Klobuchar and Harris could bolster Biden in the Midwest
There was good news and bad news for Joe Biden in a new CNN poll. The good news for the presumptive Democratic nominee was his 51 percent to 46 percent national lead over Donald Trump. But Hillary Clinton and Al Gore found out the hard way that winning the popular vote is cold comfort while they watched George W. Bush and Donald Trump being inaugurated as president.
The bad news for Biden in the same CNN survey revealed that the president was ahead of Biden 52 percent to 45 percent in the 15 battleground states whose electoral votes will determine the next president.
Three of those states are in the industrial Midwest. Simple math illustrates the importance of these purple states in 2020. The road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue runs from the steel plants in western Pennsylvania through the car and truck factories of Michigan and Wisconsin. The path through the Rust Belt is dotted with smokestacks. Some are active while many have not fired up for years.
Biden will need these three states in the industrial Midwest to build the foundation for a majority in the Electoral College.
Trump won states with 306 electoral votes in 2016 while Hillary Clinton tallied 232 votes. If Joe Biden can hold the states that Clinton won and add the 46 electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, then he wins an electoral majority of 278.
Trump won all three of these states, but they were the only three states in the union that he won by less than 1 percent of the vote. Furthermore, the Biden campaign will not take them for granted as Clinton did in the last presidential election.
Hope is a precious commodity in the Rust Belt but there are reasons to be optimistic that Biden can reclaim the solid blue wall in America’s heartland that was reliably Democratic until 2016. Trump’s margin of victory was narrow in all three states even though Clinton paid little attention to Michigan and Wisconsin after the primaries. All three states elected Democratic governors two years later.
One of those governors, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer is one of the women that Joe Biden is considering as a running mate. Whitmer’s experience fighting the pandemic is the kind of crisis management background that Biden might value in a vice president who would play a key role in helping America recover from the medical and economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many seasoned Democratic women who Biden could add to his ticket to bolster his fortunes in the industrial Midwest. The candidates include Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
Baldwin is the only one of the three senators who represents one of the three key battleground states. In 2012, she became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate. With a progressive voting record, she could be a bridge between Biden and the voters who supported Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Duckworth has a great story to tell. She is an Army veteran of the war in Iraq who lost both of her legs when a helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. Her combat service and her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee give her the national security credentials which a vice president or president badly needs.
But the most prominent Midwestern woman on Biden’s short list is Klobuchar, and his choice may boil down to her and California Senator Kamala Harris, who are number 1 and 2 on many pundit vice presidential wish lists.
Despite the regional and racial differences, the two women have much in common. They both ran credible presidential campaigns and positioned themselves as moderates, which makes them ideological soulmates for Biden.
Both women have won the political triple crown and served in elective office at the local, state and federal level. Experience at the three levels of American government is invaluable for a vice president or for a president. Klobuchar served as the Hennepin County (Minneapolis and suburbs) District Attorney while Harris was the San Francisco prosecutor. Harris also served as California’s attorney general. Both women ascended to the United States Senate.
A Midwesterner like Klobuchar could help Biden win the battleground states in America’s industrial heartland. But there is more than one recipe for a victory meal in the Midwest. Biden also might help himself with an African American running mate like Harris who night gin up black turnout in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee. A higher urban turnout would make a big difference in states that Trump barely won in 2016.
Biden has a tough choice to make but being a winning president candidate and a successful president is all about making the right choice which Trump almost always fails to do.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.