Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt

Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt
© Getty Images

Two conventional wisdoms dominate the speculation as to whom Joe BidenJoe BidenNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states Biden touts Trump saying Harris would be 'fine choice' for VP pick Kamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along MORE will pick for his running mate.

The first line of thought reasons that a 77-year-old white male from the Northeast needs to pick a young, dynamic black woman to rally both women and minority voters to the polls in November. The VP race has thus long been down to a choice most probably between California Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states Biden touts Trump saying Harris would be 'fine choice' for VP pick Kamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along MORE and Stacey Abrams, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia. 

Proponents of the second school of philosophy may have initially believed Biden needs a minority woman on the ticket, but after the former vice president ran particularly well with black primary voters on Super Tuesday, they see an ability for the Democratic contender to get blacks to the polls even without a black running mate.  


This contingent points to the Rust Belt and Midwest — states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — and suburban white voters as holding the key to the 2020 White House. If Biden can turn out the minority vote by his persona alone, then perhaps adding Minnesota Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharCalifornia Dems back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package MORE to the ticket and appealing to heartland white women would provide a far more needed boost in the general election.    

This second school of thought risks the possibility that black support for the Biden campaign is a moving target built on shallow allegiances. Would Biden in a general election repeat his Super Tuesday stellar results in the black community if he in the meanwhile opted for an all-white ticket? Was part of Biden’s primary appeal the assumption that, as a long-time trusted friend of the black community, he would eventually put a black woman on his ticket? 

This stark choice — Klobuchar or Harris/Abrams — highlights the quandary facing the Biden campaign. How can it take its best shot at the Rust Belt without risking eroding the support of minority communities?

So stating the seemingly difficult problem facing the Biden campaign suggests immediately its having-cake-and-eating-it-too solution. Why not respond “yes” to all three?

The Biden campaign can turn this challenge into a jet-rocket by simultaneously telling each community what it wants to hear. Rather than make a single special announcement by revealing his choice for VP, Biden should name a bunch of appointments, including Klobuchar as vice president, Harris as his attorney general, and Abrams as his first nominee for U.S. Supreme Court justice.


Rather than feeling the loss of the VP seat, the black community would hear the announcement of the first black woman nominated to serve on the Supreme Court, as well as a black woman for attorney general. Rather than feel betrayal and respond with either outrage or apathy, the black community should feel rewarded and invigorated.

Harris and Abrams certainly have the requisite credentials. Harris has already served for seven years as the chief prosecutor for the 15th most populous city in America, and for another six years as AG for the largest state in America. Abrams has a master’s degree in public policy from University of Texas and her law degree from Yale. She’s practiced law at one of the largest private law firms in Atlanta and served as the deputy city attorney before embarking on her political career. 

And the please-everyone formula to ease the road to the White House need not stop there.  Certainly, former presidential contender Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCalifornia Dems back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup Obamas, Clintons to headline Biden's nominating convention CNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' MORE has earned the right to join a Biden Cabinet, and needs both a job and a continuing career-builder. With Mayor Pete having proudly served his country as a naval intelligence officer and having taken a seven-month leave as mayor to serve in Afghanistan, earning the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Biden could both secure a thoughtful adviser and energize the LGBTQ community by naming the first openly gay secretary of Defense.

And, with 32 million Latinos eligible to vote, representing the largest nonwhite share of 2020 voters, and with immigration as a game-changing issue within the community, Biden could employ the same out-of-the-box thinking to electrify Hispanics and progressives by naming Julián Castro, former mayor of his native San Antonio, Texas, as secretary of Homeland Security. 

Indeed, to this point, presidential candidates have seemingly wasted a powerful tool that could have long been used to help secure elections; waiting until after the White House has been won represents dozens of lost electoral opportunities. And with Biden struggling to get air time during the coronavirus pandemic while President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE dominates the only story of the day, making such historic announcements before the election and during our seemingly endless quarantine can help Biden wrest some badly needed press attention. 

In 2020, pleasing everyone could be the formula to convert a campaign low on energy into a beacon of true hope and consensus-building.  

Howard Gutman is managing director of consultancy The Gutman Group; he is a former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, and served previously as a senior partner with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP. He is the radio host of “Take My Word for It” and “Politics & Pints” on Entercom radio and appears regularly as a media guest on Fox News and Fox Business News.