How Does Biden’s VP Pick Affect his Candidacy?

Taylor Wong

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have forgotten that the 2020 Presidential Election is less than 6 months away. With Bernie Sanders dropping out of the race last month, Joe Biden has become the presumptive Democratic nominee and has begun the vetting process for a vice president. Ever since he pledged that his running mate will be a woman, several names have been floated, and multiple reports claim that he has a shortlist of about a dozen candidates. He needs a well-liked and experienced vice president to solidify his candidacy, and his choice could make or break his chances of defeating Donald Trump in November.

One of Biden’s biggest priorities is getting progressives on board with his campaign. Many have openly expressed their concerns about  Biden, citing his vote for the Iraq War and his previous opposition to Social Security, among other things. To attract the progressive vote, he could choose Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Senator and former Presidential Candidate, to be his VP. In many ways, choosing Warren makes a lot of sense. She is progressive, well-known, and has a compelling personal story. However, Warren is far from a perfect candidate. She is 70 years old, and with Biden being 77, many advocate for a younger person to be selected. Additionally, she is not a person of color and would not racially diversify Biden’s ticket. Lastly, she is a somewhat controversial figure within the progressive movement, as many believe her decision not to drop out and support Bernie Sanders before Super Tuesday was fatal to his campaign. 

Another priority that Biden must address is his issues with minority voters. In the primaries, Latinx voters overwhelmingly backed Bernie Sanders, so if Biden wants to make states like Arizona and Texas competitive, he needs to increase their turnout. To do so, he could select Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. On paper, she seems like an ideal candidate; she is Latina, from a swing state, and young. The only problem is that she is not well-known nationally. 

Biden must also convince African Americans to turnout in large numbers. While they overwhelmingly backed him in the primaries, they failed to turn out for Hillary Clinton in 2016 the same way they turned out for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, so Biden could decide to nominate an African American in order to inspire a large turnout. Many believe that his current top choice is California Senator Kamala Harris. Simply put, Harris checks the most boxes of any choice; she is black (and Indian), is somewhat progressive, has experience as a Senator and Attorney General, and is well-known nationally. Biden could also pick Stacey Abrams of Georgia or Val Demmings of Florida to attempt to tilt those competitive states in his favor. 

Lastly, Biden would benefit from convincing some moderate, “Never Trump”
Republicans in competitive states to vote for him instead of voting for a third party candidate or sitting out the election entirely. He could increase his odds of doing so by choosing Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is ideologically very similar to Biden and has a track record of winning races in a competitive state. He could also choose Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whose response to the Covid-19 outbreak in her state propelled herself into the national spotlight. Both of these picks would make logical sense, but would fail to racially diversify his ticket. 

Ultimately, Biden can go in many directions with his VP pick. It remains to be seen, though, whether his choice will be the difference-maker in what many are calling the most important election of our generation.

*Note: Since the time this article was written, Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has withdrawn her name from consideration to be Joe Biden’s vice president.