BIDEN’S VP PICK: WHO WILL IT BE? YOUR ELECTION FORECASTERS MAKE BOLD PREDICTIONS Stuart James, Esq. and B. Allen Bradford, Esq.
Stuart and Allen are long time political junkies. We’ve each been involved in multiple political campaigns, managed campaigns, coordinated campaigns, and done every other type of (legal!) grunt work you can imagine. Stuart has even run for office and been a party chairman. So every 4 years we like to make our semi-informed picks in the presidential sweepstakes. This time that includes our Biden VP picks.
Joe Biden will essentially end the “front porch” (or basement) part of his campaign next week when he announces his Vice-Presidential running mate. News reports suggest that Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Senator Kamala Harris (California), Congresswoman Karen Bass (California), Senator Tammy Duckworth (Illinois), former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Congresswoman Val Demings (Florida) are on his short list. A number of other women are also reportedly under consideration, such as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The New York Times has provided this handy guide to the potential selections.
All have strengths, all have weaknesses, but Biden can only pick one. Who will it be?
Joe Biden has made certain criteria for a running mate pretty clear, as in this NPR piece. She must be younger than he is; she must be “intellectually simpatico” “in terms of personality as well as substance”; have strengths that he doesn’t; must be experienced. He has also suggested that experience running for president is a plus. Various commentators have added that he should pick a woman of color, a progressive, a “brawler,” someone who would not outshine him and more.
At this point, the smart commentary money seems to be on Harris. Me, I think it’s irrelevant what the commentariat thinks. Biden will make the decision, and the primary adviser will be his wife Jill. Last year, Jill made it clear she wasn’t happy that Kamala Harris attacked Joe over busing in the first Democratic presidential debate. Joe has apparently said no grudges will be held, but in a close contest, there may be enough lingering sting that Jill will say “uh-uh” to Senator Harris.
So who WILL he pick? By sheer weight of Biden’s repetition, I think the “simpatico” and experience factors will outweigh the others. In different ways, I think Warren, Rice and Bass all have that. But one candidate brings something else: an immediate empathic compassion that Biden may see as in synch with what he wants to project in these particular times.
I predict Karen Bass will be Joe Biden’s running mate. I suspect the particular ways she is simpatico and experienced will ultimately appeal to Biden more than any other candidate.
Like Biden (whose first wife and young daughter were killed in an auto accident, and whose son Beau died of cancer in 2015), Bass has suffered terrible personal loss (her daughter and son in law were killed in an auto accident in 2006), and she has connected with him over that. Like Biden, she is a workhorse, a rare politician known and respected more for her roll-up-her-sleeves and get-things-done approach than for seeking the spotlight. While she conveys an unpretentious empathy—she is also tough in the trenches, based on the reports I’m linking in this blog. While Biden doesn’t know Bass particularly well, that’s also true of Harris, Deming and Duckworth.
In terms of experience, Bass served as speaker of the California state legislature, where she worked with Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to cobble together a state budget, while effectively opposing him when they disagreed. She remains so well liked in her state that many California Democrats have made they prefer Bass to Harris. In the House of Representatives, she is leader of the Black Caucus, but also enjoys respect from both sides of the aisle. Her experience in getting things done and reaching across aisles is bound to appeal to Biden, who has made clear his intent to work with Republicans if elected.
Bass also brings few significant distractions (although some Florida Democrats are concerned about favorable remarks she made regarding Castro. Biden appears to believe his first (and perhaps only) term must focus on tackling the pandemic, the economy, health care, social injustice and the environment. He has made clear his intent to restore “civility and decency” to political discourse. Harris’s ambition, Warren’s progressive agenda, Rice’s Benghazi allegations (however unfair they may be) might be distractions from these goals that Biden prefers to avoid.
Finally, Bass could reinforce Biden’s own political strengths. The combination of her unassuming personality and career commitment to social issues may cement Biden’s ties to his two strongest constituencies—African Americans and Suburban Women. Younger voters may see her as a strong but sympathetic grandmotherly counterpart to “Uncle Joe.” Older voters are not likely to feel reassured by her demeanor.
That’s why I think Karen Bass will be Biden’s running mate.
My Runner Up: Going into this article, I expected to pick another finalist candidate: Susan Rice. She’s the one on the list with the most direct experience with Biden. They served together in the Obama administration. She’s spent decades in government and was Obama’s UN Ambassador and National Security Adviser. He considers her a team player. While she’s never run for office, she was involved in the Dukakis, Kerry and Obama presidential campaigns. a couple of presidential campaigns. She’s a Rhodes Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa and reportedly tough as nails.
But there are two strikes against her. First, the fact that she doesn’t have personal electoral experience. Second, the potential distraction (again, however unfair) of the Benghazi allegations. And there may be a third factor: she simply doesn’t help Biden reflect the persona he wants to convey to the public. Also, while black, she has few direct connections with civil rights leaders.
Biden may still pick Rice for the reasons I originally thought. But my prediction stands: in two weeks, Karen Bass will be nominated to serve as our next vice-president.
Stuart’s Take on the Biden VP Nomination:
I think there are three contenders for Vice President-they are Karen Bass, Susan Rice and Kamala Harris:
1.Susan Rice is a Biden friend. She worked with him during the Obama years. Biden apparently trusts her. She is 55 years old.
Rice has no campaign experience. She will be a target of the GOP with her past controversies during the Obama years. Moreover, she has the Benghazi controversy around her neck. If Biden is smart, he does not want that issue coming up in 2020 any more than it has to and choosing Rice would make Benghazi a central issue for the GOP.
Finally, appointing Rice as the Vice President would be a mistake because her talents lie elsewhere. Rice’s strengths are in foreign policy which make her a better candidate for Secretary of State.
2. Karen Bass. Bass was in the California legislature, she is universally liked in the House of Representatives, she works well with Republicans and she is a bridge builder. Of the choices Biden has, she appears to be the least controversial, at least until issues regarding a speech involving the Church of Scientology arose.
She is also 66 years old. She is the oldest of the contenders.
Bass’s voting record is very liberal so choosing her will appease progressives. She also will be the target of attacks with attempts to characterize her as a socialist. However, she has a long history of compromise and an ability to find common ground to move things forward.
There is very little negative about Bass except that she is relatively unknown and lacks campaign experience on the national stage. Next, Bass may simply be too liberal.
If Biden is a transitional President as he says he is, then his Vice President is likely to succeed him. Since Bass is a liberal, Biden must ask the questions whether she could win against another Republican keeping the White House after Biden’s term ends or, if he does not finish his term in office should he win.
3. Kamala Harris. She has been under attack from the left. Her loyalty is questioned. She is characterized as being overly ambitious. Many think she will be running for President from day one, looking to succeed Biden under any circumstance.
Moreover, Harris has shown she can survive having campaign bullets shot at her, she knows how to deal with campaign controversies. This is a big plus because the upcoming campaign will be hugely negative with a stream of attacks coming from Trump Pence.
Harris, and any candidate Biden chooses, should be ready to be President and ready to take the extreme political heat. They should want to be President considering Biden’s age.
Harris seems to be the perfect fit to run with Biden…experience, she can speak, she can take and respond to attacks, and she knows how to campaign with credibility.
Of the three choices, the least objectionable is Bass except for her liberal voting record and the developing Church of Scientology issue. She appeases the left and has an ability to compromise. She is unproven on the national campaign stage, but she is well liked. Looking at her background and experience Bass should be seriously considered.
However, Biden needs a dynamic and outgoing running mate. Someone who speaks well, is ambitious, campaigns well and knows the landscape of a political campaign. Biden cannot go with a quiet running mate who rubber stamps everything he does. He needs someone who will challenge him while supporting him in his run. He needs someone who wants to be President and has the characteristics and the ambition to be President. Even with this said, his VP is going to have to know that to win that VP candidate must be fiercely loyal.
Harris is 55 and, therefore, meets the age requirements of being a younger candidate.
Therefore, Biden goes with Harris over Bass.
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