As presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden transitions his campaign from the primaries toward the general election, buzz is turning to a “shortlist” of his potential running mates.
While the former vice president has committed to selecting a woman, very few further details are confirmed — other than a desire to have a “simpatico” partner. There’s also been mounting pressure since the beginning of the primary cycle for Biden to pick a black woman.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., has previously said he’d prefer an African-American woman running mate, but stopped short of suggesting Biden limit his search.
“I think we’ve taken a little too much on to tell a person what he must do. If it doesn’t happen, then what?” Clyburn said on “The View” Tuesday. “There should be vetting, and he should be instructed by the polling and the vetting.”
While Biden hasn’t said who a frontrunner might be, he recently told radio host Charlamagne Tha God that “multiple black women” are being considered for the role.
Biden is unlikely to make a public announcement until mid- to late July, a few weeks before the rescheduled convention, but here are five rumored contenders in the “veepstakes”:
Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, has risen to national prominence in recent months after becoming a target of President Trump’s Twitter rage over her lockdown orders. Trump has also threatened to withhold federal funding in response to the state’s plan to increase access to vote-by-mail.
Whitmer’s frequent appearances on cable television to speak on her dealings with COVID-19 and the White House have only added to the impression that she may be seeking a place on the Democratic ticket. And she appears to have caught Biden’s attention early on. Biden recently told MSNBC’s Brian Williams that Whitmer “made the list in my mind two months ago.”
The Trump campaign also appears to be taking her seriously as a possible Biden pick.
“She’s auditioning for the VP slot,” Mercedes Schlapp, senior adviser to Trump’s reelection campaign, said in a statement in advance of a visit the president made to Michigan. “That’s all she cares about.”
Yet when asked about vice presidential aspirations directly, Whitmer has been vague in her answers. Most recently, she told Axios that she’s looking to help the Biden team but would not specify in what capacity.
“We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, 500-year flood, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and so I’m not looking to leave. And I think that’s all I can say at this point,” said Whitmer. “I’ve not said yes or no because I’ve not been asked. I’m in the mix with a massive group of phenomenal leaders, and I’m honored to be, but I’m not focused on that — I’m focused on doing my job every single day.”
California Sen. Kamala Harris, former presidential candidate and long-rumored vice presidential frontrunner, has been equally vague in her answers. During the early stages of the campaign, Harris was questioned on whether she was open to being Biden’s vice president — a question she often suggested should be asked of Biden too.
Suffice it to say, Harris has been answering questions about her place in a potential Biden administration longer than many other contenders as an early favorite; some have taken to national publications to push their pick to the top of the list.
Several top aides and members of Biden’s camp say Harris — who has hosted multiple campaign events and been able to rake in cash — is the top pick too, according to recent reporting in Politico.
“She really is a standout in terms of keeping [Democrats] together and keeping donors warm,” a Biden bundler told Politico. “She doesn’t need to do a full-court press, and it would probably be seen as unseemly for her.”
Harris, 55, like Whitmer, 48, would also appeal to Democrats looking for younger representations of the party on a ticket. But Harris’s age did not preclude her from criticism; she caught flak early in her presidential bid from progressives for her prosecutorial record as California’s attorney general.
After suspending her campaign, Harris has turned to co-sponsoring legislation for coronavirus relief, including pushing for a heftier stimulus check and outreach to black and brown communities hit by the pandemic, among other causes.
When asked on MSNBC if she had recently spoken to Biden about joining him on the ticket, she said she is focusing her efforts on the pandemic.
“Obviously I would be honored if I were being considered, but I have to tell you, right now my entire focus has been on what we need to do to get relief to Americans right now,” she said, “because 22 million Americans as of today, just in the last few weeks, are unemployed.”
The Biden camp has asked Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another former presidential candidate, if she would be open to being considered for the Biden ticket, according to multiple reports. She demurred when asked by local CBS affiliate WCCO about the report, directing questions to the Biden campaign.
“I think you’re going to hear a lot of rumors out there. ... In the end, it’s the vice president, Joe Biden, who’s going to make this decision,” Klobuchar said. “He’s going to decide if names are put out there. He’s going to decide who he wants as vice president.”
A Democratic senator who’s won over conservative districts, Klobuchar has pitched herself as a bipartisan deal striker; her stump speech noted that she won the district of conservative Michele Bachmann. Klobuchar was also often lauded by television pundits as sharp during televised debates, many times deemed the “winner” for landing barbs or simply surviving without major nicks.
Yet Biden often pitches himself as a centrist too — Klobuchar would do little to boost his platform in his arena. There’s also the idea that a Biden-Klobuchar ticket could play well in the middle of the country. But his weakness isn’t in the Midwest. In fact, suburban white voters turned out in excess in states like Michigan to hand Biden a decisive victory over then rival Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden also won the Minnesota primary and currently edges out Trump in head-to-head state polls.
And the optics of an all-white ticket anger many progressives and nonwhite leaders who are skeptical of Klobuchar’s record on race and argue that a racially diverse party deserves similarly diverse representation. Charlamagne Tha God, black radio personality and host of “The Breakfast Club,” suggested that black voters would not turn out if Biden tapped Klobuchar.
Still, Klobuchar seems to have a good relationship with Biden, appearing on his podcast with a friendly rapport.
Another former candidate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has been rumored to be in consideration. Though she was often at odds with Biden during presidential debates, a source told CNN that Warren and Biden have a similar political style and thrive on personal connections.
“I would argue they very much are simpatico,” the source said. “Personal relationship is part of it. But how you view the world is too.”
Some progressives are pushing for the partnership. Former Sanders campaign co-chair Ro Khanna published an op-ed in the Boston Globe calling for a Biden-Warren ticket, claiming Biden can pursue an “FDR-like” coronavirus economic reconstruction by combining Warren’s platform with his own.
“But it is now time, in this moment of crisis, for progressives to put aside the differences of the campaign and think who would best advance the policy goals we care about and help fulfill FDR’s vision,” Khanna wrote. “The choice is obvious. America needs Warren on the ticket in November.”
For Biden, tapping Warren could signal an attempt to pivot left without abandoning his centrist foundations — and Warren’s seemingly endless plan factory may benefit him.
Some progressives do not mirror Khanna’s optimism. Warren is reported to be hosting a high-ticket fundraiser for Biden, the type of event she vehemently disavowed during her bid for president. During one of the debates, she attacked South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg for hosting a campaign event in a wine cave in California.
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren said during the debate. Later she added, “I do not sell access to my time.”
She has also become significantly less bullish in her push for Medicare for All. She recently told students at the University of Chicago that next steps should be strengthening the Affordable Care Act and getting to single-payer health care in due course, a policy more in line with Biden’s views.
Even so, Biden has made clear that he prefers a younger running mate, and Warren, age 70, is much closer to 77-year-old Biden than the rest of the rumored shortlist.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has not been shy about her political aspirations to be vice president, blanketing airways and print interviews alike.
The highest elected office Abrams has ever held is as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Stacked against current governors and members of Congress, her chances may be slim, but she’s been vocal about her ambition. Abrams has explicitly acknowledged the vetting process and described herself in an interview with Elle magazine as an “excellent” pick.
“I would be an excellent running mate,” she said, later adding, “I have the capacity to attract voters by motivating typically ignored communities. I have a strong history of executive and management experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. I’ve spent 25 years in independent study of foreign policy.”
Abrams, who has become something of a political celebrity, acknowledged in the interview that many see her simply as a woman who lost to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, but argued that her skills learned in preparation for that race directly translate to the office of vice president.
Even senior Obama aide Valerie Jarrett said Abrams is “refreshingly direct.”
It’s unclear if a candidate can lobby her way into a presidential ticket, but Abrams’s campaign for the slot will be a clear litmus test.
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