What Biden's VP choices bring — and don't bring — to the table

What Biden's VP choices bring — and don't bring — to the table
© Getty Images

The spring of most years divisible by four is rife with speculation about the vice presidential choice of the opposition party. The selection invariably isn't made until days before the presidential nomination.

This time, however, may be different.

There may not be a convention; Joe BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE has wrapped up the Democratic nomination earlier than usual and the Pandemic-necessary isolation has eliminated any stump campaigning.

ADVERTISEMENT

Moreover, there's a void of political news, so there's more focus on one of the big uncertainties. It's a good rationalization for a column anyway.

First, three realities about the vice presidential selection:

For Biden, it would be someone younger — he'd be the oldest president in U.S. history — who could generate excitement among important constituencies and credibly be seen as stepping into presidential shoes. He's committed to picking a woman, and there seems to be five seriously discussed contenders.

Some activists point to Georgia's Stacey Abrams, the 47-year-old African American who would have won the Governor's race in 2018 if Republicans hadn't effectively suppressed some votes.

This would not be a smart choice. Abrams is a talented politician with a bright future, though unfortunately she chose not to run for one of two Georgia U.S. Senate seats up this year. But she has never been elected to anything more than a state rep's seat and has no Washington or national security experience. That — being a heartbeat away from the presidency — would not be reassuring.

ADVERTISEMENT

Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerReporter: FBI involvement in Whitmer plot similar to sting operations targeting Islamic extremists Former Detroit police chief takes step toward gubernatorial run Whitmer has raised .5 million so far in 2021 MORE has won plaudits for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit her state especially hard; she has been subjected to insults from Trump, which most Democrats consider a badge of honor.

Michigan is part of that blue wall of industrial states, along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that gave Trump his victory in 2016. To repeat, it has been 60 years since a running mate spelled the difference in a state, and Whitmer is devoid of any Washington or foreign policy experience — not much more reassuring a heartbeat away from the Oval than Abrams.

Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharOvernight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers Four senators call on Becerra to back importation of prescription drugs from Canada Biden signals tough stance on tech with antitrust picks MORE, the senior Senator from Minnesota, is the favorite of some mainstream moderate Democrats, who contend she would help with centrist swing voters and especially in the critical Midwest battleground. But swing voters are little influenced by a running mate. While Klobuchar might help in reliably Democratic Minnesota, she finished a distant fifth in this year's Iowa presidential caucuses — so much for the Midwestern draw.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Schumer, Warren call on Biden to extend student loan pause | IMF estimates 6 percent global growth this year Schumer, Warren call on Biden to extend student loan pause and wipe out K per borrower Senate confirms Biden's Air Force secretary MORE might energize some reluctant left-wingers in the fall. Her intellectual heft and quick mind should intimidate Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Want to improve vaccine rates? Ask for this endorsement Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe MORE in any vice presidential debate.

Remember those debates are pretty irrelevant.

If elected, Warren's replacement would be chosen by the state's Republican Governor for the critical first several months of 2021. Most important is whether Biden and Warren would be comfortable together governing; she's not a natural number two.

That leaves California Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisWant to improve vaccine rates? Ask for this endorsement Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Will Pence primary Trump — and win? MORE. Her once bright presidential prospects flamed out as she lacked a coherent message and competent campaign. Still, she can be an effective campaigner and advocate, is able, and does have a little national security experience.

The Sanders wing isn't crazy about the first-term California Senator, but they'd be hard pressed to attack the first African-American woman on a national ticket.

There may be others, long shots like Florida Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsThe Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Cuba, Haiti pose major challenges for Florida Democrats MORE or Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoWestern US airports face jet fuel shortage Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee | Nevada Democrat introduces bill requiring feds to develop fire management plan | NJ requiring public water systems to replace lead pipes in 10 years Nevada Democrat introduces bill requiring feds to develop fire management plan MORE. Biden doesn't have an easy or natural choice. On balance, Harris may be the best fit.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.