Now that Bernie and Barack and Liz (Oh, my!) have offered their full-throated endorsements of Joe Biden as the 2020 Democratic Presidential nominee, our prime pandemic political parlor game is predicting who’d be Uncle Joe’s VP pick. It’s easier than ever this election cycle since Biden announced one month ago that his Veep will be a woman — no ifs, ands, buts, maybes, Sanderses, or Cuomos. And rightly it should be, even if Joe decides on Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Political pundits throughout the media have been floating the same 10 names since all the Democratic women Senate candidates dropped out of the Presidential race. Every one of them is not only qualified to be VP, but as President would be infinitely superior to the current idiotic, ignorant, incompetent, inanity in the White House. So, Biden’s ultimate Number Two must be a decision driven by priority Number One — who can best help him defeat the Authoritarian wannabe in November.
Since Joe Biden will turn 78 less than three weeks after this election, and could very easily be a one-term President (either due to health or by choice), the potential VP must also be ready to rule in five years or less. Hence, this prediction necessitates a process-by-elimination approach that considers passion and policy as well as politics; one that recognizes both head and heart. Keep in mind that after eight years as President Obama’s go-to guy on almost every big project, Joe knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a capable and supportive partner in government. And we’re sure he knows that Hillary Clinton’s selection of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine in 2016 (because he was from a swing state and spoke Spanish) was one of her biggest mistakes.
The first cuts are those eminently capable rising political stars that check various political boxes (whether by region, race, etc.), but must be considered “on the bubble,” as they say in college basketball: Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin; Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth; Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (also chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham; and Florida Congresswoman Val Demings.
That leaves the five women who are already considered “the usual suspects”; California Senator Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and former Georgia Governor Candidate Stacey Abrams.
Before delving into the next elimination round, we need to get into some political science; i.e. the dread issue of ticket balancing, whether that be about race, region, or position on the political spectrum. The purveyors of conventional wisdom tell us that Biden “needs to select an African-American to nail down the Black vote,” or that since Biden is a “moderate,” he “needs to pick Elizabeth Warren to get the Progressives on board,” or that Biden “must pick someone from a swing state or a Rust Belt state Hillary should have won in 2016.” Wouldn’t it be nice if one of the Top Five checked all three boxes? When you think about it, Stacey Abrams — the former Georgia State Legislator who has become one of the country’s leading voting rights activists — best fits that combined profile.
The question the Biden team must answer is this: Which category of voter is most important to securing the Electoral College as well as generating turnout? As we painfully learned in 2016, winning the popular vote is great for bragging rights but it doesn’t make you President. So, it’s not about piling up total vote count, it’s about voter turnout in key battleground states. During the primary elections, Biden definitively proved he had huge African-American support, especially among women. Does he really need to double-down on that by selecting Abrams or Kamala Harris? Besides, if Biden wants to be a great CEO in the Oval, he needs to pick the new “Best and the Brightest” cabinet and put them in the best positions to succeed. Kamala Harris has Attorney General written all over her it wouldn’t jeopardize a Senate seat in liberal California. Who wouldn’t love to see Kamala take down the Trump Organized Crime Family and William Barr once a President Biden re-stocks the Federal agencies, overhauls the Justice Department, and overturns every evil policy Trump and his minions have wrought.
That leaves Warren, Whitmer, and Klobuchar. While Liz would make a great VP, that job wouldn’t be the best use of her policy chops. Warren would be a forceful Progressive leader in a Democratic-led Senate, where she could serve on multiple committees. She would also be a kick-ass Cabinet Secretary of Education, Treasury, Health and Human Services, etc., as long as the Democrats win back the Senate by seats to spare (the Massachusetts Governor has proven to be a moderate, but he’s still a Republican).
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is the current fair-haired girl and rightly so. She’s like a Democratic version of Sarah Palin but with brains. The fact that Trump went ballistic over her on Twitter during the crisis was enough to make her a new Darling of the Dems. She’s also from a vital swing state that Trump won in 2016 by less than 11,000 votes. But Biden may not need Whitmer to secure Michigan if he takes some combination of Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina, all of which are in play.
Besides, Biden could also win Michigan with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar on the ticket. With her “moderate” Rust Belt appeal, Klobuchar would not only solidify the Twin Cities, but would also help the Dems win Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and “the voter suppression state” Wisconsin. If the Dems ran the table on all of the above (not impossible unless the Russians hack machines and change vote totals), Biden would beat Trump in the Electoral Vote by 358 to 180 (and that’s not even counting Georgia, which could also be swept up in a Blue Wave).
I was originally “Once in Love with Amy” (for Millennial readers, that’s a Boomer reference to a hit song from the 1948 Broadway Musical Where’s Charley, that was sung by Ray Bolger, who you’ll know because he was the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, but I digress) during the 2016 campaign and then during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings when Senator Klobuchar was a ubiquitous presence on MSNBC primetime shows. Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell in particular have long been infatuated. My crush faded during the recent Presidential campaign when I felt Amy was clearing denying her Liberal/Progressive essence to position herself as a “centrist” in contrast to Sanders and Warren. In general, the greatest fallacy of the 2020 Democratic Presidential field was the notion that any of them (other than Mike Bloomberg) were “centrists” or “moderates.” Every one of them was left of center no matter how much they tried spin otherwise.
Hence, I’m not concerned about a Biden/Klobuchar ticket being too “centrist.” By appealing to moderate Democrats, Independents, and “Never Trump” Republicans, while running on a more Progressive political platform, the Democrats can have their electoral cake and eat it, too. It’s a ticket that can still energize the turnout of African-Americans and women even if there isn’t an African-American woman on the ticket. So now I’m twice in love with Amy.
But I certainly won’t be surprised (or disappointed) if the ticket is Biden/Harris. Hey, you gotta have a backup plan.