Joe Biden’s Dilemma

Will Joe Biden side with the surging progressive wing of his Party?  Or, will he follow the moderate course of recent Democratic nominees?  He promised to decide by early August.   

How to select a VP

Research shows nominees balance the ticket.  They look for a running mate that unifies the party and boosts chances of victory.  Depending on election circumstances, there are several ways to balance the ticket. Nominees may consider one or any combination of the following.        

  • Region – Biden is from the Northeast.  A VP from the South or Midwest may help attract voters from those regions.
  • Ideology – Biden is a moderate.  A running mate from the progressive wing could strengthen the party and mobilize liberal Democrats.
  • Race – African Americans represent a powerful Democrat voting bloc.  Biden’s success in the primaries turned on considerable support from African Americans in South Carolina.  An African American VP could raise Black turnout in key swing states including Michigan, Georgia, and North Carolina. 
  • Gender – In March, Biden promised to nominate a women.  The early announcement reflected women’s increasing power within the Party and broad support for a women in the White House.   
  • Ethnicity – About 2/3 of Latinos identify as Democrats.  And nearly 7 in 10  voted for Obama in 2008, 2012, and Clinton in 2016.  The same pattern reappeared in the 2018 congressional elections.  Latinos also represent a pivotal voting bloc in crucial swing states such as Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.  
  • Age – Joe Biden is now 77 years old.  If elected, he would be the oldest president in history – sworn in at 78.  A younger running mate could offset the age factor.  The new generation of Democrats seek a fresh break from the politics of the Clinton-Obama generation.      
  • Experience – As former VP and Senator, Biden possesses a wealth of political experience.  However, he may desire executive experience (Governor or Mayors) from outside Washington.  
  • Size of state – Biden could lean toward a running mate from a large state crucial to winning in the Electoral College.        

The long short list

  • Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.  A former House member and elected Governor in 2018.  She would be the first Hispanic American VP. 
  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.  First elected in 2018. 
  • Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.  A Thai-American Iraq War veteran who suffered significant injuries – both legs amputated. 
  • Representative Val Demmings from Florida.  She is a former Orlando police chief and served as an impeachment manager during the recent Senate trial. 
  • Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire – and former Governor of New Hampshire. 
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – a noteworthy 2020 primary candidate.
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – a noteworthy 2020 primary candidate. 
  • Senator Kamala Harris of California – former California Attorney General and 2020 primary candidate.
  • Mayor Keisha Bottoms, Atlanta. 
  • Minority Leader Georgia House Stacey Abrams. 

Likely Top 4

Amy Klobuchar.  She brings Midwest sensibilities and appeals to voters in states that sunk Democrats in 2016 – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.  Like Biden, Klobuchar is a moderate and a top performer in the Senate – in terms of bipartisan legislation.  Recent events in Minneapolis however raise questions about her past decisions as prosecutor in Minnesota. 

Strength: region    

Val Demmings.  Racial tensions and demonstrations across the country increased the likelihood that Biden will balance the ticket with an African American.  Demmings possess a unique background, perhaps a perfect fit for the moment.  She is highly regarded by her House colleagues – selected as an impeachment manager – and popular among party elite.  A former police chief in Orlando, Florida – Demmings knows the criminal justice issues well, including police brutality and reform.  She is also a moderate.     

Strengths: race, state size, and region.     

Elizabeth Warren:  a party favorite and beloved by educated Liberals.   Appears well suited to unify the left and moderate wing of the Party.  An effective campaigner, Warren possesses a wealth of national political experience.         

Strength:  ideology

Kamala Harris:  One of the most liberal Senators, Harris co-sponsors many Democrat colleagues’ initiatives but least likely to co-sponsor bi-partisan legislation.  The Minneapolis tragedy underscores the importance of her persistent efforts in fighting racism, racial inequality, and reforming the criminal justice system.  However, her mixed record as Attorney General in California may present problems. 

Balance:  race, ideology

What will Joe Do? 

Will Biden select Klobuchar? Among the contenders, she would be most successful in attracting Midwest votes.  She is also a genuine moderate and the most effective legislator.  If Biden seeks a return to “normal” this might be his VP.       

Will Biden choose Demmings?  Demmings combines valuable experiences as an African American leader in law enforcement with electoral success in Florida.  Like Klobuchar, Demmings moderate tendencies also match well with Biden’s temperament.   

Will Biden take Warren?  Warren represents progressive ideals and vast experience on the national stage.  Warren’s progressivism offsets Biden’s moderation.  She offers the liberal wing a true voice and future champion.      

Finally, does Biden pick Harris?  Like Warren, Harris is a strong progressive and would balance Biden’s moderate tendencies.  She is also African American. 

Before Minneapolis, the money was on Klobuchar.  Now, it appears to be moving toward Harris.  Given a relatively calm summer, and conventional issue cycle, Klobuchar may reappear.  Right now, however, the mood of the Democratic Party swings in favor of Harris and potentially Demmings.  But events change quickly.  It was only 4 months ago that Democrats impeached Trump. 

The moderate Democrats dominated presidential politics since Clinton-Gore in 1992.  This time, it’s the progressive’s turn – Kamala Harris may just thread the needle.  

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