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 BidenBiden says he will rejoin WHO on his first day in office Tammy Duckworth is the epitome of the American Dream Mexico's president uses US visit to tout ties with Trump 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 Whitmer 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 KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases The Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Hillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates 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 WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Progressive activist Ady Barkan endorses Biden, urges him to pick Warren as VP Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE might energize some reluctant left-wingers in the fall. Her intellectual heft and quick mind should intimidate Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceWatch live: White House coronavirus task force briefing Trump campaign taps White House aide to oversee rallies Dallas megachurch that hosted Pence approved for millions in coronavirus aid 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 Devi HarrisDemocrats awash with cash in battle for Senate Tammy Duckworth hits back at Tucker Carlson: 'Walk a mile in my legs' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark 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 DemingsSusan Rice sees stock rise in Biden VP race Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP Democrats seize on Florida pandemic response ahead of general election MORE or Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoSenators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Klobuchar withdraws from Biden VP contention OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior faces legal scrutiny for keeping controversial acting leaders in office | White House faces suit on order lifting endangered species protections | Lawmakers seek investigation of Park Police after clearing of protesters 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.