In Depth

Who will be Joe Biden’s vice president pick - and could they extend his lead?

Barack Obama’s former right-hand man is due to announce his running mate within days

Until this year, Joe Biden was best known as the former vice president to Barack Obama.

Now, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee must select his own vice presidential running mate for the battle to beat Donald Trump in the upcoming election.

With the clock ticking down until Biden’s self-imposed deadline of early August to announce his pick, here are the runners and riders:

Kamala Harris

Ranked by most political pundits as Biden’s likeliest choice, Harris proved herself to be a force to be reckoned with during the Democratic primaries.

The California senator and former attorney general would represent the “safest pick” for Biden, says The Washington Post. And given his polling lead over Trump, “safe might be what the doctor orders” for this election cycle, the newspaper adds.

Harris is “in the pole position for the post”, agrees Politico. “Interviews with more than four dozen elected officials, strategists, former Biden advisers and plugged-in donors said they think Harris is the closest Biden has to a ‘do no harm’ option.”

She is not a shoo-in, however, following her attacks on Biden’s record on race during the primaries, when Harris all but accused her then-rival of giving segregationist congresspeople a pass during his time as a senator.

Many commentators argue that “the bad blood between the campaigns in the wake of the incident should not be underestimated”, says Los Angeles Magazine

But former Senate majority leader Harry Reid disputes that verdict, insisting that Biden is “too much of a gentleman” to hold a grudge against Harris.

Elizabeth Warren

If the Biden campaign’s most pressing problem is winning over the Bernie Sanders wing of his party, Warren is “the most obvious pick”, says The Washington Post.

During the primaries, the Massachusetts senator and leading progressive warned Democratic Party members against picking a “Washington insider” and pointedly did not endorse Biden until weeks after she had quit the race.

Yet today, “those bitter primary clashes are a distant memory”, and Warren has become “an unlikely confidant and adviser to Biden”, says the Associated Press

But, asks the Boston Herald, can she be VP in the age of Black Lives Matter? 

“Pressure is mounting on Biden - who had already committed to picking a female running mate - to choose a woman of colour for the role,” the paper says.

“Someone who has first-hand experience as a person of colour, I think that’s really, really critical,” said Massachusetts House of Representatives member Nika Elugardo. “Being sensitive is not a sufficient replacement for lived experience.”

Tammy Duckworth

Illinois Senator Duckworth “has seen a lot of firsts”, says National Public Radio (NPR).

“She was the first female soldier to lose both her legs in the Iraq War. She was the first Thai-American woman elected to Congress. And she was the first US senator to give birth while in office,” the news site reports.

Duckworth has also attracted the ire of Conservative pundits and been in the sights of the Trump campaign after calling for “a dialogue about potentially removing statues of George Washington”, says The Washington Post. Yet that inflammatory suggestion will make her as popular with many progressives as she is unpopular with Trump supporters.

Susan Rice

Obama’s former White House national security adviser has an unassailable pedigree: she was a Rhodes scholar at 21, an assistant secretary of state at 32 and ambassador to the United Nations by 44.

Yet while Rice has grown in political stature over the past few months, her electoral inexperience could count against her, says The New York Times. And “in an election dominated by a public-health disaster and economic recession, it is unclear how much a candidate best known for her foreign policy credentials would improve Mr Biden’s chances.”

Val Demings

Demings’ career path from police chief to vice presidential candidate may seem “unlikely”, but as a “charismatic” black congresswoman “who hails from America’s premier battleground state” of Florida, she has a lot to offer the Biden campaign, says the Associated Press.

Her background in the justice system “could blunt President Donald Trump’s argument that a Biden administration would lead to lawlessness”, according to the news agency. But equally, it could “spur unease among progressives who are leery of law enforcement, especially at a time of reckoning over systemic racism and policing”.

Stephanie Porta of community group Organize Florida voices the concerns of many in asking, when protesters are “marching against cops, why would you put a cop on the ticket?” 

Other possible candidates

Other hopefuls for the role include California congresswoman Karen Bass, who serves as head of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced earlier this month that she had tested positive for Covid-19.

New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is the only Latina candidate thought to have a shot at the post. The possibles list also features Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin, who would be the first LGBTQ candidate to run for VP.


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