Media in the United States reported on Friday that Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s search for a running mate is entering a second round of vetting – and the narrowed list circulating in some circles is as much notable for who is not on it as who is.
Democrats with knowledge of the process told the Associated Press news agency that Biden’s search committee has narrowed the choices to as few as six serious contenders. Those still in contention include US Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, as well as Susan Rice, who served as former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser.
Biden, who boxed himself in by declaring unequivocally in March that he would choose a woman as his running mate, was already under pressure from Democrats to have a woman of colour on the ticket because of the outsized role that Black voters played in his road to the nomination during the primaries.
The more recent reckoning over racism and inequality – roiling the nation following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis – has only added to that pressure.
Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor and former Democratic National Committee chairman, said that while Biden’s choice was likely to be “all about personal chemistry”, it would be “exciting for the party” to have a Black woman on a major party presidential ticket for the first time.
The campaign’s shortlist includes several Black women, including Harris and Rice. Advisers have also looked closely at Florida Congresswoman Val Demings and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, both of whom are Black, and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Latina.
Biden’s vetting committee had conversations with a larger group of women earlier this spring; those continuing on in the process have been asked to turn over financial records, past writings and other documentation. Biden has had various public and private interactions with many of the women his vetting committee has considered thus far, but has not yet had any formal one-on-one interviews expressly to discuss the number-two spot on the ticket. Those aren’t expected for several weeks.
Susan Rice worked closely with Biden during his time as vice president, and has emerged as a favourite among some former Obama administration officials and is personally close to the former president. She has never held elected office but has extensive foreign policy experience, including as US ambassador to the United Nations. She’s also been an outspoken critic of the administration of US President Donald Trump since leaving the White House and considered running for the US Senate in Maine.
Rice has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made blaming the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya on protests spawned by an internet video. Republicans have also accused her of spying on Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, though records declassified by the Trump administration show no evidence of Rice improperly accessing any information.
Harris and Warren have been seen as top contenders for the number-two spot since ending their own presidential campaigns.
Joe Biden: "I fully support Senator Warren's bipartisan effort to form a commission to rename Defense Department facilities named after Confederate leaders in the next three years, and look forward to implementing the commission's work as president." https://t.co/Sd9puPntj1
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 12, 2020
Elizabeth Warren and Biden have forged a surprising bond in recent months and talk regularly about the progressive policy ideas the Massachusetts senator put at the forefront of her campaign. Biden already has adopted her proposed bankruptcy law overhaul. And now, with the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic slowdown elevating the nuts and bolts of governing, some Democrats see Warren’s policy credentials as an asset to the ticket.
A Biden-Warren pairing, however, would mean both Democrats on the ticket are white and in their 70s. Biden is 77, and Warren is 70.
Kamala Harris is the lone Black contender who has won statewide office – notable experience given Biden’s emphasis on wanting a partner “ready to be president”. She and Biden have also demonstrated a comfortable manner with each other in online fundraisers. Harris is an expert voice in discussions of criminal justice, but some Black progressives view her background as a prosecutor sceptically.
The most tone deaf thing Biden could do right now is pick a former cop or a former prosecutor for VP. That disqualifies Klobuchar for sure, and doesn’t look great for Demings or Harris either. https://t.co/GHROxQHf50
— Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk) June 5, 2020
Amy Klobuchar is a contender whose standing appears to have fallen. The Minnesota Senator was a prosecutor years ago in the county that includes Minneapolis. During that period, more than two dozen people – mostly people of colour – died during encounters with police, and Klobuchar has caught flak for not doing more about it at the time.
Stacey Abrams is also notably absent from the shortlist. The former Georgia gubernatorial candidate has mounted an unusually public campaign for the spot, going so far as to declare herself an “excellent” choice during one television appearance. Abrams said this week that she has not been contacted by the campaign.
“I have said many times that if called, I will answer, but I have not received any calls,” Abrams said during an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show on Wednesday.