Despite the controversial history, Harris is still seen as more of a likely running mate for Biden, especially given her
fundraising ability, a skill the former vice president did not exhibit during the Democrat primaries. The fact, though, that her ascendance could be blocked because of her prior law and order posturing indicates just how much of a vulnerability the issue poses for Democrats, especially given Biden’s authorship of the 1994 crime bill.
Although Harris’s allies have attempted to paint such concerns as
sexist, there is some indication the former vice president, himself, is still bristling over the attacks. Last month, after a speech in Delaware, a photographer for the Associated Press captured handwritten notes that Biden had made about Harris’s vice-presidential candidacy. Topping the list were the words “ do not hold grudges,” seeming to intimate Biden has not yet forgotten about what transpired during the primary.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA):
Bass, who has led the Congressional Black Caucus since last year, was a late addition to Biden’s vice presidential shortlist. The inclusion occurred as Bass was given the task by House Democrats to draft national legislation on policing reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody. The role bolstered Bass’s standing with the public and the media.
The California lawmaker, who has long fought to advance community-oriented solutions to crime and violence, is viewed among Biden’s inner circle as a team player and someone who could potentially help bridge the Democrats’ ideological divide. Apart from chairing the CBC, Bass is a member in good standing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has been a key supporter of Medicare for All.
Despite the strong credentials, however, Bass has something of a radical past. As a young student in the 1970s, Bass was a member of the Venceremos Brigade. The organization is alleged to have been a
front group for Fidel Castro’s Cuban intelligence service. According to one FBI report, Cuba’s communist regime used the Venceremos Brigade as a tool to recruit American assets for intelligence gathering and long-term political influence.
Even though Bass denies her membership in the group means she was a communist, a bevy of more recent soundbites, including one referring to Castro as “
Comandante en Jefe,” has drawn concerns the California lawmaker would prove controversial as Biden’s running mate.
Some Democrat strategists, in particular, believe that Bass could impact Biden’s already
tenuous standing with Latino voters, specifically Cuban Americans in the pivotal swing state of Florida. There are also concerns that Bass’s past radicalism could alienate suburban voters, many of whom see President Donald Trump unfavorably but are generally perceived as moderates on most economic and social issues.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI):
Whitmer, who last week
flew to Delaware for an in-private meeting with Biden, is facing controversy at home over her handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, the governor’s decision to extend the state’s stay-at-home order in May elicited protests from her state’s residents.
The situation only got worse after it emerged that Whitmer’s husband tried to use his status as the first gentleman of Michigan to circumvent lockdown orders to retrieve his boat ahead of Memorial Day. The attempt, which the first couple claim was a
joke gone awry, came as the governor was championing strict restrictions on boating and other outdoor activities to limit the likelihood of coronavirus transmission.
Although the issues appear to have not harmed Whitmer’s overall
approval ratings, they have created fierce opposition from Republicans and some center-right leaning voters in Michigan. As such, if Biden were to pick Whitmer it would ensure a locally-polarizing political figure atop the Democrat ticket in what is tipped to be the biggest swing state this cycle. The end result of such a decision could be increased turnout among the GOP base in Michigan or Biden’s campaign alienating the state’s large blue-collar contingent, which usually backs Democrats but defected to Trump in 2016.
Apart from the local impact associated with picking Whitmer, Biden’s campaign could also wind up angering his own base. Recent
polling has shown that seven out of ten Democrats would prefer the former vice president tap a woman of color as his running mate.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA):
Warren, who vyed against Biden for the nomination throughout the Democrat primaries, is seen as a unity candidate that can bridge the Sanders wing of the party with its establishment counterpart.
Although she has expressed interest in the vice presidency as of recently, there is fear among some of Biden’s allies that Warren does nothing to help energize turnout among black voters. Warren, a former Harvard professor, struggled to connect with black voters on the campaign trail, despite generally positive notes from racial justice groups.
Some Democrat strategists worry that without an African American woman on the ticket, Biden is doomed to lose in 2020. In making the argument, many point to the drop-off in black turnout between 2012 and 2016 as the primary reason for why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost.
During that race, Clinton
received 88 percent of the black vote, according to exit polls. Although impressive, the numbers were significantly lower than the 93 percent former President Barack Obama garnered on his way to reelection in 2012. The drop-off was most significant in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin–states that went narrowly for Trump in that election after having backed Democrats at the presidential level for nearly three decades.
indicate that Biden is underperforming among black voters compared to prior Democrat nominees.
Apart from those five most frequently mentioned in contention, there are also a series of underdog candidates, unlikely to wind up with the vice-presidential nomination, but politically risky none the less. Included among the latter list are Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), and former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams.
Out of the group, Demings and Abrams have elicited the most attention. Abrams, whose only political experience is as a state representative and failed candidate for governor, has struck some an unable to pass Biden’s own test of being “ready to be president on a moment’s notice.” The Georgia Democrat is also facing a state ethics
investigation into two voter registration groups amid allegations the organizations were used illegally to benefit her 2018 run for governor.
Demings, meanwhile, has
earned the ire of some Black Lives Matter activists for her prior career as the police chief of Orlando, Florida. Activists have been quick to note that under Demings the Orlando police department saw officers use force when arresting suspects at more than double the rate of other law enforcement agencies across Florida.