Biden takes page from Trump with public auditions for VP slot

Joe BidenJoe BidenTucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Joe Biden wins New Jersey primary Biden wins Delaware primary MORE is conducting a public tryout with some of the top potential running mates on his list of vice presidential candidates.

It’s what one Democrat coined “The Biden Reality Show” as the presumptive Democratic nominee wrestles with who best complements him and can help him pull off a victory in November over President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE.

In recent weeks, Biden has appeared in virtual split-screen moments alongside several vice presidential hopefuls.

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They include Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia in 2018, who appeared with Biden in an MSNBC interview.

Biden’s campaign released an ad this week showing he had teamed up with progressive Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenConsumer bureau revokes payday lending restrictions Tammy Duckworth hits back at Tucker Carlson: 'Walk a mile in my legs' Trump criticizes Redskins, Indians over potential name changes MORE (D-Mass.) to thank campaign contributors on surprise calls from the duo.

And the former vice president hosted Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Hillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates Senate Democrats urge Pompeo to ensure Americans living overseas can vote in November MORE (D-Minn.) on his podcast, “Here’s the Deal.”

“It’s a very public prom date,” said Michael Trujillo, a Democratic strategist who worked on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSusan Collins signals she won't campaign against Biden Cuccinelli says rule forcing international students to return home will 'encourage schools to reopen' Clinton labels ICE decision on international students 'cruel' and 'unnecessary' MORE’s 2008 presidential campaign.

He said the appearances also represent a “net win” on several fronts, since they help Biden’s campaign and his guests win attention, raise money and form coalitions.

Finally, the joint appearances could help Biden and his team decide who might fit best as his running mate.

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“He knows he needs to get along with his VP in his gut,” Trujillo added. “With limited physical meetings occurring, the more phone chats and virtual events he can do will be the only way to figure out who he clicks with best.”

To be sure, Biden and his team have been conducting an extensive search of potential picks behind closed doors in addition to the public auditions.

The process has faced logistical problems because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread the Biden team across the country. But candidates are coming into view — and more publicly than in years past.

Some observers believe Biden is taking the play out of Trump’s book with his vice presidential search.

“Donald Trump succeeded running as the first reality TV candidate, and Joe Biden has borrowed from the master and is holding the basement version of ‘Who Wants to Be a VP?’ ” said Tobe Berkovitz, a communications professor at Boston University who worked as a political media consultant. “And the contestants — senators, governors and almost governors — are playing their roles to perfection.

In his MSNBC interview with Abrams last week, “The Last Word” host Lawrence O’Donnell began his segment by saying that Abrams was there “because Joe Biden invited Stacey Abrams to be here.”

“And so, Mr. Vice President, do you have an announcement to make?” O’Donnell asked, playing along. “Is this an audition? Is there — what is the reason that you decided it’s time for me to get on TV with Stacey Abrams?”

Biden smiled broadly and dodged the question by talking about Abrams’s efforts to make sure people are franchised to vote, saying she “has done more to deal with a fair vote and making sure there is a fair vote than anybody” before adding that she “knows what she’s doing and she’s an incredibly capable person.”

When the former vice president hosted Klobuchar, they shared stories about the coronavirus and talked about their personal relationships with the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain Senate outlook slides for GOP Juan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden Democrats lead in three battleground Senate races: poll MORE (R-Ariz.). After the podcast, Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin wrote that the senator gave “a telling audition for vice president.”

In the campaign video released last week, Biden appears alongside Warren as the two surprised campaign contributors with personal phone calls.

“Today I’ve got a special guest,” Warren says on one call after thanking one donor. “Take it away, Joe.”

Biden then said: “I was kidding with the senator a moment ago. I said, ‘You know, I used to call my contributors, but I never had as many as when she endorsed me.’ ”

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Warren chuckled along like an old friend.

One longtime Biden ally said that moment showed Biden is making a concerted effort to both prove that he and Warren can work together and to show progressives that one of their own is standing firmly behind him.

Democratic strategist Eddie Vale said while the private conversations with Biden and the potential picks are important, “being able to perform in these live-fire tests is make or break for the potential candidates.”

“If you don’t make a good team in these settings you aren’t going to be VP,” he said.