- Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden has previously pledged to select a female running mate.
- Amy Klobuchar has been considered a front runner but her record as a Minnesota county prosecutor has become extremely problematic.
- Many political observers think that Biden will select a minority candidate to improve his tenuous standing among African American voters.
With Joe Biden having all but sewn up the Democratic nomination for President his next major decision will be choosing a Vice Presidential running mate. More so than most presidential candidates it is a decision crucial to Biden’s chances of success on election day. In addition, the choice has become even trickier for Biden due to external circumstances along with his own missteps.
Even if the US political ecosystem hadn’t evolved as it has, Biden would have needed to take a very tactical approach to selecting his running mate. For some candidates, the primary consideration is to select a running mate who would have the aptitude to serve as President should it become necessary. That’s not an insignificant criteria in itself but still far less difficult than trying to select a candidate who could take over as President *and* serve a specific purpose in terms of solidifying a voting base.
Biden’s easiest consideration is the gender of his running mate. He’s already committed to selecting a female VP candidate and while he’s not ‘legally bound’ to do so there’s no reason for him not to. There’s plenty of women who are qualified for the role. On a more practical level, Biden can’t afford to alienate any prospective bases of support. The reality is that no one is excited about Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy. They may consider him a better option than Trump or think he’s the most ‘electable’ Democratic candidate but that’s not the same as attracting enthusiastic supporters.
This could be a huge problem for the Democrats’ chances in the 2020 Presidential election. Like him or not, Trump’s supporters have far more genuine enthusiasm for their candidate. In theory, this can translate into voter turnout and that’s a crucial factor in an ideologically polarized electorate. The danger the Democrats face now is not much different than the situation in 2016 that set the stage for Trump’s election–they’re hoping that a flawed candidate will be able to win back the White House by virtue of the fact that they’re running in opposition to Donald Trump.
‘YOU AIN’T BLACK….’
Biden really stepped into it with this unfortunate comment on a radio show hosted by Charlamagne Tha God. Biden was initially pressed on whether he’d select an African American VP candidate and responded with the usual vague and tepid responses as reported by The Daily Beast:
Biden made the comment on Friday morning during an interview with Charlamagne on popular radio show “The Breakfast Club.” After being asked about his search for a vice presidential candidate, Biden first answered vaguely by saying he’s “not acknowledging anybody who is being considered” before adding that he could “guarantee” there were “multiple black women being considered.”
A Biden adviser–likely realizing the implosion that was occurring before their eyes–tried to get the candidate to wrap up the interview. Charlamagne quipped “You can’t do that to black media!”. The Daily Beast details the slow motion train wreck that occurred after that:
“I do that to white media and black media because my wife has to go on at 6 o’clock,” Biden replied, while looking at his watch and saying, “I’m in trouble.”
“Listen, you’ve got to come see us when you come to New York, VP Biden,” Charlamagne said. “It’s a long way until November. We’ve got more questions.”
Biden said, in an apparent light-hearted fashion: “You’ve got more questions? Well, I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
In the classic film This Is Spinal Tap, David St. Hubbins–the lead singer of the fictitious metal band played by Michael McKean–opines that ‘there is a fine line between clever and stupid’:
The lesson taught here is a valuable one and particularly for politicians–there’s a huge risk/reward equation when you try to be clever. The stakes are even higher when you’re a 77 year old white guy talking to an audience of significantly younger African American listeners. Biden went for the clever and whiffed.
Biden already had a lot to answer for in an effort to win the African American vote–not the least of which is a record of supporting the ‘War on Drugs’, countless crime and sentencing bills, the Patriot act and mass deportations during his run as Vice President. His flub on Charlamagne tha God’s show just dug himself a deeper hole. Here’s Charlamagne’s post mortum analysis of Biden’s comments in which he hits a similar theme as I did above:
“On top of possible Russian interference and voter suppression, they have to worry about voter depression. And that’s people staying home on election day because they aren’t enthused by the candidate. You can’t act like this is the most important election ever but run a campaign from your basement and not make some real policy commitments to the black community and not listen to some of the demands that the black community are making. I think people are sitting around hoping that Trump loses instead of going out there and actually beating him.”
There is a good deal of thinking now that Biden will select an African American woman as a running mate hoping to undo the damage he’s done to a traditionally solid source of support for Democratic candidates. Being fair, there’s a good chance he already had a few African-American women under consideration before his ‘Charlamagne’ fiasco. The problem he faces now is that if he selects an African-American running mate he runs the risk of being seen as ‘pandering’ to the black community. If he doesn’t, he risks being perceived as indifferent to the same constituency.
Biden is fortunate to have a number of qualified African-American women from which to choose. There’s been plenty of speculation that Kamala Harris will be his choice of running mate but I don’t see it. Presidential candidates have been reticent to select someone that ran against them during the primaries. Since 1964, only three running mate selections had been serious candidates for President earlier in the election cycle (though two more were put into nomination as a ‘favorite son’ candidate but didn’t seriously seek the Presidency). Biden doesn’t want to run the risk of having a running mate that overshadows him. Throw in the fact that Harris is from California–a state that Biden will win with or without her–and it doesn’t make sense. Val Demings would be a better choice and her background as Orlando’s chief of police could be advantageous if properly positioned.
THINGS COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE…
Biden might have reassured himself that ‘things could always be worse’ relative to his standing with African-American voters after his Charlamagne tha God implosion. No one thought that he was a candidate that could energize this voting demographic and so his best hope was to rely on their historical support for Democratic candidates. Unfortunately for Biden, things have managed to get worse.
For the past couple of weeks the word on the street has been that former Presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar was under serious consideration as Biden’s running mate. At best, she would be an uninspired choice with a prosecutorial background that would bring to the table many of the same ‘tough on crime and drugs’ liabilities as Biden. Her background as Hennepin County attorney has come back to haunt her bigtime in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody earlier this week.
Klobuchar’s failure to bring charges in instances of police brutality has been a liability all along but in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder it has made her downright untenable as a VP choice. Derek Chauvin–the officer most responsible for Floyd’s ‘knee on the windpipe’ death–had previously been implicated in at least 10 other excessive force conduct complaints. Klobuchar declined to bring charges against Chauvin as prosecutor–not a surprise since she declined to seek charges in over two dozen instances where black men were killed by cops.
Her attempt to address these concerns didn’t do much to help her since all she did was pass the buck. Once again, from The Daily Beast:
In 2006, Chauvin was involved in a shooting, and Klobuchar declined to bring charges at that time, according to The Week. But according to a statement from the current Hennepin County DA Mike Freeman sent by Klobuchar spokesman Nathan Evans, “all prosecutorial decisions were made under the direction of Mike Freeman.” By the time the case came to prosecution, Klobuchar had already moved on to the Senate, according to her office. The case proceeded to a grand jury, which in 2008 declined to bring charges.
That doesn’t address any of the other aforementioned police brutality cases where she declined to seek charges. Ultimately, it just doesn’t matter what her role was in regard to Chauvin. The situation is far too incendiary and the anger over Floyd’s death too strong (and rightfully so) for her to explain away. At this point, Biden has been accused of ‘taking the African-American vote for granted’. Were he to pick Klobuchar as a running mate the optics would suggest downright contempt for this constituency.
We’ll get into some deeper analysis of the possible VP choices next week. For now, this is the situation in which Biden finds himself as he tries to finalize his choice of running mate. Making things even more difficult for Biden–one of the best options he had for a running mate is off the table as Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has withdrawn her name from consideration. Keep an eye on Tammy Duckworth who might be the most all around impressive prospective running mate. She’s a Thai-American former US Army helicopter pilot now serving in the US Senate. She lost both of her legs during the Iraq War but still sought a medical waiver to allow her to continue serving in the Illinois National Guard. More significantly, she’s intelligent, articulate, quick witted and likeable.
Below are the latest SPORTSINSIDER odds on Biden’s Vice Presidential candidate choice:
DEMOCRATIC PARTY 2020 VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ODDS
ODDS TO BE SELECTED AS THE 2020 DEMOCRATIC PARTY VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Val Demings +200 Kamala Harris +300 Tammy Duckworth +600 Stacy Abrams +700 Gretchen Whitmer +900 Susan Rice +900 Amy Klobuchar +1250 Elizabeth Warren +1250 Any Other Candidate +1500
DATE OF 2020 DEMOCRATIC PARTY VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ANNOUNCEMENT
On or before July 22, 2020 +110 On or after July 23, 2020 -130
For purposes of grading this proposition will consider any announcement prior to July 22 at 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time to be ‘on or before’ July 22. Any announcement made at 12:00 AM on July 23 or later will be considered ‘on or after’ July 23.
GENDER OF 2020 DEMOCRATIC PARTY VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Male +600 Female -750
HOME STATE OF 2020 DEMOCRATIC PARTY VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
A state won by Trump in 2016 +110 Any other state -130
For grading purposes a candidate’s state of voting registration will be considered as their ‘home state’.
WILL A 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BE SELECTED AS THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE?
Yes +130 No -150
2020 Democratic Presidential candidates are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, Deval Patrick, Andrew Yang, Michael Bennet, John Delaney, Cory Booker, Marianne Williamson, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Steve Bullock, Joe Sestak, Wayne Messam, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bill de Blasio, Kirsten Gillibrand, Seth Moulton, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, Eric Swalwell, or Richard Ojeda.