ActBlue somehow got my phone number and texted me a poll of potential running mates for Joe Biden, asking me to let my voice be heard. I was curious about what their list of candidates might look like, so I opened the poll to see. There were a lot of expected names as well as some surprises.
I expected Kamala Harris, Gretchen Whitmer, Amy Klobuchar (even though she publicly said Biden should pick a woman of color), and Elizabeth Warren. I even expected Stacey Abrams even though she’s all but gone from anyone’s mind as a possible running mate. I was thinking I might-see Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has been a less public name but one I’ve heard whispered in the background several times. I’ve also heard Tammy Duckworth whispered by activists. Michelle Obama on the list is a given, even though she doesn’t want it. Susan Rice is on the list, as well.
But among the surprises was Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who I previously said the Biden campaign should be looking at but hadn’t really heard many others considering. Catherine Cortez Masto being on the list surprised me, but only because she pulled her name from the running a month ago.
The last surprise is Val Demings, whose media coverage has exploded over the last couple of days. Demings has been the focus of several pieces in which her background in law enforcement and her growing profile in Democratic politics might be at odds.
Right off the bat, we can eliminate Klobuchar, Warren, and Whitmer. The Biden campaign is almost certainly going to pick a woman of color, and that is certainly not any of these three (sorry, Senator Warren). There appears to be a bit of a last-second push for Whitmer, who received a glowing profile in New York Magazine this week, but that isn’t enough to help Biden at this moment in American history.
We can also eliminate Abrams because she made a fool of herself and even the media has lost interest in her (something discussed here months ago). Michelle Obama and Susan Rice will likely not be getting the pick either, as the former would not want to be back in that scene and the latter gives him nothing to help him. As mentioned, Masto removed her name from the running, as well, so she’s out.
So it’s down to Tammy Duckworth, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Kamala Harris, and Val Demings.
I’ve mentioned several times that I think Harris is the front runner, and that hasn’t changed. From what I can gather, there is a lot of praise for her growth since the primaries. Apparently, she’s been working on appealing to people. I also think Keisha Lance Bottoms navigated being a major urban Democratic mayor in a red state very well during the COVID-19 crisis and I know a lot of Democratic operatives have been looking at her because of it. She could be a spoiler for Harris.
Michelle Lujan Grisham is probably the only other potential spoiler for Harris, as she offers him an in-road into the Hispanic community the others do not, and the Hispanic vote is where Biden was weakest in the primaries. Grisham, like Duckworth, doesn’t have a high profile, so they will have to spend time introducing her to voters that they, because of the virus, may not have a lot of time for. Harris has name recognition.
Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran and has been fairly vocal in the era of Trump. I don’t think she has quite the profile yet, but she has a future in the party and I think she’s got a few eyes watching her with anticipation.
Like Harris, Demings was a cop in her past life, but her background as a cop is more problematic than Harris’. Harris has been absolved by many for her time as a prosecutor (there are plenty of activists who haven’t forgotten, but there is virtually no media coverage of it). Almost all of Demings’ coverage mentions it.
On an objective level, if I were on the Biden team, I would only be looking at Harris, Lujan Grisham, or Lance Bottoms. I think anti-police sentiment is too high for Demings, who will have to overcome the stigma that Harris had to overcome, but she would be a solid fourth choice on the list.
Right now, I think Harris is still the front runner. But those other two are damn good choices, and possibly better ones (Lujan Grisham in particular). While no one ever votes in the presidential election based on the presidential candidate’s running mate, having one voters like and identify with will make the candidate’s judgment seem more sound… something Biden could definitely use right now.
To be fair, Biden does have a big polling advantage right now, and if that carries into the fall his choice might not be as important. Still, it is a choice he has to make very carefully.
If I were on Biden’s team, I would argue that Lance Bottoms is a better choice for Biden, primarily because he has positioned himself as a transitional candidate who will serve for a term and then step aside for someone younger and more progressive. While that makes Harris a safe choice, it makes Lance Bottoms a bold and vastly more popular one. She does not have the negatives that Harris has — former prosecutor with a subpar record on black issues until she entered federal office, as well as failed presidential candidate who struggled to connect with audiences — and she represents the next generation of progressive politicians that younger Democrats are looking for.
Lujan Grisham, likewise, has executive experience and is a fresh face to the national scene. She’s been whispered about by many in the background for months now, but with the choice coming soon, she is undoubtedly getting closer looks.
Objectively, any of those three would be a good choice for Biden. From a conservative standpoint, Lance Bottoms is probably the most worrisome. She would be popular, progressive, and have a lot of younger voter interest. Harris is the safest best for Biden, but that may not be enough for her.
We can expect Biden’s pick in three weeks or so, if not sooner. It all depends on the polling and the campaign’s eagerness to get a fresh face out there.