VP hopefuls jockey for position as Biden’s final decision nears
The final contenders to be Joe Biden’s running mate are engaged in some furious last-minute jockeying as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee nears a decision.
With the vetting process completed and many of the interviews wrapped up, the candidates hoping to be Biden’s veep are in wait-and-see mode, anticipating his selection. They are also doing what they can to make their final pitches before Biden and his team land on a choice.
“It’s obvious that there’s a fair amount of ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ happening in the final weeks,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on recent presidential campaigns. “Every week it seems like there’s been a flavor of the week, and the pool of candidates has reacted accordingly.”
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) has seen her stock climb steadily in recent days. The Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman has made the rounds on television, appearing on “The View” and “Meet the Press.”
Bass also made headlines Monday after Biden asked her to take a walk after the former vice president paid respects to the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon lying in state at the Capitol.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who has been seen as the front-runner, has been working the phones behind the scenes to underscore her desire to get the job, sources say, even as she has played it cool in front of television cameras.
And former national security adviser Susan Rice took to Twitter over the weekend to show that she has the moxie to take on President Trump when she posted a photo of herself throwing out the first pitch at Nationals Park in 2013.
“What’s the matter, Mr. President? Can’t get it up and over the plate?” she tweeted.
Trump had said he would throw out the first pitch at a Yankees game in August before saying he was too focused on the coronavirus to do so. The New York Times later reported he had not received a formal invitation to throw out the first pitch at an August game.
The candidates to be Biden’s VP are suddenly and seemingly everywhere. And it’s no coincidence.
“It’s something that everyone is always trying to do to get a little extra buzz at the end, but there’s a very fine line between showing your potential value to the ticket and looking like you’re trying too hard to get the cool kids to invite you to sit at the lunch table,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale. “The key is to be able to demonstrate campaign skills that are authentic to yourself and would help the nominee instead of being too thirsty to get a cable hit or the retweets.”
“If you can help raise money, help activate the base, bring in new voters, do well in interviews, that is all value added. If you’re just trying to start a Twitter fight with Trump that isn’t really what’s needed right now,” Vale added.
Harris, Bass, Rice and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) remain in the top tier of the pool of candidates, sources say, but there remains a certain fluidity in the process and a certain guessing game — even for the contenders themselves.
Warren, for example, has spoken to Biden a number of times in recent months, according to sources familiar with the conversations. Those close to Biden say he has leaned on her for her ideas, particularly in his recent economic proposals. And on Friday, the senator will appear alongside Biden — at least virtually — for a grass-roots fundraiser.
Still, those close to him say they aren’t sure how that translates in terms of where he lands on his decision. Some around him think he leans toward Harris, while others say Bass or Rice could be a better fit.
“He could go a few different ways, so it’s tough to say,” said one longtime friend. “There are pros and cons for all of the candidates and at the end of the day, he’s the only one who knows what he wants.”
Those close to the contenders describe them largely as feeling anxious as the decision draws closer and names are bandied about. Some have wondered about the ascending nature of certain candidates, including Bass.
Biden at a Tuesday event told reporters his decision was nearing.
“I’m going to have a choice the first week in August, and I promise I’ll let you know when I do,” he said.
He said “we’ll see” when asked if he’d meet with the finalists in person.
“I think everyone is trying to read the tea leaves, even the candidates themselves,” said a confidant to one of the candidates.
Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who served on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, called the selection process “a unique VP cycle because you really are blessing the next president,” particularly as Biden has dubbed himself a transition candidate.
“If you’re Kamala and you plan on being president, this is your shot; if you’re Warren and you want to be president, this is your shot,” Payne said. “It’s an interesting kind of ecosystem with candidates largely responding to an electorate that doesn’t criminalize ambition.”
Julia Manchester contributed.