Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday, positioning his former Democratic primary rival as the first Black woman to appear on a major party’s presidential ticket.

The California senator was chosen after a months-long process that for the first time in history included only a field of women. The 55-year-old Harris was long considered by Democrats as the front-runner to be Biden’s No. 2 due to her ideological similarities to the former vice president, the diversity she brings to the ticket, and her experience running a national campaign.

The announcement came in a text message to supporters Tuesday afternoon. On Twitter, Biden called Harris “a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants,” while Harris said Biden “can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us.”

Many Democrats see Biden’s decision to pick Harris as a nod to the political adage that a running mate should first, and above all, do no harm. That’s especially true when running ahead, as polls show Biden with a formidable lead over President Donald Trump with less than three months to go before the general election.

But it is also a historic selection. Only two women have ever been running mates on a major party presidential ticket: Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008.

The Trump campaign released a video shortly after the announcement labeling Harris as a “phony” who has rushed to the “radical left.” And during a White House press briefing, Trump said Harris was his “No. 1 draft pick” to be Biden’s VP.

Trump reacts to Biden’s VP pick with ‘Phony Kamala’ ad

With a political biography that includes three and a half years in the U.S. Senate and five years previously as California’s attorney general, Biden concluded that Harris has the necessary experience to help him govern and ascend to the role of commander-in-chief, if need be. As a candidate who ran against him for the Democratic nomination, Harris was the only woman of color who had undergone sustained scrutiny through a national campaign.

“There’s no question that people who’ve been through it before, to use a baseball analogy, they’re able to hit the fastball right out of the gate more easily than somebody who might not be used to that speed of pitching,” said David Plouffe, who managed Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, in an interview before the VP pick was announced.

Biden had also seriously considered at least a half dozen other women, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Reps. Karen Bass of California and Val Demings of Florida, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Susan Rice, Obama’s former national security adviser.

Bass’ prospects had briefly picked up momentum this summer as forces opposed to Harris mobilized to argue that the Los Angeles congresswoman would be more loyal to Biden since she lacks White House ambitions herself. Rice had also generated late buzz as the only contender to have had a previous working relationship with Biden during Obama’s tenure.

Former VP hopefuls react to Biden picking Kamala Harris as his running mate

Some Democrats expressed fears that Harris would begin situating herself for the presidency almost immediately, potentially complicating their relationship heading towards 2024, when Biden would be confronted with the decision to seek a second term.

Harris’ primary debate attack against Biden last summer, when she assailed him for opposing a federal busing program meant to integrate public schools, also left a mark. Jill Biden described it during a fundraiser last spring as a “punch to the gut.”

But in the end, the number of boxes that Harris checked outweighed the perceived strikes against her. Biden avoided a more ideologically polarizing pick (like Warren) and a less politically tested option (like Rice) in favor of a person squarely in the firmament of mainstream Democratic politics. Foreshadowing his pick, Biden was photographed holding notes last month that defended Harris, including a scrawling that read “Do not hold grudges.”

After endorsing Biden in early March, Harris quickly became one of his most visible surrogates as the campaign moved into a largely online environment during the coronavirus pandemic. She held virtual campaign events for the campaign in North Carolina, Minnesota and Wisconsin and a June fundraiser she co-hosted brought in $3.5 million.

“Like me, Joe is for the people. I’ve seen first-hand his compassion and dedication to public service. He’ll be a president for all of us, and that’s why I’m giving everything I’ve got to help him succeed this year,” Harris wrote in a recent fundraising appeal for Biden.

The announcement comes a week before the Democratic National Convention, which was originally set in Milwaukee but will now take place virtually.

As the campaign heads into the final stretch, Harris will become a key voice to make the case against Trump. As a former prosecutor, she was widely lauded for her questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.

Many Democrats are hopeful that Harris will be able to help the campaign maximize turnout among Black voters in key battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which slipped into GOP hands in the last presidential election.

But some progressives advocated against her selection, contending that Harris will do little to energize younger and more liberal voters who didn’t cast ballots for Biden during the primary.

Harris’ record on criminal justice is also seen as a central part of her record that will draw renewed scrutiny, especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that blossomed after the death of George Floyd.

Born to an Indian mother and Jamaican father, Harris cut her teeth as a prosecutor in San Francisco. Her first campaign in that city was for district attorney against a two-term incumbent who has previously been her boss.

After winning that 2004 race, Harris quickly made a name for herself, staking out a position against the death penalty, when it was still popular, and became the first elected official in the state to endorse Obama’s 2008 campaign.

She had briefly considered taking a job in the administration but decided to climb the political ladder in California instead, running for attorney general. While the 2010 election was a cataclysm for Democrats nationwide, Harris managed to win her race by less than a percentage point. She became the first woman, first Black person and first Indian-American ever to be elected attorney general of California.

When Barbara Boxer announced her retirement from the U.S. Senate in early 2015, Harris’ instinct to strike quickly turned into gear again. She dove in as the first major candidate in the Senate contest on the presumption that her decisiveness would deter others from challenging her. The calculation mostly worked. In the 2016 election, while Trump had shocked the world by upsetting Hillary Clinton, Harris defeated Rep. Loretta Sanchez by 23 points, quietly becoming the second Black woman ever to serve in the U.S. Senate.

This story has been updated.

Alex Roarty contributed reporting.

Want more McClatchy political coverage? Sign up here to get a daily rundown of 2020 election news from our newsrooms and other local journalists around the country.

And for even more 2020 politics, download McClatchy's Beyond the Bubble podcast here:
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting