Exploring Biden’s VP list
The Democratic presidential candidate has a full slate of options
At a news conference on Tuesday, a photographer captured a shot of former Vice President Joe Biden holding a piece of paper with handwritten notes about Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. “Do not hold grudges,” “Great help to the campaign,” and “Great respect for her,” the notes read, raising speculation the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee plans to pick her as his running mate.
While Biden has not committed to serving only one term as president if elected, advisers have raised doubts that he would seek the nomination again in 2024, the year he turns 82. This has raised the stakes even more for a potential VP who might become his heir apparent. Biden said on Tuesday he will settle on a running mate by next week. The Democratic National Convention begins on Aug. 17.
His speculative list remains long, but a few names have risen to the top.
Harris, the apparent front-runner, has more federal political experience than any other African American woman on the short list. The 55-year-old former California attorney general joined the U.S. Senate in 2017 and had a good relationship with Biden’s son Joseph “Beau” Biden before the former Delaware attorney general’s death in 2015 from brain cancer. Beau Biden supported Harris when she pushed for a multistate investigation into banks in the middle of the housing crisis in 2011.
In a June 2019 debate, Harris attacked Biden for working with segregationist senators while in Congress and for opposing busing as a way to integrate schools. But once her own presidential campaign failed to gather steam, she dropped out of the race, endorsed Biden, and campaigned for him.
Harris supports pro-abortion measures such as repealing the Hyde Amendment. In May, pro-life activist David Daleiden sued Harris and Planned Parenthood, alleging that she as California’s attorney general conspired with the abortion giant to prosecute him after he released undercover videos of Planned Parenthood executives illegally negotiating prices for aborted baby body parts.
Harris has said she supports the “freedom to worship” but not the free exercise of religion that would allow Christian principles to inform hiring and firing decisions in the workplace.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., amassed considerable support along the far-left of the Democratic spectrum in the early presidential primaries. After she dropped out of the race following a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday, Warren helped Biden raise campaign funds. He reportedly considered her as a running mate when he explored a presidential run in 2016.
In recent days, Biden has adopted plans with Warren’s stamp of approval on student loan debts, bankruptcy, and Social Security policy.
Choosing Warren would please the progressive wing of the Democratic base. As a 71-year-old white woman, Warren does not meet the recent pressure for Biden to pick a woman of color or someone of a different generation. Her progressive credentials could alienate moderate voters, among whom Biden is currently polling well. She has endorsed the implementation of a wealth tax to pay for “Medicare for All” and said Congress should pass a law to guarantee the right to an abortion.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., became a top contender more recently. The 52-year-old is Asian American, the mother of two young children, and a Purple Heart recipient who lost both legs as a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War. She served as assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Obama administration and then two terms in the U.S. House.
Duckworth’s combat experience and her hailing from a Midwestern state could help Biden in the heartland. But outside of Illinois, she has low name recognition—something the vice presidential candidate needs in this campaign. Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, noted that because the coronavirus pandemic has canceled the usual in-person campaign stops, “this VP will be much less visible than any VP candidate we’ve had in my lifetime.”
Duckworth has also stood against pro-life policies in the Senate, including the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
Former national security adviser Susan Rice boasts something the other candidates do not: considerable experience working directly with Biden. She also served in the Obama administration as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and worked on the pandemic response team, something that could come in handy as the United States continues to deal with COVID-19.
Rice, 55, is African American, relatively young, and more moderate. She has never run for political office, so her positions on domestic issues remain relatively unknown.
Rice also may present an easy target for Republicans: After the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, she said in five Sunday talk show appearances that a protest against an American-made video sparked the incident, not a pre-planned act of terrorism. Her assessment ultimately proved incorrect. At the time, Republicans said her comments misled the public.
Other Democrats who are still alive in the Biden veepstakes include Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Reps. Karen Bass of California and Val Demings of Florida, former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
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