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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.

Cases: 441935

Reported Deaths: 5885
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin918591461
Ramsey39405729
Dakota32551324
Anoka30638354
Washington19827221
Stearns17686184
St. Louis13453237
Scott1178693
Wright11485101
Olmsted1024870
Sherburne812364
Carver686636
Clay643278
Rice595266
Kandiyohi551069
Blue Earth533833
Crow Wing476573
Otter Tail449860
Chisago446331
Benton414885
Winona383946
Douglas370366
Nobles364646
Mower358026
Goodhue340757
Polk326754
McLeod321644
Morrison308743
Beltrami305746
Lyon298735
Itasca281143
Becker279438
Isanti279440
Carlton276942
Steele26879
Pine263813
Freeborn237219
Todd230029
Nicollet222136
Brown212334
Mille Lacs211645
Le Sueur206515
Cass203823
Meeker197433
Waseca187515
Martin168226
Wabasha16712
Roseau164916
Hubbard146937
Redwood138527
Renville136139
Houston133213
Dodge13134
Chippewa130632
Cottonwood125118
Fillmore12084
Wadena118214
Rock108511
Sibley10757
Aitkin106633
Watonwan10548
Faribault103214
Kanabec96818
Pennington95915
Pipestone92522
Yellow Medicine92514
Murray8585
Jackson84510
Swift82617
Pope7355
Marshall70115
Stevens6968
Clearwater68114
Lac qui Parle65216
Lake62215
Wilkin6179
Koochiching57910
Lincoln4771
Big Stone4513
Unassigned43568
Grant4247
Norman4218
Mahnomen4077
Kittson36619
Red Lake3154
Traverse2433
Lake of the Woods1741
Cook1130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300884

Reported Deaths: 4197
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk44949440
Linn17563269
Scott15228161
Black Hawk13552228
Woodbury12896175
Johnson1191749
Dubuque11229148
Pottawattamie8863112
Dallas874169
Story857433
Webster464768
Cerro Gordo458766
Sioux452451
Clinton445461
Warren430637
Marshall424561
Buena Vista389029
Muscatine382275
Des Moines377340
Plymouth347967
Wapello336796
Jasper315955
Lee310828
Marion298852
Jones268949
Henry262130
Carroll252233
Bremer240048
Crawford227622
Boone214116
Washington213531
Benton207543
Mahaska189936
Jackson189631
Tama184757
Dickinson183225
Delaware171136
Kossuth169241
Clay165319
Wright161724
Fayette157022
Buchanan156920
Hamilton156828
Hardin153129
Harrison152961
Winneshiek150819
Clayton149848
Cedar149119
Butler145423
Page143115
Floyd137236
Cherokee137125
Mills135216
Lyon133132
Poweshiek131024
Hancock127924
Allamakee125927
Iowa122122
Calhoun12159
Jefferson118623
Grundy118522
Winnebago117229
Madison11639
Mitchell114634
Louisa113729
Cass111741
Chickasaw110111
Sac110115
Emmet109931
Appanoose108838
Union107922
Humboldt103919
Guthrie102124
Shelby101026
Franklin99818
Unassigned9370
Palo Alto8969
Keokuk84225
Montgomery82722
Howard81119
Monroe79918
Pocahontas77211
Clarke7717
Ida73530
Greene6837
Davis68221
Adair68120
Lucas6458
Osceola6349
Monona62316
Taylor5889
Worth5873
Fremont5005
Van Buren49112
Decatur4744
Ringgold4229
Wayne41321
Audubon4118
Adams2923
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