In a world of Democratic politics where almost everything has been put on hold since Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April, the anticipated announcement of Joe Biden’s running mate has dominated. Whether it be Karen Bass or Kamala Harris, the speculation machine has spun into overdrive with just days until the big reveal.
But who will the pick be? Despite there being a clear group of front-runners — including one clear-cut favorite — it is anyone’s guess as to who Biden chooses. Each potential pick has their own strengths and weaknesses, and in a campaign where Biden is skating by on a built-in advantage over Donald Trump, you don’t want to rock the boat.
Here’s our picks for the top five Biden running mates.
Rhode Island’s own Gina Raimondo was in contact with the Biden campaign earlier in the election cycle, but being on the ticket doesn’t make sense. Biden has no need to boost his credentials or numbers in the northeast, especially with an ideologically-similar governor.
Other running mates who were in the mix but ultimately aren’t the best fit for Biden include Karen Bass — previously a top contender whose checkered history, including a cringe-worthy speech at a Scientology event, has dropped her in the rankings. Stacey Abrams, while popular and political adept, does not have the experience to be chosen.
5. Gretchen Whitmer
The governor of Michigan is another potential running mate who has dropped in the rankings over the past few months, but remains in the top group of candidates. Whitmer makes sense geographically, and has received praise for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic. She also could appeal in her identity to other industrial states, given her priorities as governor to rebuild failing infrastructure and raise the minimum wage.
Whitmer’s identity is also a drawback, as she is unlikely to excite voters on either end of the ideological spectrum. Additionally, in a moment of racial reckoning, the selection of Whitmer would mean an all-white ticket.
4. Susan Rice
Of any prospective choice for VP, Susan Rice may be the most qualified. Rice served as ambassador to the UN during Barack Obama’s first term as president, and became his national security advisor during his second term. As such, she is closely aligned with the popular Obama presidency.
While she has existed in the public eye for quite some time and may be considered a safer option, she has never run for public office and it is unclear the appetite that voters have for a candidate unlikely to excite voters.
It is easy to imagine the voter that casts a ballot for Biden because of Stacey Abrams. Voting for Biden because of Rice? That’s tough to see.
3. Elizabeth Warren
The senator from Massachusetts is being heavily vetted, but in some ways, she has already undergone the process by running for president in the Democratic primary. In that race, she proved her ability to organize a campaign and identified with a clear demographic, exciting voters with her plan-heavy platform and outsider talk.
Warren, to Biden’s ideological left but to the right of Bernie Sanders, could also serve as a bridge to the more progressive parts of the Democratic Party. After the mistakes and alienation of the far-left in the 2016 campaign, unity is essential.
Warren’s credentials as a Harvard economics professor and break-up-Wall-Streat crusader would help Biden as he runs during one of the worst recessions in US history. But it also this moment that hurts Warren. As a white politician with a checkered racial history — remember the DNA test? — Biden may be better suited with a person of color on his ticket.
2. Kamala Harris
That’s where Kamala Harris comes in. Harris, who also ran in this year’s primary and holds the same advantages as Warren, would diversify Biden’s ticket and could serve as the heir-apparent to the Democratic party in a way that Warren, at age 71, could not.
Harris also benefits from an ambiguous policy platform. Whereas Warren enshrined what she believed in granite, Harris was far more ambivalent when it came to healthcare and other key issues. She can bend to what the Biden campaign wants in a running mate without the appearance of flip-flopping.
While Harris does diversify the ticket as what the New York Times calls the “best-known Black women in American politics,” she also has a difficult history with police brutality as a California prosecutor. While those questions nagged at her presidential campaign — which in and of itself saw a fair share of issues — it is unlikely that those questions are going away anytime soon.
Harris and Warren each have clear flaws, but are essentially tied at second in the VP sweepstakes. They are both equally likely to be chosen, and the rationale for each is clear.
1. Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth’s story alone is enough to make you stop in your tracks. She lost both of her legs while serving in Iraq as a helicopter pilot and Army lieutenant colonel, and has since risen through the ranks of Illinois politics to become its most recently-elected senator. She is being seriously considered and vetted by the Biden campaign.
While Duckworth is new to national politics, she is also new to the VP sweepstakes; the Biden campaign ramped up its vetting of Duckworth after a high-profile and successful clash with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
It’s not just the fact that Duckworth is a female veteran that is ideologically aligned with Biden. She is Asian-American, the daughter of an immigrant, and was the first female senator to give birth when in office.
Her personal story and identity is so perfect and ripe for a national audience that to some — including former Republican congressman Joe Walsh, who Duckworth beat in a 2012 campaign — she is untouchable.
“Every other word out of her mouth was about her service," Walsh told POLITICO last month. "That bugged me because I couldn’t find a way to attack her. And so I ended up putting my foot in my mouth a few times.”
Duckworth’s weaknesses come from a limited national profile and the limited inroads she can make in industrial states. She is also more moderate than much of the Democratic party, an ideological lean that could prove problematic for Biden.
But for Biden, the identity and personal story of Tammy Duckworth should be enough to place her on the ticket. As former representative Walsh said, “I couldn’t find a way to attack her.”
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