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Now that Joe Biden has emerged from a turbulent Democratic presidential primary as the party’s presumptive nominee, his campaign has shifted its focus to the goal of unseating Donald Trump in November.
One of the most important decisions he’ll make for the general election is choosing a running mate. Biden, of course, has a unique perspective on this process.
“I learned from the best — Barack Obama — on what to look for,” he wrote in a campaign newsletter. “When it comes to the vice presidency, I’m looking for someone to be a partner in progress. Someone who’s simpatico in how they see the challenges the country faces. Someone who is ready to be president at a moment's notice.”
Biden has broken from the traditional approach of previous nominees for his search. He cut the field of potential candidates in half by promising to select a woman as his running mate. He’s also openly discussed the merits of possible choices, something candidates have historically avoided.
Why there’s debate
Biden’s search for a vice president has, unsurprisingly, led to a flurry of opinions about who would be the best choice to join his ticket. Proposed running mates fall into two general categories: those who would emphasize Biden’s strengths and those who would make up for some of his shortcomings.
Biden won the Democratic primary with a policy platform and promise of stability that appealed to moderate voters, and some argue that his running mate should double down on that message. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are among the candidates cited that satisfy those criteria. Both women align with Biden’s moderate policy views and carry broad bipartisan appeal. As a bonus, they have roots in the Midwest, a region of the country Biden likely needs to flip to win the presidency.
Others believe that Biden needs to choose a partner that shields his weaknesses, especially among young voters, Hispanic voters and more liberal members of the Democratic Party. Two of his primary rivals, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, could bring a more progressive voice to the ticket that appeals to voters who are unenthusiastic about the prospects of a Biden presidency. Another popular choice among progressives is Stacey Abrams, who garnered national attention during her campaign for Georgia governor in 2018.
Numerous other names have been proposed, including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Former first lady Michelle Obama is often brought up, but a second Biden-Obama partnership may be the stuff of Democratic daydreams.
Biden said he will name the members of his search committee by the beginning of May. Running mates are typically announced in the weeks before the party conventions. Democrats moved their convention from July to August this year over concerns about the coronavirus.
Abrams would bring a boost in black voter turnout that Biden needs to win
“It is in the realm of African-American voter enthusiasm that Ms. Abrams is without peer. Not only did she win 93 percent of the black vote in her race for governor … but few candidates (if any) in the history of this country have increased black turnout in a statewide election to the extent that Ms. Abrams did in 2018.” — Steve Phillips, New York Times
Whitmer is a proven leader who could seamlessly step into the presidency if needed
“Whitmer brings her skills as a governor and public official who has unfailingly seen from the get-go what her state needs in this, its most critical hour, and with laser-like precision has gone after it. With her leadership skills, she has also shown herself prepared to do so for the nation as well.” — David A. Andelman, CNN
Klobuchar is the best choice to bring swing voters back to Democrats
“The Democratic strategy for beating Trump is simple: unite the majority of Americans who have disapproved of his presidency for its entire term. That means running competent, decent people who won’t frighten voters away. Biden-Klobuchar is a perfect ticket for that task.” — Henry Olsen, Washington Post
Warren’s coronavirus response shows the importance of her policy acumen
“Despite ending her candidacy, Warren has offered the most prominent, thoughtful and urgent response to the coronavirus crisis of any politician in America. … Throw all other political considerations into the garbage: The world needs Warren in the executive branch, a heartbeat away from the presidency.” — Matthew Fleischer, Los Angeles Times
Harris ticks all the boxes of what Biden needs in a running mate
“Harris brings an energy that Biden doesn't have, and she is respected on all fronts. During her presidential run, she pitched a platform that threaded the needle between left and center and has credibility across the board. She can help to unite a party that needs so critically to be at full strength heading into the general.” — Michael Gordon, Business Insider
Biden should choose a black woman
“Biden, who has pledged to nominate a woman as his running mate and a black woman as a justice, knows there is no path to the White House for a Democrat without strong black turnout. He needs a black woman as his running mate. Why? Because black women are the core of the Democratic base, the party’s most loyal voters.” — Sophia A. Nelson, Daily Beast
Emphasis should be put on a candidate who helps win a swing state
“The most important thing a running mate can do is deliver a state to the ticket that may be out of reach. Providing an ideological balance is nice but not usually helpful. Winning in a state you're not expected to, as both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton found out in 2016, can be everything.” — Peter Roff, Newsweek
The choice should represent the future of the Democratic Party
“Because of his age, many believe Biden, if elected, would only serve one presidential term. That puts an even greater burden on his choice, since he’ll be picking someone who would not only be next in line to his presidency but a potential heir apparent to lead the Democratic party in 2024.” — Carl P. Leubsdorf, Dallas Morning News
Don’t put the Senate majority at risk
“In its quest to secure a Senate majority in 2021 and beyond, Democrats have zero margin for error. And without a Senate majority, the next Democratic president will struggle to appoint his own Cabinet, let alone pass major legislation. Biden should not pluck anyone out of the Senate unless he’s 100 percent sure that lawmaker will be replaced with another Democrat.” — Eric Levitz, New York
Running mates don’t matter nearly as much as people think
“The reality is, the choice of a vice president really does not sway elections.” — David Schultz, The Hill
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