The One Thing We Know About Biden’s VP Choice

Trump will attack her mercilessly. There is no easy target or safe bet.

Apart from the daily outrages of Trump and his enablers, the hot political story these days is the countdown to Biden’s announcement of his running mate. As a reminder, here are the guidelines the candidate laid out for his selection process. His choice for vice president will be:

  1. a woman,
  2. able to step into the job of being president from day one,
  3. someone who agrees with him in principle and philosophically,
  4. someone who can make up for his weaknesses,
  5. someone he can trust, and
  6. someone who will tell him the truth, but will always have his back.

What is clear from that list is that, other than the gender of the candidate, the most important thing for Biden is to replicate—as close as possible—his relationship with Barack Obama.

As we view all of the commentary leading up to this announcement, it is important to keep in mind that most of the arguments being made in favor of one candidate or against another are meaningless. For example, as Christopher Devine and Kyle Kopko documented, “running mates usually fail to deliver votes among targeted geographic or demographic groups.”

Other than being made in the midst of a pandemic, there is one factor in this process that sets it apart from historical precedents. The number one item on the list up above has limited the discussion to various women candidates. As such, we’re hearing some arguments that have never surfaced in the past when it was assumed that the nominee would be a man. For example, I don’t remember vice presidential candidates being criticized for being too ambitious or wanting to run for president someday. In most instances, those things were assumed, indicating that this is the kind of critique that is only leveled against women.

The truth is that, among the women who are rumored to be under consideration, any one of them would be an impressive choice. It seems that in politics these days, we actually have to point out that none of them is perfect, even though that has never been true of any human being on the planet. But it is hard to imagine any one of these women being the kind of colossal failure we all witnessed when John McCain chose Sarah Palin.

As the old saying goes, Biden actually has an “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to choosing just one of these women to be his running mate—which is something Democrats should keep in mind when/if their preferred woman isn’t chosen. That’s because the biggest challenge a new administration will face is to clean up the horrendous mess left by the Trump administration. Biden’s cabinet will be at least as important as his vice president. So there will be a critical job for everyone on the list.

As we await Biden’s announcement, there is one thing we know about his choice. The initial reaction from Trump and his enablers will be to attack her with everything they’ve got. The idea that any one of them will be an easier target or a safe bet is, at best, incredibly naive. Over at Fox News, Liz Peek gave us a preview of how all of that will play out.

Here’s what we do know:  almost certainly Biden will pick a woman of color; he has no choice. He owes his nomination to black voters, and they have demanded a seat at the table.

The short list of potential running mates now includes Sen. Kamala Harris, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, California Rep. Karen Bass, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, Florida Rep. Val Demings and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

While all five of these women have impressive bios, all have serious shortcomings and none can possibly perform the heavy lifting that this role will require.

Peek goes through each one of these women’s “shortcomings” only to conclude that when Biden delayed his announcement until next week, it must be because he is dithering.

No wonder Biden is dithering. He is looking for a loyal and like-minded vice president and partner, the VP he was to Barack Obama and Mike Pence has been to President Trump. But he also needs someone to light up the ticket.

Another week will not solve this puzzle.

Trump and his enablers have thrown everything they can think of at Joe Biden, but nothing is sticking. So they’ll do the exact same thing to his vice presidential nominee—with the ultimate aim of suggesting that Biden is weak and an “empty vessel” controlled by those around him. That’s what is coming, regardless of his choice.

But all along, voters have made one thing perfectly clear: this election will not be primarily about Joe Biden or his running mate. Instead, it will be a referendum on the narcissistic, mendacious, incompetent bully who currently occupies the Oval Office. If you think that a choice of running mate by the opposition changes things, Morning Consult has a poll for that.

While some of the potential candidates with less name recognition don’t fare as well in national polling, a margin of error of +/- 2 points indicates that Biden’s choice won’t have much effect.

Presidential elections after one four-year term are often a referendum on the incumbent. That has never been more true than it will be in November. The dynamics of this race have already been set, leaving Biden free to pick the woman who can best help him govern.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.