Every four years it becomes one of Washington’s favorite parlor games; guessing who will join the ticket as a Vice Presidential running mate. But unlike ever before, this time you won’t find the name of a single male candidate in the discussion. Each of the potential contenders for the number two spot on the Democratic ticket is a woman, each with a unique and impressive resumé.
“I think he’s got some great choices,” said Rosemary Rodriguez, former Denver City Councilperson, and member of the Democratic National Credentials Committee of the choice presumptive presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden will make. Biden will choose from an eclectic and impressive pool that includes sitting members of Congress, former ambassadors, big city mayors, governors, decorated war veterans, African-Americans, Latinas, and LGBT candidates.
While there are nearly a dozen names being discussed, two names stand out more than the others and both are current members of the Senate, Kamala Harris of California, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, both who serve reliably blue states. But there are others, as well.
Names that have been gathered include: Stacy Abrams, former Georgia Democratic House leader and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Muriel Bowser, Washington, D.C. Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta Mayor, Senator Tammy Duckworth, a decorated Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs in combat, Congresswoman Val Demings, former Orlando Police Chief, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, former Ambassador Susan Rice and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Despite the absence of men’s names for the number two spot, Rodriguez says there is no drop in quality in Biden’s vice presidential pool which she calls extraordinarily deep and strong. She also expects no surprises when the former Vice President names a woman as his running mate. “I believe that he is because he said he would.”
In the past, geographics have played a strategic role in the selection of a running mate. A ‘number two’ often came from a state with a large Electoral College vote or one that could add balance to the ticket. One of the most memorable examples occurred in the 1960 election when President Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson as his Vice President. Kennedy thought LBJ could help deliver not only Texas but would also play well in the South. The ‘Boston-to-Austin’ element paid off.
Geographics, said veteran Democratic operative Mike Stratton, “are always important,” and will play a role but, perhaps, not like in previous years. As an example, the Colorado native and member of the Democratic Rules Committee, said that both Harris and Warren come from reliably blue states. But their stature goes well beyond state boundaries. Harris sits on both Judiciary and Intelligence. Warren sits on banking, housing and urban affairs committees.
Ranking the candidates’ chances of landing the coveted number two spot is often an exercise in ‘Monday Morning Quarterbacking,’ and easy to play because in this game you can never be wrong.
But Rodriguez stops short of playing the ‘Monday Morning’ game, rigidly sticking with her pragmatic and ‘great choices, strongest candidate’ position. Biden’s biggest priority, she said, should be choosing a person who could step into the office if the need ever arose. While not settling on any one name or leaning in any specific direction but using her as an example, Rodriguez said former ambassador Susan Rice “would be someone who could serve.” Rice was U.N. Ambassador and national security advisor to President Obama. Each name, so far, said Rodriguez, carries certain and quantifiable strengths.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, once thought a strong possibility as a running mate, took her name out of the pool of candidates. Instead, Klobuchar, once a presidential candidate herself, suggested that “this is the moment to put a woman of color” on the ticket.
Choosing a person of color may be one of the biggest decisions Team Biden can make at this moment in time, say inside players. The nation is going through a difficult time and dealing with painful historical realities, some of which are manifest in the numerous iconic monuments---many honoring Confederate leaders---being ripped down across the country by angry protestors or simply removed by official edict. Names like Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Andrew Jackson and President Woodrow Wilson, along with others, are facing new levels of historic scrutiny.
Should Biden win and win with a female running mate, it would certainly be a first. But each of those mentioned or being vetted would also be history making choices. If New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham is picked, it would be the first for Hispanics. Senator Duckworth as Veep would be the first Asian-American and female combat veteran. Senator Baldwin would be the first openly gay Vice President. Bass, Bottoms, Demings and Rice---all African-American---would also be firsts.
Gender, ethnicity and geography will play roles like no other time in presidential politics, said Stratton. Women compose half of the electorate. Minority voices are demanding a seat at the table. And states critical to Biden or any other candidate, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, will always be important.
But there are also other important factors in choosing the person who will be ‘a heartbeat away,’ said Stratton. Experience will always be important, he said. “We need a good human being and Vice President is more important than ever.”