humboldt130
Sac130
Greene130
Keokuk130
Hardin130
Howard120
Hancock120
Appanoose123
Audubon111
Jackson110
Cass110
Ida100
Page100
Clay100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Van Buren80
Franklin80
Dickinson80
Adair80
Chickasaw80
Kossuth70
Emmet70
Lucas60
Montgomery60
Union60
Adams50
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