Joseph Biden has solidified his frontrunner status for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 United States Presidential election in recent weeks, wresting the title from Bernie Sanders after his incredible political comeback on Super Tuesday. As of writing, 19 states have declared for Biden in the Democratic primaries leaving Sanders trailing behind at 9. However, as the primary process enters a lull, (partly due to COVID-19 and partly due to scheduling among the remaining states) attention has been drawn to which fellow Democrat Biden will ‘tap’ to join his campaign as his running mate and Vice Presidential candidate.
Prospective Presidents have traditionally chosen their VP candidates to ‘balance the ticket’, both geographically and politically, in order to maximise their appeal to the greatest number of voters. Indeed, Biden was chosen as Barack Obama’s running mate on account of his extensive foreign policy experience and appeal to older, blue-collar voters, both qualities in which the future President-elect was lacking. Candidates’ running mates have been proven to both make (Lyndon B. Johnson for JFK, 1960) and break (Sarah Palin for John McCain, 2008) Presidential campaigns, and given Biden’s advanced age it is likely he will only serve one 4-year term. The pick for Democratic VP in 2020 is thus an extremely important issue for the Biden camp as that person will immediately be seen as a President-in-waiting.
Given Biden’s standing as a moderate, white septuagenarian male, numerous political pundits have speculated that a ‘dream ticket’ to unite the fractured Democratic Party and the nation would consist of a younger, progressive woman (possibly of colour) as the running mate. On the latter issue, Biden has already pledged definitively that he will pick a female to serve as his VP (Sanders on the other hand, only said it was ‘extremely likely’). On the former, however, Biden made clear that his running mate would have to agree with him on fundamental issues, lowering the chances of a strongly left-wing candidate appearing on the ticket.
As Biden moves his campaign to the digital platform in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, he has stated that six or seven female potential VP candidates will begin the vetting process ‘in a matter of weeks’, with the assistance of former President Obama. Several senior female Democrats have already been named as strong possibilities:
KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. Senator from California
Senator Harris has been touted by many pundits and bookmakers as one of the most likely VP picks for Biden. She has a strong background of public service, first as an attorney and prosecutor followed by the office of Attorney General of California, and currently as a Senator. Harris already has a national profile following her own campaign for President in 2019, and she recently endorsed Biden following its suspension. Although she strongly criticised Biden in the Democratic primary debates last July over his record on racial segregation in the United States, they are both on the relatively moderate wing of the party. Her reputation as an ‘attack dog’ would be useful for the Biden camp, but she brings a fair share of controversy over her record as California Attorney General, especially over her decision to class truancy in children as a crime committed by their parents.
STACEY ABRAMS, Former Democratic Candidate for Governor of Georgia
Seen as a rising star on the progressive wing of the party, Abrams was the first female black woman to be a candidate for the governorship of any US state in history. She was also the first female African-American to deliver a Response to the State of the Union Address. Abrams is another Democrat strongly favoured by bookmakers for Biden’s running mate, especially given her national profile after her controversial election loss for Governor to Brian Kemp in 2018. She has the potential advantage to diversify the Biden campaign geographically, possibly even turning the increasingly-marginal Southern state of Georgia and others in ‘Dixieland’ blue come November. However, detractors have repeatedly cited her lack of experience in federal politics that effectively disqualify her from being able to ‘immediately step into the office of President‘, an attribute expected in any VP. Still, Abrams has a promising future in national politics,
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Senator from Minnesota
Another former Democratic Presidential candidate in the 2020 cycle, Senator Klobuchar dropped out following a disappointing result in the early primaries and quickly endorsed Biden. Described as a down-to-Earth, ‘folksy’ Senator, Klobuchar was previously seen as one of Biden’s closest rivals for the moderate Democratic vote. Currently, she is one of his strongest political and ideological allies, campaigning passionately for him after Super Tuesday. Picking Klobuchar for VP gives the Biden camp a strong chance to win back the Midwestern states that handed President Trump his victory in 2016, given her status as a ‘native daughter’ of Minnesota, but would do little in the way of extending an olive branch to disappointed Sanders supporters.
ELIZABETH WARREN, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
Previously seen as a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination, even over Biden and Sanders at one point, Senator Warren dropped out following disappointing primary results. Warren even lost her home state to Biden. She is yet to endorse either of the two remaining candidates. Best known as Bernie Sanders’ closest challenger for the progressive vote, her strong ‘War on Wall Street‘ credentials and formidable debating skills would undoubtedly be an asset for Biden should she join him on the ticket. Her appointment as Vice Presidential candidate would also be Biden’s strongest route to uniting moderate and progressive Democrats, short of naming Sanders himself. However, like Biden, her advanced age makes her a poor choice for galvanising Millennial or Gen. Z voters.
Other lesser-known potential VP picks speculated in the media or listed by Biden himself include:
- Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan Governor
- Maggie Hassan or Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Senators
- Sally Yates, former Deputy Attorney General
- Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Senator and first openly LGBTQ+ Senator
- Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico Governor
- Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada Senator
- Val Demings, Florida Congresswoman
Biden himself has joked that his own 2020 ‘dream ticket’ would be completed by Michelle Obama in the VP slot. Although highly unlikely, given the former First Lady’s disinterest in politics, it stands to highlight that even when exclusively considering women for a running mate, the former VP still has a wide field to choose from to fill his shoes!