Who Will Joe Biden Pick for Vice President?
April 25, 2020
We all have some free time these days, so let’s play a parlor game: who do you think will be Joe Biden’s candidate for Vice President? Five candidates easily come to mind. Biden has promised to choose a woman as his VP. That’s a good step forward for the country and an appropriate recognition of the powerful role that women play in the Democratic Party.
However, it might be risky for Biden to force too much change on voters in this race. Biden might be rolling the dice if he picked a black woman, or a very progressive one, as his running mate. To beat Trump, Biden has to appeal to a broad swath of voters, including conservative Democrats, moderate Republicans and white working-class voters.
Klobuchar Could Help Biden in Midwest
Amy Klobuchar looks like a logical choice; she would probably do the most to boost Biden’s chances of winning the White House. The Senator has extensive experience on the national level, she’s a moderate, and she could help Biden in the Midwest. While Klobuchar does not have as much charisma as Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris, she fared better in the primaries than they did.
With over 12 years in the Senate, Klobuchar knows the workings of Washington inside-out. The Senator has an impressive track record in passing legislation, rather than just spouting grand ideas. She could take over as President immediately if Biden died or became incapacitated. That’s a critical consideration, because Biden will be 78 in January 2021. He would be the oldest President ever elected. It’s true that some Presidents have assumed office without any experience in national government. However, after the last three years, that is not a comforting thought.
Why Klobuchar Rather than Warren?
At age 59, Klobuchar is relatively young. She is 11 years younger than Elizabeth Warren, who is 70. Klobuchar is pragmatic, unlike the ultra-progressive Senator from Massachusetts, so she would probably have more appeal for independent voters and moderate Republicans. Klobuchar is closer to Biden, both in her political views and her public persona, than the fiery Warren is.
With her Minnesota roots and centrist views, Klobuchar might increase Biden’s chances of appealing to white, working class voters in the Midwest. That region will again be a key battleground in the Presidential election. Furthermore, Klobuchar quickly endorsed Biden when she ended her campaign, and her support probably helped him sweep the Minnesota primary. Biden undoubtedly recognizes the debt he owes her.
By contrast, Warren waited many weeks before finally giving her support to Biden. Klobuchar is not without flaws. The Senator did not develop traction with blacks and Latinos during her campaign, and die-hard Sanders supporters might disdain her as “a member of the Establishment”. The New York Times has reported that she has a hot temper and has often treated staff members shabbily, which raises issues about her management style and temperament.
Still, Klobuchar should work easily with Biden as VP, and she could take over on Day 1, if necessary.
Warren Could Turn Off Moderates
Elizabeth Warren should have an important Cabinet post in a Biden administration, rather than campaign as his VP candidate.
Warren might help Biden attract more support from progressive Democrats in the election. However, the Senator could alienate many centrist Democrats and moderate Republicans. Crucially, she does not appeal to blue-collar voters, as well, despite her genuine concern for their welfare. These three groups of voters would likely be put off by Warren’s very progressive views and her tone, which can be harsh and preachy at times. Warren could launch major initiatives, as Secretary of Education or Health and Human Services or as a top Treasury official. Warren could devise solutions for the student loan mess or restore the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to stop abusive consumer lending practices. You know that she’d come up with a plan.
Kamala Harris Needs More Time in DC
Sen. Kamala Harris often lit up the stage during the primary debates, and she is a compelling presence on the stump. Unlike most other leading candidates for the VP slot, the Senator garnered extensive management experience as Attorney General of California, where she oversaw a massive legal staff. Harris radiates charisma, warmth and energy; she could be a powerful ally for Biden on the campaign trail. But Harris also stumbled badly early in the primaries, which showed her lack of experience on the national stage and raised questions about her judgment. Harris had been a Senator for only three years, after all, when she launched her campaign for President.
First, Harris was for Medicare for All, then she wasn’t…which confused voters. Harris should have set forth a clear position on that issue, which was the key topic in the debates. Her campaign lost steam after a number of other unforced errors on her part. One rationale for choosing Harris as the VP candidate would be to court black voters. But Biden already has very strong ties to black Americans. Furthermore, Harris is controversial among some African-Americans, because of allegations that she was overzealous as a prosecutor. It’s not clear that Harris would actually help Biden win more support from African-Americans.
During the debates, Harris attacked Biden on views that he had held on busing decades ago. Her maneuver was effective, but it was also a cheap shot. In addition, she inflicted considerable damage on his campaign for a few weeks. Is Biden willing to forgive and forget that?
Whitmer is Charismatic but Still Green
Gretchen Whitmer, the Governor of Michigan, is a rising star in the Democratic Party, very telegenic, and a gifted speaker. Party leaders selected Whitmer to give the rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union address this year; she was forceful and eloquent. Like Klobuchar, Whitmer is a pragmatic politician who might help Biden in the Midwestern states.
Whitmer has generally won positive reviews for her energetic approach to tackling the coronavirus crisis in her state. Her profile has risen among Democrats as she has clashed with Trump, demanding more federal aid, and the President has made her a target of his abuse.
The Governor has adopted some of the most stringent social-distancing measures in the country. She may have over-reached somewhat, by prohibiting people from fleeing to their vacation homes in rural areas. However, Detroit has been very hard hit by the coronavirus, and one can understand why Whitmer erred on the side of caution. Whitmer is a younger (age 48), more charismatic version of Klobuchar, but she has a thinner resume. Although Whitmer served in the Michigan state legislature for many years, she has been Governor for only 16 months, so her executive experience is limited. Furthermore, Whitmer has never held office at the Federal level. If she had to take over as President, Whitmer would face a very steep learning curve.
Stacey Abrams: Another Future Star
Stacey Abrams (also 48 years old) has generated a lot of excitement among Democrats, too. Abrams ran a very competitive race for Governor of Georgia, though she lost. Brian Kemp, her opponent had purged about 300,000 voters from the rolls while he was Secretary of State…and preparing to run for Governor.
In 2019, Abrams was tapped to give the response to the State of the Union speech; she delivered a brilliant speech. A Yale Law School graduate (like Klobuchar), she’s brainy but down to earth.Abrams is very popular among African-Americans, so she might help Biden win more black votes in the Deep South.
The problem for Biden, however, is that a Democratic Presidential candidate does not have a prayer of winning in most deep-red Southern states. So Abrams’ coattails would likely not help him there. Adding her to the ticket would fire up blacks in the North, but it might alienate some white working-class voters in the Midwest.
Abrams has a deep knowledge of state politics, having served in the Georgia House of Representatives. However, like Whitmer, she does not have any experience on the national level. Abrams probably has a bright future in the Party, but she doesn’t seem ready yet to assume the Presidency in an emergency.
In any case, Joe Biden has a lot of good options. None of these women will advise you to drink Lysol, that’s for sure.
The Wall Street Democrat