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How Biden decided on Harris

When former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska Jeff Daniels narrates new Biden campaign ad for Michigan MORE began thinking of potential running mates this spring, one of the first people to come to mind was Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden pushes into Trump territory The Hill's Campaign Report: One week from Election Day | Biden looks to expand map | Trump trails narrowly in Florida, Arizona The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - One week out, where the Trump, Biden race stands 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 John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven 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.

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"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 BottomsSunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day Atlanta school board committee recommends renaming Henry W. Grady High School after Ida B. Wells COVID-19 — is everyone receiving the benefits of urban parks equally? MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger Conservative operatives Wohl, Burkman charged in Ohio over false robocalls Senate Democrats want hearing on Pentagon vaccine effort MORE (Mass.), Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerTrump's pitch to women on coronavirus recovery: 'We're getting your husbands back to work' Trump lashes out at Whitmer as crowd reprises 'lock her up' chant Pittsburgh synagogue shooting was one of many warnings — but are we listening now? MORE, former national security adviser Susan Rice, and Reps. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassPorter raises .2 million in third quarter Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police MORE (Calif.) and 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 (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.”

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“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 AxelrodObama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions CNN's Axelrod on Biden debate performance: 'If you're ahead and you get a draw, you win' CNN's Axelrod: Trump 'may have ended his presidency' with debate performance 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 BrazileThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump resumes maskless COVID-19 recovery at White House Ex-Pence aide: Trump spent 45 minutes of task force meeting 'going off on Tucker Carlson' instead of talking coronavirus How Biden decided on Harris MORE, Leah Daughtry and Karen Finney "stuck with the VP" during an important moment in the country's history.

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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 ClintonGorsuch rejects Minnesota Republican's request to delay House race Biden leads Trump by 6 points in Nevada: poll The Memo: Women could cost Trump reelection 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.

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"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.

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“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."