Just following up on Jazz’s post from earlier. If Biden’s thinking of announcing his would-be vice-presidential nominee at the start of his campaign, who could it conceivably be? Everyone running against him for president has to be ruled out, as it’d be bizarre for one candidate to designate an opponent as his choice for the second spot on the ticket. What if they end up as the final two for the nomination and the “VP” has to attack him on the trail?
Even if Biden did want to name a rival as his choice for VP, who could he name realistically that would reflect the demographics of the Democratic base? An all-white-male ticket seems unthinkable, an all-white ticket of Biden and a woman VP only slightly less so. (Allegedly Team Biden was at one point eyeing Beto O’Rourke as vice president, which seems hard to believe.) Realistically he’d have to choose among Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Julian Castro — and a white pol dismissing a nonwhite opponent as number-two material would seem so demeaning that it’d do Biden more harm than good with the minority voters and progressives he’s trying to woo.
So, process of elimination: He needs a nonwhite candidate, ideally a woman, who’s sufficiently well-known to the left to get them excited about his ticket but also *not* running for president this year. There’s only one possibility, right? And sure enough, four days ago…
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams met privately Thursday in Washington, bringing together two starkly different faces of their party as they both weigh their political futures…
A person close to Abrams confirmed the meeting, saying it was set at Biden’s request…
Biden and Abrams represent starkly different identities for a Democratic Party in flux, with one an aging white man who is the consummate Washington politician and the other an up-and-coming black woman from Generation X who has become a national political celebrity even in defeat. Her star climbed higher when she delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last month.
Biden has three problems out of the gate: He’s an old white guy, progressives view him as suspect for his centrist record, and — merging those two critiques — he championed crime bills as a senator that ordered longer sentences for drugs used more heavily by nonwhites, like crack cocaine. If those critiques catch on, particularly among black voters who otherwise view him favorably due to his legacy as Obama’s VP, he’s sunk. Picking Abrams would shield him to some degree: How “out of touch” and insensitive to leftist and black voters can an elderly white guy be if he’s choosing a young black progressive woman as his second-in-command? More than that, naming Abrams early would deputize her as an advocate for him on the trail for the duration of the campaign. He’d have a solid year during the primary of a prominent surrogate making the case for him across America — a real advantage potentially given how much “larger” the map is early on in 2020. Remember, California voters begin casting early ballots around the time of the Iowa caucuses. It’d be nice for Biden to have Abrams running around California while he’s camped out in Des Moines.
I think it would backfire, though. A guy who’s marching into the race as a two-term VP himself and the de facto frontrunner shouldn’t need a stunt right out of the chute to placate his party. If he can’t win without Abrams, on the strength of his own record, he shouldn’t run. Same goes for the idea popular in some circles of Biden pledging from the start that he’ll serve only one term if elected. Doing that would inadvertently advertise how old he is by suggesting that he’s not fit to serve two terms. And if he’s not fit to serve two, people will wonder if he’s fit to serve one. Said Drew McCoy last night about the news that Biden might name a no-doubt-much-younger VP early, “Honestly, if you have to resort to gimmicks that say, ‘don’t worry about how old I am,’ you’re too old and you know it.” Indeed.
What happens when those first two gimmicks don’t send his numbers skyrocketing? Does he try another gimmick? Choose one lucky listener of “Pod Save America” at random to be his Secretary of State, maybe?
The other problem is Abrams’s resume. We found out in 2016 that Americans will hand the most important job in the world to someone who’s never held office, but Trump is such a singular character that it’s hard to derive broad lessons from his win about how little experience voters will tolerate in someone at the top. They trusted Trump despite his thin political credentials because they’d spent decades thinking of him (rightly or not) as a consummate success, a titan of business who conquered TV and would surely do just as well in the White House. If nothing else, he was a universally known quantity. Abrams isn’t, and Abrams *is* a professional politician — and yet the highest office she’s held is minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. Given the age concerns about Biden, it’s bananas that he’d consider placing someone a heartbeat away who’s never held federal *or* statewide office. (Right, I know: Abrams is the duly elected governor of Georgia according to, um, Stacey Abrams.) It’s a Palinesque play, except Palin at least had some gubernatorial experience when McCain named her. A fan of hers reminded me on Twitter last night that Lincoln also had virtually no experience in office when he was elected, a point often made about Beto O’Rourke by his fans. Right — but then the answer is for her to run for president. Let voters, in their wisdom, decide on her merits. Lincoln wasn’t a package deal with some better-known presidential nominee.
Biden probably doesn’t care about any of that. The point of naming Abrams would be to win the primary and she’s no liability in the primary. They’ll take on the “experience” critiques together in the general election if they get that far, starting with reminding everyone that the guy on the other ticket was best known in 2016 as a game-show host. One question, though: Why would Abrams agree to throw in her lot this early with Biden, without having the barest sense yet of whether his frontrunner status is for real? Imagine if he jumps in, designates her his VP-in-waiting, and struggles as the attacks on him pile up. Any chance she had of being Bernie’s or Beto’s VP would be gone.