Just weeks remain until Joe Biden announces his running mate, and more than a half-dozen women are top contenders in his search.
The decision has the potential not only to define his candidacy and the tone of the Democratic ticket heading into the November election but make a statement about the direction of the Democratic Party and set up a front-runner for the presidency in 2024 or 2028 should he be elected.
Biden, who said in a May fundraiser that he expects to announce his vice presidential pick around Aug. 1 ahead of the Aug. 17-20 Democratic National Convention, gave a clue on Monday into some of the top contenders on his list.
MSNBC host Joy Reid asked Biden whether he would commit to picking a black woman to be on the ticket — a common question for him in the wake of the nationwide race and policing protests and riots that swept the country in June.
“I am not committed to naming any but the people I’ve named,” Biden said. But instead of repeating his frequent line that more than one black woman is being considered, he provided a specific number: “Among them, there are four black women.”
With more than four black women who have been rumored to be on Biden’s shortlist in recent weeks, the question is who has been eliminated from his list.
Biden has given a few other clues about what he is looking for in his running mate, who he pledged will be a woman.
The pick must be capable and able to assume the presidency in the event he is unable to — “I’m an old guy,” the 77-year-old put it in January — and he prefers a candidate who has already been vetted by the national media. Biden wants to be “simpatico” with his pick “both in terms of personality as well as substance” — though as he has lurched left in his policy positions, that requirement could be less restrictive of ideology than it seemed a few months ago.
Here are nine top contenders from Biden’s rumored VP shortlist:
1. California Sen. Kamala Harris
Pro: The relative newcomer to the national stage has been the favorite potential running mates among voters even as the Democratic presidential primary was just getting started. An eloquent speaker who can land a sharp blow in congressional hearings and television interviews, the 55-year-old could act as an attack dog on the ticket, and the prospect of a woman of Jamaican and Indian descent in the White House would energize voters.
Con: Harris’s sharp June 2019 Democratic debate attack on Biden for working with segregationist senators in the 1970s to oppose federally mandated busing personally bruised the Biden family. Some of her prosecutorial decisions as California’s attorney general on policing and marijuana could be lines of attack.
2. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth
Pro: As a double amputee Iraq War veteran of Thai descent, Duckworth, 52, would add much diversity to Biden’s ticket. Attacks from Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Duckworth questioning her patriotism helped raise her national profile and showed that she will fight back when attacked.
Con: Carlson attacked Duckworth because of a stumble other Republicans will exploit: She expressed openness to discussions about tearing down statues of George Washington. Her stumble on the national stage and being relatively unknown nationally poses liabilities should she make the Biden ticket.
3. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
Pro: The 60-year-old first-term governor and former congresswoman has put strict policies in place in New Mexico to slow the spread of the coronavirus, bolstering her executive credentials. As the only Latina woman on Biden’s shortlist, she has the potential to energize Hispanic and Latino voters, a demographic that Biden struggles with.
Con: Lujan Grisham has little national name recognition, and she faced criticism for allegedly asking a jewelry store to open for her despite being shut down. She could also face attacks for joining the campaign rather than governing in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
4. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Pro: Advocates of Warren argue that she would help Biden bridge ideological divides and energize supporters of her and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The left-wing firebrand has endured the political spotlight and undoubtedly has the national experience necessary to serve competently in the White House.
Con: While she would add gender diversity to the ticket, the 71-year-old is in the same age bracket as Biden and also white, which could disappoint some voters. President Trump’s campaign would undoubtedly mount unrelenting attacks on her past identification as a Native American and her DNA test that showed she had a Native American ancestor six to 10 generations back.
Biden’s work with the Sanders team crafting policies may appease that wing of voters enough to cast a ballot for the Biden ticket without Warren’s name on it. And he could worry that ideological divides with Warren, who campaigned for president on a far-left platform, could jeopardize his authority with her as his vice president.
5. Former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice
Pro: Having worked in the Obama White House with Rice, Biden knows her and her policy priorities well, and she is the only black woman on his shortlist. The 55-year-old has vast amounts of experience in foreign policy, an important area to Biden, outshining the rest of the shortlist in that area.
Con: Picking Rice comes with re-litigating the Benghazi scandal and fueling “Obamagate” arguments from Trump that the two, among others in the Obama administration, conspired to harm the incoming president by launching what he says were politically motivated investigations. Picking Rice could also disappoint voters by signaling that Biden will return the White House to an establishment mode of governance.
6. Florida Rep. Val Demings
Pro: Demings’s resume looks tailor-made to address the political uprising about race relations and policing: The 63-year-old was the first black woman to be Orlando’s chief of police and could help Biden speak with authority on policing and race issues.
Con: As with any police chief, there could be controversial aspects of Demings’s career brought to the limelight. Her lack of statewide experience and low national profile leaves questions about whether she is qualified enough to be vice president.
7. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Pro: Offering retorts to Georgia’s Republican governor on cable news and scolding vandals and rioters for destroying the city has bumped the 50-year-old mayor’s national profile and shown that she can be a strong executive voice. The black mayor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the city has allowed her to flex her executive muscles.
Con: Having served no higher office than mayor, significant doubts about Bottoms’s White House qualifications remain.
8. California Rep. Karen Bass
Pro: As the head of the Congressional Black Caucus who has long worked on police reform issues, Bass, 66, would add a clear recognition of the cultural shift around policing and race relations to Biden’s ticket. She is an experienced politician and is unlikely to offend Biden’s left-of-center sensibilities, having brushed off calls to defund or eliminate police departments.
Con: Bass has a low national profile and does not add diversity in terms of her age range. She has also signaled that she is focused on legislative priorities. As with Demings, having attained no statewide or executive office could call into question whether she could assume the presidency.
9. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Pro: The youthful Michigan governor has already earned national media attention in the wake of the state being hit hard and early in the coronavirus pandemic. Whitmer, 48, provided contrast with Trump and flexed executive power by implementing strict social distancing and mask-wearing orders. As one of four national co-chairs of Biden’s campaign, she is likely to be in line with him on policy and style, and there is a possibility that she could help push the swing state in Biden’s direction should she be on the ticket.
Con: Whitmer has no federal experience and has held her current office for only two years, knocking down some points for her capacity to assume the presidency. And like Lujan Grisham, she could have baggage from leading her state through the coronavirus pandemic and be accused of abandoning it during a crisis. She also adds no racial diversity to the ticket.
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