I recently came across a survey on Democrats.com, a website that claims to be the “oldest community of progressive activists, with over 3 million supporters.” After clicking on potential candidates for president that I would vote for in 2020, the survey’s results popped up on the next screen. Here was the breakdown:
Opra Winfrey -3.54%
Along with 14.8% of the participating online community, I voted for Biden. In many ways, Biden is the antithesis of Donald Trump. Biden is strong, steady, seasoned, moral, worldly, and a tried and true public servant. Biden is “Uncle Joe” and a friend of women. Biden is working class and the father of a fallen Marine. Biden is the real deal.
For myself, as for 14.8% of the survey takers, the real question is who Biden will tap as his running mate. Likely it will be one of the names listed in this survey. But which one? How will he choose from such a multifaceted group?
Of course one of the most important factors is the electoral map in 2016. Democrats are painfully aware that Trump claimed Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan. At the end of that contest, Trump held 74 more Electoral College votes than Hillary Clinton. Since it came down to razor thin margins in some of these states, common sense dictates that the Democratic VP in 2020 will be someone who can help Biden win in those places.
That being said, I honestly think Joe Biden could claim these five states all by himself on the sheer power of his personality, White House credentials, endorsement from the Obamas, and ability to speak directly to the needs of the white working class. Maybe it doesn’t matter who he selects.
Maybe not. But he needs to pick someone.
Let’s start with Bernie Sanders; after-all, if Clinton would have teamed up with Sanders in 2016 she would have won the election. But this will be Bernie’s second go around. The same criticisms will be levied against him in 2020: he is too old, too cantankerous, and too Socialist. As a Senator from Vermont he does not bring swing states to the table.
Elizabeth Warren is an interesting choice. The banking expert and finance scholar turned politician is a smart, capable, fierce opponent of Trump. Her only downside is her polarizing reputation and her inability to move swing states. As a woman VP she would be a historic selection, but as a Massachusetts liberal, Warren will not bring ideological diversity to a Biden ticket.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is young, dynamic, and a clear star of the Democratic Party. I think he would make an exceptional running mate. The only question is whether Biden would get along with him. Based on his close relationship with President Obama, Biden will look for someone who can offer honest advice, tough criticism, and practical help when needed. Biden will be looking for a VP who is a lot like himself. Is that Booker?
As an African- American woman and Senator from the great state of California, Kamala Harris would be historic on two fronts. And absolutely no one in California or Washington doubts her impressive talents as a legislator, prosecutor, and social justice advocate. Harris is another rising star in the party who is destined for someone’s administration. Will it be Biden’s?
Kirsten Gillibrand is also extremely talented. But does she have the name recognition? Is she too liberal?
Garcetti, Klobuchar, and Patrick are formidable individuals who appeal to significant voting blocs in this country. But none have accomplishments that set them apart.
I think we can rule out Opra on the grounds that she does not want to be in politics.
How about Julian Castro? Could he deliver Texas? If so, that’s 38 electoral votes right there. If Castro can swing Texas, the Democrats are half way to the White House. What if Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and HUD Secretary in the Obama Administration, could galvanize Hispanics all over the country? Running on a pro immigrant platform, Biden and Castro could take North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona. What if Castro tips the scales in Florida? It is hard to deny his upside.
The other possibilities are attractive options for different reasons. Yet none of them compare with Warren, Booker, Harris, Gillibrand and Castro. Andrew Cuomo is not nearly as popular in the rest of the country as he is in New York State. Would he even want to give up the Governorship to be Biden’s right hand man? Would the party want to take him from that prestigious seat of power?
Hickenlooper is risky. He doesn’t guarantee a swing state. But based on his remarkable job as Governor in Colorado, he could turn states such as Nevada and Wyoming blue. That would not be a game changer though; not to mention, it would be the least diverse ticket the DNC could piece together.
Holder is capable enough, but I think he is too controversial and tied to Obama. He doesn’t bring a swing state, and he has no governing experience. Nevertheless, Biden may trust him personally. A strong endorsement from his former boss could go a long way.
At the end of the gladiator bouts it will be Biden and Booker. That ticket has a nice ring to it. It’s energy and wisdom. It’s the white rural working class coming together with the black urban intellectual workforce. Biden could focus on foreign policy while Booker focuses on domestic issues. Booker brings intellect, perspective, courage, and vitality to every discussion and task. As for the election, Booker would make a difference in North Carolina and Georgia, and he would influence black voters all over the country. States that went red in 2016 would turn blue in 2020 because of the balance, brilliance, and brawny potential of a Biden and Booker team. It would be a ticket that brings diversity, substance, and focus to a nation desperately hungry for all three.
Ah, so many questions remain. Who will President Obama recommend? Who has the most useful experience in Washington? Who will expand the party? Who will Biden work with best? These are all questions that will be asked with increasing urgency over the next 20+ months. I have to admit, as an American citizen who thinks Trump has been a categorical disaster, it feels good to start thinking about it now.