SPONSORED:

How Biden decided on Harris

When former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenKaty Perry and her 'Firework' close out inauguration TV special Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Tom Hanks: After years of 'troubling rancor,' Inauguration Day 'is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal' MORE began thinking of potential running mates this spring, one of the first people to come to mind was Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisKaty Perry and her 'Firework' close out inauguration TV special Biden's first foreign leader call to be with Canada's Trudeau on Friday Harris now 'the most influential woman' in American politics MORE (D-Calif.). 

She was a friend to his late son Beau Biden, former top prosecutor for the state of California and the kind of fighter needed in a campaign against President TrumpDonald TrumpClinton, Bush, Obama reflect on peaceful transition of power on Biden's Inauguration Day Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds MORE. On top of all that, she already had been through the slugfest of a presidential primary campaign, which included several direct confrontations with Biden himself.

Over the weekend, upon making his final decision, Biden finished where he began.

ADVERTISEMENT

"She was always in the narrative from the beginning," said one source who is close to Biden. "And even after that, it was always Kamala and this person and Kamala and that person. She was never ever out of the picture. She was always in the mix."

Another confidant characterized Biden’s final decision as “classic Joe.”

“He did what he always does,” the source said. “Whenever there’s a discussion about policy or the issues of the day, he would come in with what he thought but he will and does entertain everyone’s opinions.”

“At certain points, it seems like he may change his mind, but typically he ends up where he starts,” the confidant added.

After pledging to pick a woman as his running mate, Biden brought in various Democrats, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance BottomsKeisha Lance BottomsBiden taps Atlanta mayor for senior DNC role Atlanta city council members seek to fund proposal for private police force Ivanka Trump postpones campaign events in Georgia MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Top Senate Democrat backs waiver for Biden Pentagon nominee Consumer bureau director resigns after Biden's inauguration MORE (Mass.), Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerThe Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Michigan GOP pushes to replace member who voted to certify election results Is the spread of misinformation MLK's dream? MORE, former national security adviser Susan Rice, and Reps. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDemocrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Rep. Bass tweets photo of Trump in response to FBI call for information on rioters San Francisco mayor says Harris replacement pick 'a real blow to the African American community' MORE (Calif.) and Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsSeven Senate races to watch in 2022 Demings on Florida: 'We're excited about what we're seeing' but 'taking absolutely nothing for granted' Why it's time for a majority female Cabinet MORE (Fla.).

“I think he wanted to consider every qualified woman out there,” the confidant said. “Whitmer definitely was having a moment with COVID, Keisha Lance Bottoms also caught his attention, Val Demings also looked good for a while there, he liked Elizabeth Warren’s ideas. He basically wanted to try all of that on for size and see how it added up.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“But I think he felt like [Harris] was not only the best person for the campaign, but the best partner to govern the country,” the confidant added.

Biden talked at length about nominating someone he is close with — a partner that he said would be “simpatico” with him personally and professionally.

That added an emotional element into the mix that led some to believe he would pick Rice, a trusted colleague from their time in the Obama administration.

David AxelrodDavid AxelrodBiden faces monumental task healing divided country Biden leans on foreign policy establishment to build team Biden rolls out national security team MORE, who was a senior White House adviser in the Obama administration, wrote in a CNN op-ed Tuesday after the announcement that Biden reportedly clicked well with Whitmer. The Michigan governor was flown to Delaware to meet with Biden just days before Tuesday’s announcement.

But in the end, it was the emotional tug of his son Beau Biden that may have tipped the scales.

Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. Biden was devastated by his son’s death and declined to run for president in 2016 as he mourned.

Now, as the presumptive Democratic nominee, Biden cast his selection of Harris in part as a tribute to his late son, remembering how Beau introduced him to her.

At the time, Harris was attorney general of California and Beau was attorney general of Delaware.

“[Beau] had enormous respect for her and her work,” Biden said. “I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign.”

There were, of course, political considerations for Biden as well.

Democrats say it was imperative he choose a woman of color following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd that provoked a national conversation about race.

During the selection process, a group of influential Black women pressed Biden to choose a Black running mate. A source close to the campaign said Biden's conversations with renowned Democratic advisers Minyon Moore, Donna BrazileDonna Lease BrazileScalise bringing Donna Brazile as guest to Biden inauguration Harris selects Tina Flournoy as chief of staff: report Biden takes steps toward creating diverse Cabinet MORE, Leah Daughtry and Karen Finney "stuck with the VP" during an important moment in the country's history.

ADVERTISEMENT

A white vice presidential pick, many Democrats said, would have risked low turnout among Black voters on Election Day, one of the reasons why Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader Clinton says it meant 'great deal' to hold inauguration weeks after riot MORE lost in 2016.

Harris, who is of Jamaican and Indian descent, is now vying to be the first woman and the first person of color to be vice president.

“Had he not picked a person of color, it would have been a slap in the face to the entire community on top of just being a terrible political move,” said one Democrat who has raised money for Biden.

Still, those who know Harris well say the senator grew increasingly nervous about her standing in the final weeks of the process, particularly as Bass started to make headlines for receiving key endorsements.

"I think in some respects, she thought, 'I'm a national figure. I've run a national campaign, I've been vetted.' And here she is, a senator from California in a race against a congresswoman from California," said one Harris ally.

Throughout the process, Harris was also seen as the “safe” pick among those on Biden’s shortlist.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Internal polling showed she was risk-averse," said one Biden ally. "She was the least polarizing choice. Of course she has baggage, but who doesn't?”

Rice, meanwhile, had never been through a presidential campaign, and the Benghazi storyline from 2012 would give Republicans an easy line of attack. Bass encountered troubles over her past praise of Cuba and Scientology, while Warren and Whitmer would not have added a person of color to the ticket.

While Harris has some clear drawbacks — she said she believed women who accused Biden of unwanted touching, has been criticized on the left for prosecuting racial minorities for low-level drug offenses and embraced single-payer health care during the primaries — Biden insiders view those as manageable.

“In the end, Biden seriously considered others but returned to Harris as the 'do no harm' candidate, unlikely to thrill or outrage many,” Axelrod wrote. “She may not seem the most comfortable fit as a governing partner, a quality Biden said he was seeking, but Harris was viewed as the safest pick to win in November.”

There will certainly be some uncomfortable times ahead.

Many Democrats assume Biden, 77, will not seek a second term if he wins in November. That makes Harris the front-runner for the 2024 nomination, and some Democrats worry she will prioritize her own political fortunes above Biden’s.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Now that she’s the heir apparent, everything she does will be about her, not necessarily the Biden administration,” the Democratic fundraiser said. “That means never falling on her sword or duking it out to bring a Democratic senator in line or generally doing what Biden did in the Obama administration.”

But Biden World seems content with Harris.

"He's running a campaign of low risk, and she was the best choice," said one Biden ally. "And the fact of the matter is, she's the best complement to him of all the contenders. So that's how she won the race."