It doesn’t matter who Joe Biden picks as his running mate – somebody will be disappointed.
The former vice-president and de facto Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday said he would make a selection in the first week of August.
The selection process has largely been kept secret with as many as two dozen names floating around as potential running mates.
Vice-presidential nominees rarely decide elections and the common rule among political operatives is that a candidate should pick someone who does no harm. But in the 2020 presidential cycle, Biden’s selection has added importance. If he wins the 2020 presidential election, Biden has indicated that he may not run for re-election, immediately putting his vice-president into contention for 2024.
Biden’s public criteria for the role are that it be someone he feels “simpatico” with, and it be a woman. He recently said there were “four Black women” he was considering picking. Democrats close to Biden’s inner circle believe Biden has narrowed his pool down to about six names but he is still very much undecided.
But among the many candidates mentioned by Biden himself, or anonymous Democratic operatives in articles gaming out his choices, or pundits, there is no single person who would satisfy all the interest groups and sectors of the Democratic party, each of which has its favorites.
Democrats hoping to elevate someone with law enforcement credentials would like to see the Florida congresswoman Val Demings, a former chief of the Orlando police department.
But progressives and their affiliated groups have pushed for someone like the Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams or Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.
“The campaign needs to show progressives across this country that he recognizes that the future of the party is with progressives and the only way to do that is by choosing a really strong progressive to be his vice-presidential candidate,” said Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of the progressive Democracy for America outside group.
At one point centrists in the party were hoping for the Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar before Klobuchar took herself out of the running. Meanwhile, mayors across the country would like to see one of their own get the nod – someone like Atlanta’s Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Democrats who think executive experience and a history of winning statewide elections want someone like the Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, or the New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Others who think a military background would help Biden oust Donald Trump have pushed for the Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth.
And in recent days the former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice has been a hot topic of political articles about Biden’s potential running mate.
But no single candidate fits the bill for everyone.
Dorian Warren, the president of the progressive organizing group Community Change, who wants Biden to pick Abrams and said she would be disappointed if she were overlooked. “But it depends on who the pick ultimately is. But there would be disappointment, for sure. I think, second, is what could the Biden team imagine the next best use of [Stacey Abrams]?”
The Abrams team have been aggressive in putting forward her candidacy. They eagerly set up interviews with reporters and Abrams surrogates like Warren. Abrams has also appeared at multiple fundraising events for Biden.
Other groups have also been active in support of their choices. The Democratic veterans group VoteVets have released ads pushing for Duckworth.
“Tammy was kind of the only veteran out there that they were looking at,” said Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets. “The point of what we were trying to do was show what that would look like and that she should be considered.”
Mayors across the country enjoy a tight community. One of the more prominent mayors, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, is on the committee charged with helping Biden make his pick. His counterparts in other cities have expressed their support for Bottoms or Demings.
“The Florida mayors particularly have been pushing for Demings,” said the maor of Dayton, Ohio, Nan Whaley. “We have Keisha in the mix too which we’re excited about as a mayor.”
It’s possible Biden will infuriate varying sectors of the Democratic party depending on who he picks. If he picks a Caucasian women, Biden risks disappointing the African American community. If Biden picks a centrist he could disappoint the progressive wing of the party and depress turnout among activists in that wing. If Biden picks a progressive, he might turn off moderates and Republicans the campaign and its allies have been working to woo.
If he picks a member of Congress, that could give pause to voters eager to see an executive join the former vice-president. A recent poll conducted for the liberal thinktank Data for Progress found that independent voters want Biden to put an emphasis on “governing effectiveness” in picking a running mate.
And if he picks someone like Rice or Abrams, that could worry Democrats who think Biden’s running mate needs a record of winning elections statewide. Neither Abrams or Rice have ever won elections statewide. And Rice has never run a federal campaign, although she took a serious look about challenging the Republican senator Susan Collins in Maine.
In recent days a set of donors have warned Biden against picking Harris, according to a CNBC report.
But Biden’s peril only extends so far. More so than in past cycles, Democrats across the party say they just want to see Biden beat Trump.
“I would say that if Biden picks someone besides Tammy Duckworth we’re still going to enthusiastically attack Donald Trump,” Soltz said.