Joe Biden takes potential running mates on public tryouts
As Joe Biden’s campaign vets potential running mates, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee appears to be publicly auditioning them as he virtually campaigns and raises money.
On Thursday, it was Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ turns. Biden included the former on a panel about COVID-19 response, and then did a lengthy cable television appearance with the latter.
He previously held a tele-town hall with California Sen. Kamala Harris about the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on the African American community, and raised money online with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The four women are among the most frequently mentioned as potential running mates. Biden has made clear that personal compatibility — picking a running mate who is “simpatico” and “agrees strategically” with him — is among his top priorities. He has also said selecting someone who would be ready to serve as president on “a moment’s notice” is critical.
“And there are a lot of women with the experience and background to do that, including women of color. Our government should reflect, I think, our nation, and choosing a woman for vice president is just the start,” Biden said during a fundraiser Wednesday evening.
The veepstakes is typically a major source of speculation in the period after a candidate clinches the nomination until the party conventions. But it is getting even more attention this year: There’s a news vacuum because the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented candidates from holding rallies and other traditional campaign events. And Biden is 77 years old, placing heightened scrutiny on who his successor would be.
As Trump hijacks online innovations that progressives pioneered, Biden keeps stumbling online. The left’s digital experts warn he is losing time to close the gap.
“The first and most important attribute is, if something happens to me, the moment after it does, that that person is capable of taking over as president of the United States of America,” Biden said.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell immediately hit the mounting speculation as he introduced Abrams into an hourlong town hall he was hosting for Biden, asking whether the former vice president had “an announcement to make” or whether the event was “an audition.”
Biden did not respond directly, instead praising Abrams on the work she has done to increase access to the voting booth.
“Stacey Abrams has done more to deal with a fair vote and making sure there is a fair vote than anybody,” Biden said. “Stacey knows what she’s doing and she’s an incredibly capable person.”
Abrams returned the praise as she spoke about the recent killings of African Americans such as Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.
“I stand with Joe Biden because he will take no person for granted, and more importantly he has spent 40 years lifting up the cause of justice and working hard to make things better,” Abrams said. “And I believe that he will continue to do so as the next president of the United States.”
Some supporters worry that in looking for a “simpatico” running mate, Joe Biden will be too cautious and make a choice that fails to excite voters.
When Abrams, who has made it clear she wants to be Biden’s vice presidential nominee, was asked why she decided not to run for a Senate seat, he defended her, saying, “She’s capable of doing any or both.”
Hours earlier, Biden featured Whitmer, along with Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Ned Lamont of Connecticut to discuss the state-level perspective on the coronavirus crisis.
Biden, who hosted the virtual event from his Delaware home with Canadian geese honking in the garden behind him, played the role of talk show host, alternately lobbing questions at his guests about the pandemic response and complimenting their leadership.
He highlighted Whitmer’s effort to address racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths by creating a task force examining why African Americans have been so disproportionately hit by the virus.
“The virus is just simply holding up a mirror to our country to the disparate outcomes for people of color in America generally, and reminding us about these deep inequities, from the basic lack of access to healthcare to the access to transportation to lack of protections in the workplace to the fact our front line, the people that are our essential workforce, is often disproportionately people of color,” Whitmer said.
Biden responded with praise.
“You’d expect me to say this, I know, because I think you’re such a good governor,” he said. ”But I think you’ve done one hell of a job.”
Biden and the governors spoke for nearly an hour about the need for federal aid to plug states’ growing budget holes and source enough testing kits and protective equipment to guard against a potential second wave. Biden closed by effusively thanking the governors and when Lamont offered a cheery “See you in Connecticut!,” Biden quickly responded, “God willing!”
Whitmer chimed in with “See you in Michigan!”
“You’ll see me more than you want me,” Biden said as Whitmer laughed. “As you’ve all pointed out in the past, I’m usually the first one to show up and the last one to go home.”
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