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Who will be Joe Biden’s running mate? Details of the Contenders/Pretenders

Joe Biden has pledged to select a female Vice President and is expected to announce his decision around August 3

By Rozina Sabur Washington 3 August 2020

The next major event in the US 2020 presidential campaign cycle will be when Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, announces his running mate.

Mr Biden, the former US vice president, has said he will make his choice for who will join him on the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket any day now.

Given Mr Biden’s age – he turns 78 in November – his choice of running mate could be more consequential than for any previous presidential candidate.

If elected, Mr Biden will be the oldest US president to enter office. He has already been forced to confront questions over his cognitive abilities, which he insists are regularly tested and proven by the gruelling campaign schedule. 

Nevertheless, there has been some speculation that Mr Biden may commit himself to a one-term presidency. In the event that that happens, his Vice President would be his most natural successor to fight the next election. 

Ultimately, Biden will choose the person he believes will best help him beat Trump
Ultimately, Biden will choose the person he believes will best help him beat Trump Credit: AP

Mr Biden has pledged to choose a woman, and with America in the throes of racial justice protests there is also pressure on the Democrat to choose a woman of colour.

Mr Biden indicated that he was aware of the public mood in a speech in late June, when he told supporters that a range of racially diverse candidates featured in his list of contenders.

“There are a number of women of colour, there are Latino women, there are Asian, across the board,” Mr Biden said at the event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Choosing a woman would help Mr Biden capitalise on the support Democrats built among suburban women in the 2018 Midterm elections. It may also provide a counterpoint to the criticism of his alleged behaviour towards women.

When will Joe Biden announce his Vice President?

Mr Biden has said he will announce his choice for who will join him on the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket in the week commencing August 3.

Ultimately, Mr Biden will choose the person he believes is best suited to uniting the Democratic Party and helping him defeat Donald Trump.

With that in mind, the vice presidential pick will need to be someone who Americans trust to tackle the biggest concerns of this year: healthcare, the economy and racial tensions.

With the announcement due any moment, there are still dozens of potential vice presidential candidates in the running. Here is a list of the runners and riders.

Who are the candidates?

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is seen as a frontrunner

Title Senator for California

Age 55

Pros Kamala Harris has been considered a favourite from the beginning. As an early Democratic presidential contender herself, Ms Harris has national name recognition. It also means she’s already been thoroughly scrutinised by the press, which reduces the need for the campaign to vet her background. She has an impressive CV; she served as California’s attorney general before becoming the first African American from the state to serve as a US senator. Coming from California is also a huge advantage. The country’s most populous state will play a huge role in the election, and Ms Harris has access to its wide network of donors. 

Cons Ms Harris does not offer much to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party – she has flip-flopped on whether she supports a universal healthcare system and her background as a prosecutor has come under criticism from those calling for greater criminal justice reform. During last year’s Democratic candidate debates she launched a scathing attack on Mr Biden for his past views on a busing policy designed to desegregate schools – a clip Mr Biden’s opponents are likely to play on repeat if she ends up being his running mate. 

Susan Rice

Title Former US ambassador to the UN

Age 55

Pros Susan Rice knows Mr Biden very well, having served alongside him in the White House. She has a firm handle on US foreign policy, having served as Barack Obama’s national security adviser after being the US ambassador to the UN. She could be a good pick if Mr Biden is seeking to show that America would be projected back onto the world stage with a keen focus on international relations if he wins office.

Cons However, Ms Rice has a checkered history with Republicans and was a key target for criticism over the handling of the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Ms Rice also lacks experience in campaigning or running for office herself.

Elizabeth Warren

Title Senator for Massachusetts

Age 71

Pros Elizabeth Warren is an energetic politician who did well in the early stages of the party’s presidential primaries, drawing huge crowds and earning praise for her debate performances. She is known for her commanding grasp of policy and her ability to rattle off detailed plans on everything from tax reform and health care to foreign policy and gun control. Ms Warren has an inspiring backstory – earning a law degree while raising her children before going on to become one of Harvard University’s foremost experts in bankruptcy law. In 2012 she became the first woman ever to be elected for the US Senate from Massachusetts. 

Cons One of the most well-known standard bearers for liberal values, putting Ms Warren on the ticket would help unite the Democratic party behind Mr Biden. However, she may put off many moderates and swing voters who fear she would push progressive policies such as replacing private health insurance with a universal public system. Ms Warren also controversially claimed she had Native American ancestry – earning a great deal of ridicule and the nickname ‘Pocahontas’ from Mr Trump. Ms Warren’s selection would also mean the Democratic ticket would be made up of two white candidates in their 70s at a time when Americans are crying out for more diversity in its leadership.

Val Demings

Title Congresswoman for Florida

Age 63

Pros Val Demings gained prominence last year as one of the Democrats’ impeachment managers – a group of congressmen chosen to effectively make the case for Donald Trump’s impeachment in his Senate trial. Ms Demings, a black former police chief, would be a good pick for Mr Biden as he pledges to tackle racial inequality and enact police reform. Ms Demings also comes from Florida – a crucial swing state in November’s election.

Cons Ms Demings still does not have the name recognition of other candidates, and has far less experience in elected office. She has yet to pass an intense vetting process and her record as Orlando’s police chief is already coming under intense scrutiny. 

Stacey Abrams

Title Former gubernatorial candidate for Georgia

Age 46

Pros Stacey Abrams gained national attention in 2018 when she ran an impressive campaign for Georgia’s governorship. In the end she narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp, a defeat many Democrats blamed on voter suppression tactics. Since then she’s maintained her national profile by working on grassroots voter registration drives – a key issue for Democrats. As a younger black woman, she could be a great vice presidential pick for Mr Biden. 

Cons Her unabashed lobbying for the role has come across as presumptuous to some, while others point to her lack of experience in senior elected positions. 

Karen Bass

Title Congresswoman for California

Age 66

Pros Karen Bass has plenty of experience in Washington politics, and was elected to chair the Black Caucus during the most recent session of Congress. Ms Bass has emerged as one of the most prominent black women in US politics in the wake of the several high-profile killings of unarmed black men and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter protests. She is the lead architect of a sweeping Democratic police reform bill. 

Cons Ms Bass’ age might count against her. As the oldest ever candidate for office, Mr Biden is under pressure to have a younger VP to assuage voters’ concerns. At 66, Ms Bass is one of the oldest candidates under consideration. 

Tammy Duckworth

Title Senator for Illinois

Age 52

Pros Tammy Duckworth has a broad range of experience which makes her a strong contender for the vice presidency. She is a former Army pilot who lost both her legs in the Iraq War after her helicopter was shot down by insurgents. Ms Duckworth, an Asian American, later retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel and became an assistant secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs during Barack Obama’s presidency. Ms Duckworth has a history of breaking records, becoming the first Thai-American woman elected to Congress, as well as the first double-amputee. In 2018 she also became the first woman to give birth while serving in the Senate.

Cons Ms Duckworth lacks the name recognition of other candidates in the field. This may be a hindrance in fundraising efforts for Mr Biden.

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Title Mayor of Atlanta

Age 50

Pros Keisha Lance Bottoms drew praise for her response to the protests that swept through her city in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Ms Lance Bottoms proved adept at balancing her role as Atlanta’s mayor, assuring the city’s residents that their safety was a priority, while also responding emotionally to the protests and drawing on her own experiences as a black woman. Coming from Georgia, she may help boost the Democrats’ chances in the traditionally conservative state.

Cons Ms Lance Bottoms’ oversight of the Atlanta police department has come under scrutiny in the aftermath of the killing of Rayshard Brooks, a black man shot dead by a white police officer. As a first term mayor, she also lacks the political experience and public profile usually sought after in a vice presidential pick. She was also recently named to head the Democratic National Convention’s platform committee, which suggests she may not be offered a chance to be Mr Biden’s running mate. 

Tammy Baldwin

Title Senator for Wisconsin

Age 58

Pros Tammy Baldwin’s selection would be historic – she would be the first openly gay person to serve on a major party’s ticket. She also hails from Wisconsin, another crucial state for the Democrats to win back in November. She has a long record in Washington, serving in the House of Representatives for 14 years and is now in her second term in the Senate.

Cons Ms Baldwin lacks the charisma and the fundraising prowess of some of the other candidates in contention. 

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Title Governor of New Mexico

Age 60

Pros Michelle Lujan Grisham may provide a much needed boost for Mr Biden among Hispanic voters – a group he has failed to enthusiastically engage so far. Hispanics form an important voting group in several battleground states this election – including in Nevada and Florida. Ms Lujan has been praised for her handling of the coronavirus in her state, taking swift action to halt the spread of the virus. She was also her state’s health secretary – a useful string to her bow during the current pandemic. 

Cons: Ms Lujan is as yet untested on the national stage and is not that well known outside the state of New Mexico. That also means she may struggle as fundraiser for Mr Biden, who is lagging far behind Mr Trump’s huge campaign war chest.

Gretchen Whitmer

Title Governor of Michigan

Age 48

Pros Gretchen Whitmer’s national profile was boosted when she became a target for Donald Trump, whom she has frequently criticised for his response to the coronavirus pandemic. Her decision to enact tough lockdown measures as Michigan became one of the country’s coronavirus hotspots boosted her approval ratings with Democrats but also provoked a furious backlash from conservative groups and businesses. Michigan will be a key state for Mr Biden to snatch back from Mr Trump in November and Ms Whitmer could prove a big asset in the attempt. 

Cons Choosing Ms Whitmer as a running mate would mean an all-white Democratic ticket at a time when diversity is a major point of concern. Ms Whitmer’s tough lockdowns also made her deeply unpopular with anti-shutdown protesters for whom she came to symbolise government overreach. 

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