Harris, Warren seen as top candidates to be Biden VP

Harris, Warren seen as top candidates to be Biden VP
© Bonnie Cash

Joe BidenJoe BidenPrivacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus Trump crowd chants 'lock her up' about Omar as president warns of refugees in Minnesota MORE and his team are extensively vetting candidates to be his running mate, but a number of Democrats already think they know who he’ll end up picking: Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisDebate commission adding option to cut candidates' mics: report Debates panel says changes under consideration 'to ensure a more orderly discussion' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Country reacts to debate night of mudslinging MORE

The California senator is increasingly seen as the most like choice for Biden, according to nearly two dozen Democratic operatives interviewed by The Hill. 

“It just makes the most sense,” said one longtime ally to Biden who is frequently in touch with the campaign. “When you really give it some thought, and you hear him talk about what he's looking for in a running mate, she’s the one that checks all the boxes.”

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Harris is seen as someone ready to be president, which is always important but especially so with a presumptive presidential candidate who would turn 80 while in office. She’s from a key Democratic state, would be the first Indian-American and African American woman to be a vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, and may not be either too liberal or too centrist to engender anger with either side of the Democratic Party.

Democratic strategist Joel Payne calls her a natural choice who would also represent generational change. 

“She is also the type of top tier surrogate who could boost the Biden ticket from day one and deliver a powerful case against Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE,” he said. 

If there is a main rival to Harris, it may be Sen, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren slams Trump over Proud Boys comments Ocasio-Cortez, Warren pull out of New Yorker Festival amid labor dispute The Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate MORE (D-Mass.), another former presidential candidate. 

A CBS News poll last week showed that 36 percent of respondents want Warren to be Biden’s pick, followed by Harris with 19 percent. 

Biden has been looking for ways to excite progressives about his candidacy, and Warren could help him on the left. 

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One Warren surrogate said there has been constant communication between the Biden and Warren teams, especially between the time she dropped out of the race on March 5 and endorsed Biden on April 15. 

“I think it's gonna come down to Kamala and Warren,” said the Warren surrogate. 

Other names being floated by the Biden team include Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Minn.), Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsDisney to lay off 28,000 employees Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response MORE (D-Fla.) and Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars Senators introduce bipartisan bill to mandate digital apps disclose country of origin Democratic Senate campaign arm raised nearly M in August MORE (D-Nev.). 

While Harris appears to be the favorite, there is still some lingering bitterness from her attack on Biden in a debate last June. During the debate, Harris hammered Biden on his position on school busing. Aides to both maintain their relationship is still on solid ground. 

"It definitely stung," said one longtime Biden aide. "But they were two politicians in a primary debate." 

The California senator also has some political baggage with which the Biden team and Democrats will have to wrestle. 

During her presidential run, Harris came under fire from progressives and even some black activists for her work as a prosecutor. 

Before her election to the Senate in 2016, Harris served as the district attorney of San Francisco and later attorney general of California, a state where African Americans have been incarcerated at much higher rates than other groups. 

Her ex-prosecutor background is seen as a reason Harris’s campaign never caught fire with black voters, despite early comparisons to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaUnseemly brawl unlikely to change a thing It's now up to health systems to solve our food problems Testing the Electoral College process against judicial overreach MORE.

Perhaps surprisingly, some senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Harris is a member, have not insisted that Biden select Harris or another African American woman. Instead, they are giving the former vice president some space as he navigates his first big decision as the party’s presumptive nominee.   

House Majority Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnMcEnany says Trump will accept result of 'free and fair election' Fauci, Black Lives Matter founders included on Time's 100 Most Influential People list Azar to testify before House coronavirus subcommittee MORE (D-S.C.), whose endorsement before the South Carolina primary helped catapult Biden to the nomination, has said he prefers that Biden choose an African American running mate but has made clear on multiple occasions it is “not a must.”

Another senior Black Caucus member agreed, saying it was more important that African Americans fill out top slots in a Biden Cabinet. 

“Joe Biden needs to have a diverse Cabinet that reflects the strong support he received from the African American community,” the lawmaker told The Hill. “Whether he should choose an African American woman as his vice president — and there are incredible women on his shortlist — what is most important is that the Cabinet reflect the diversity of the country.” 

Biden has said his VP selection committee — which includes a black lawmaker from his home state, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) — is likely to take until July to reach a decision on his running mate. Until then, the speculation among Democrats will continue. 

“Sen. Harris is an exceptionally qualified individual who checks three important boxes: She’s black, she’s a woman and she can be president on Day 2 if needed,” said one veteran of the Obama/Biden campaign. 

Democratic strategist Eddie Vale said he has also heard the non-stop talk of Harris being the pick, but that this didn’t mean it would happen. 

“I feel like it’s one of these instances where the common wisdom has solidified just because it has, rather than for any actual or discernible reason,” he said.  

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University echoed that “guesstimates are often wrong.” 

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“The VP pick is always a huge guessing game and rarely do the predictions line up with who wins the pick,” he said. “There are surges of interest in certain candidates, either because they fill the weaknesses of the nominee, at least on paper, and they are exciting figures in the world of politics, or just have the media buzz.

But Zelizer added, “in any campaign let alone one this unstable, these picks are flimsy and can be changed at the last moment.”