How Joe Biden Will Pick His Running Mate

There are no perfect choices, so it all may come down to the interview.

The New York Giants shocked the football world when they chose Joe Judge to be their new head coach. The decision was unusual because Judge had no prior head coaching experience and had never been the coordinator of an offense or a defense. He’d spent his career coaching special teams: kickoffs, punts, and field goals. Admittedly, he was considered very good at this, and had been part of many championships with Nick Saban’s University of Alabama team and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. But there wasn’t much precedent for hiring someone like Judge for such a high profile position. By all accounts, he won the job by knocking his interview out of the park.

Based on Ryan Lizza’s reporting for Politico, the interview process is also likely to determine who Joe Biden will choose for his running mate. None of the candidates check every box. Prospects who have run a national election, like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, are somewhat like football coaches who have losing records. Sure, they have relevant experience, but they haven’t proven they can win. Others are like coaching prospects who have specialized on only one side of the ball. A vice-presidential contender with experience in foreign affairs but little experience with domestic policy is a bit like a coach who has spent their whole career working on defense. Susan Rice might fit into this category. Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is more like the coach who is well-versed in offensive philosophy but has never worked on the defensive side of the ball. Tammy Duckworth is a more balanced choice who has both military and legislative experience, but she’s never been in an executive decision-making position. Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island has executive experience but would probably upset the fan base.

Raimondo would have some explaining to do for people on the left. She has had some nasty fights with unions in her state and during the Democratic primaries she endorsed Mike Bloomberg. But if she made it to a sit-down (or Zoom chat) with Biden, she’s the kind of person you could see winning him over with some shared reminiscing about their Irish and Italian ancestors feuding in places like Wilmington and Providence.

There are other considerations, too. Biden wants someone who is “simpatico” with his political outlook, and he wants someone loyal and focused more on being a partner than preparing for a future presidential run. Some of these factors may not be working in Kamala Harris’s favor:

When former Sen. Chris Dodd, a member of Joe Biden’s vice presidential search committee, recently asked Kamala Harris about her ambush on Biden in the first Democratic debate, Dodd was stunned by her response.

“She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse,” Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, who relayed the exchange to POLITICO on condition of anonymity.

“Dodd felt it was a gimmick, that it was cheap,” the donor said. The person added that Dodd’s concerns about Harris were so deep that he’s helped elevate California Rep. Karen Bass during the vetting process, urging Biden to pick her because “she’s a loyal No. 2. And that’s what Biden really wants.”

Another consideration is simply to “do no harm” considering that Biden appears to be on a glide path to victory. Trump hasn’t been able to lay a glove on Biden, so he’ll be looking to pounce on his running mate.

The strategist said that Warren “checks the box of can-be-president tomorrow. The question for Elizabeth is whether it’s too much octane for the tank. Trump is desperately looking to turn Biden into a scary radical lefty. He can’t do that so his tactic is to make him seem like a tool of the scary radical left. She would become the nominee for president in the mind of Republicans. Trump will say, ‘Biden is so old that he won’t survive a year and she is going to be calling the shots and then she will be president.’”

A compelling case can be made against every known contender, which is all the more reason why the interview will probably be decisive. The Giants chose Joe Judge because he demonstrated the kind of leadership abilities they were looking for. He’s going to have a hard time succeeding at first because the COVID-19 crisis has cancelled all in-person practices and the entirety of the pre-season game schedule. The first time he sees his players in action, he’ll be coaching in a real game against the very experienced and stable Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.  Yet, if the organization made the right choice, he’ll overcome these disadvantages and get the team winning again in short order. Joe Biden doesn’t have some proven winner like Vince Lombardi to choose from, but Lombardi didn’t have head coaching experience when the Green Bay Packers hired him.

Sometimes, you just have to do your research and go with what feels right. There’s a good chance that whoever Biden selects will be president someday, so even though I can’t give him any useful advice, I hope he makes a wise decision.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com