Joe Biden’s campaign set a deadline of August 1 to pick the former Vice President’s running mate. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen some last-minute pushes and a lot of behind-the-scenes whispers come to light, but it seems as though there are really two names people are worried about.
The first is Kamala Harris. I’ve long contended that Harris has been the front-runner, and this week’s rumor mill appears to be confirming that, while also noting that many in Biden’s orbit don’t really like her.
Former high-ranking Democratic Party officials and elected officials have expressed concerns about her to the vetting committee in recent weeks, according to four sources who’ve spoken to the Biden vetting team.
The interviews for this article revealed a contingent of Democrats who are lobbying against Harris for VP — some privately, some openly. Several California Democrats who spoke to Biden’s vetting team have shared glowing reviews of Bass, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a former state Assembly speaker. Others touted Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who earned a Purple Heart in combat, and former national security adviser Susan Rice, whom they came to know though her connections to Stanford University in the Bay Area.
“I don’t think Kamala Harris has it in the bag,” said former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), reacting to the dozens of Democrats who believe Harris is the likely pick. Reid, who speaks frequently with Dodd, met with Harris recently and said he thinks highly of her.
The primary problem that these Democrats seem to have with Harris is, well, the primary. There was bad blood between the two campaigns a little over a year ago, and it led Harris to attack Biden as being too cozy with segregationist politicians, among other things.
But at the same time, Harris has reportedly been working on one of her biggest deficits in the primary: her ability to connect with the audience. She came across as cold and unwelcoming, and she was never really able to gain a steady foothold in the race. It was so bad that Tulsi Gabbard’s attacks on her appeared to be a fatal blow, and Gabbard was never even close to being a frontrunner.
If Harris has overcome her weaknesses there, and she and Biden have mended fences since the primary, then she meets all of Biden’s other criteria: She is a woman of color, young, progressive, and has won elections.
Many of those criteria give her an advantage over the other big name to be tossed around this week.
Susan Rice has been hoisted up as a suitable running mate for Biden because she has foreign policy experience and is also a woman of color, but one that hasn’t attacked Biden on the issue of race like Harris has. However, Rice has neither won an election nor would she be able to get young progressives on her side if she were to run as Biden’s successor.
If the choice comes down to Rice or Harris, then it becomes a matter of what Biden is looking to do. If he is running for just one term, as a transitional president to something more progressive, then Harris is the likelier choice, because she can come out of that administration ready to go and begin the push further left. Harris is smart enough not to go too far in campaigning and would likely work to continue the transition and force a cultural shift.
But if Biden decides he wants to aim for two terms, then Rice is the likely choice. She has executive branch experience but needs time to really be introduced to voters in a way that Harris doesn’t. The upside with her is that “Barack Obama’s Legacy” will be reinforced, which is something African American voters really care about. Harris might be someone who changes things up a bit in order to secure her own legacy. Rice, like Biden, is beholden to the Obama family for her political opportunity right now.
Of course, no one really votes for President based on a candidate’s running mate, but there is something different about this election: Joe Biden is not a great messenger for himself. That is why I think the choice has to be Harris. She will absolutely take the fight to Trump for the Biden team in a way that I think will be more meaningful than if Rice were to try and do it.
We should find out tomorrow, assuming the Biden team keeps its promise. Then again, this is politics.