[Since Part I of this post ran earlier this week, the rest follows; but inasmuch as the spiraling Coronavirus is what we now need to address, I’ll preface it with this unrelated note: right now, I most fervently wish that NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo was President of the United States. While other state and local officials are also aggressively addressing the challenge we face, Gov. Cuomo has seemed to me to stand apart through his combination of early understanding of the scope of the crisis, effective action, and projection of competent and reassuring leadership. Meanwhile, President Trump declared yesterday, with regard to our health workers’ need for medical supplies, that the U.S. Government is “not a shipping clerk.”]
Assuming Mr. Biden wins the Democratic Presidential nomination, whom, given his pledge to select a woman running mate, might he choose to address a gap in his own general election credentials? I would suggest that there are three doors:
Door 1: the Progressive Door, behind which stands Ms. Warren. No. Mr. Biden appears likely to win the nomination specifically because Democrats concluded that they cannot defeat Mr. Trump with a candidate that Republicans can paint as a crazy socialist. Mr. Biden will not wish to bear that baggage. He should bet that as long as he is perceived by progressives – as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not – as having won the nomination fairly, and he and his team proactively seek to assuage progressives’ disappointment and solicit progressives’ active participation in the Democratic campaign, progressives so vehemently detest Mr. Trump that Mr. Biden will be able to secure their strong support even if he doesn’t select an avowedly progressive running mate. U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders, the clear leader of the progressive movement, has unequivocally stated that he will support Mr. Biden if Mr. Biden wins the nomination. Substantively, while Ms. Warren is unquestionably qualified, she is unabashedly contentious; she seems to me unable to speak for five minutes without using the word, “fight.” I would offer that Americans are weary of fighting.
Comment: Among prominent women candidates, Ms. Warren might also be considered the best alternative if Mr. Biden wishes to focus on securing millennial support. In my view, this is still not enough commend her. First, given younger voters’ less-than-projected turnout for Mr. Sanders, it seems doubtful that any Democrat can win in 2020 with heavy dependence on what is arguably an unreliable voting segment. Second, it appears questionable whether young voters will enthusiastically come out for Ms. Warren, whom they eschewed for Mr. Sanders. Finally, Mr. Sanders will be Mr. Biden’s most effective surrogate with young voters as he will be with progressives.
Door 2: the Ethnic Door. The most prominently mentioned female contenders behind this door seem to be U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris and former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. No. Although Mr. Biden unquestionably owes his nomination to African American support, he should not – as MSNBC Host Joy Reid recently suggested – pick an African American running mate because he “owes” the community. From a purely political perspective, it is clear that African American voters will wholeheartedly support Mr. Biden in November because they are – in Ms. Reid’s own words – “… very clinical about it. They just want to win. They want Trump gone.” If Mr. Biden does need a boost with this electoral segment, he can count on the best of all surrogates: former President Barack Obama. Specifically as to Sen. Harris: she comes from a state that any Democrat will win, and, as I have previously ventured in these pages, her best presidential campaign moments seemed planned and scripted, leaving the concern as to how she would react in the fall campaign when inevitably confronted by the unexpected. As to Ms. Abrams: I would submit that her native Peach State is Fool’s Gold for Democrats in 2020 whether or not she is on the ballot, and – sheepishly conceding that I sound more than a bit like President Trump with this next observation – I would prefer that Mr. Biden pick a running mate that has won. Ms. Abrams ran a stellar 2018 campaign for Georgia Governor, but fell short. Most importantly, since Mr. Biden would be 78 when he assumed the presidency, it seems vital that he select a running mate that could effectively discharge presidential duties from “Day 1”; I would suggest that neither Ms. Harris’ brief tenure in the Senate (notwithstanding her run for the presidency) nor Ms. Abrams’ experience in the Georgia legislature respectively sufficiently ready them for the challenge.
Door 3: the Electoral College Map Door, behind which most prominently stands U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Yes. Mr. Biden’s rationale in naming Sen. Klobuchar would be akin to Mr. Kennedy’s reasoning in selecting Mr. Johnson in 1960. As we have heard until we are numb (and as I myself have recorded in these pages), Mr. Trump prevailed in 2016 by winning three states no one thought he could carry: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The President narrowly lost Minnesota to Ms. Clinton, and given his multiple visits to the North Star State during his presidency, it appears to be a state he is targeting in 2020. Mr. Biden presumably reasons that as a long-term Senator of Delaware, and given his deep roots of union support, he can claim Pennsylvania; that his union and African American support should enable him to win Michigan; which leaves Wisconsin. Ms. Klobuchar, representing Wisconsin’s neighboring Minnesota, would provide reassurance and greater appeal for the tandem in the swing areas of the Badger State, would cement Minnesota for the Democrats, and could well make Mr. Trump work to hold Iowa. Despite the disapproval the following observation would probably provoke from the Woke Brigade, Ms. Klobuchar is, in addition to her significant qualifications, likeable. In her third term in the Senate, she is conversant with the issues we face and has been lauded by Republicans for her willingness to work across the partisan aisle. Her nomination would probably secure Ms. Warren’s avid advocacy and at the same time perhaps win support for the ticket (or at least depress turnout) from suburban Republican women in GOP strongholds outside Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Milwaukee repulsed by Mr. Trump’s personal behavior. Ms. Klobuchar’s year on the campaign trail would seemingly provide the ticket immediate additional name recognition and less potential for unanticipated political skeletons than other choices.
In Part I of this note, I commented that major party presidential candidates have traditionally claimed to select as their running mates the persons most qualified to be President if they could no longer serve, while in fact they picked the persons whom they believed would best help them electorally. If I was advising former Vice President Biden, I would offer that he has the rare opportunity to do both … by picking Sen. Klobuchar.
[Addendum: A suggestion made this week by Wall Street Journal Columnist Holman Jenkins, with which I agree: As “an insurance policy on behalf of the country,” Mr. Biden should “immediately” name Ms. Klobuchar as his running mate, “so she can step in” if circumstances require.]