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
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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 BidenMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Fauci infuriated by threats to family MORE has wrapped up the Democratic nomination earlier than usual and the Pandemic-necessary isolation has eliminated any stump campaigning.


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.


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 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 KlobucharDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts A Day in Photos: The Biden Inauguration Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department 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 WarrenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE might energize some reluctant left-wingers in the fall. Her intellectual heft and quick mind should intimidate Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report Trump actions illustrate why Congress must pass the For the People Act Cheney tests Trump grip on GOP post-presidency 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 HarrisSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal An ally in the White House is good for abortion access, but not enough LeBron James says 'it would be great' for champion Lakers to visit Biden White House 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 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 or Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoSenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Why are millions still flowing into the presidential inauguration? Transition of power: Greatness meets infamy 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.