A few others might eventually make their way on there, if only as panders. Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, is an obvious possibility. Word is he’s looking at Rep. Val Demings too. Stacey Abrams will be mentioned because, for reasons not quite clear to me, Stacey Abrams is always mentioned.

But Biden is a creature of the Senate. Of course he’s going to start with, and likely finish with, senators in his search.

Friends and aides are whispering to New York magazine that he’s been thinking about his VP choice a lot lately while the country has been busy thinking of, well, survival. The final short list is a work on progress, they say, but Warren, Harris, and Klobuchar are no-brainers. Biden appears to have three core criteria in making his choice. The veep has to be a woman, as he pledged at the most recent debate; she has to be ready to be president on day one, which means experience with high office; and she has to be someone with whom he’s comfortable ideologically.


[P]eople close to him say he has recently become increasingly explicit that he may be choosing his own replacement, and that the candidates’ competence is now likely to be front and center in his considerations. “He’s been clear that he wants to pick someone who can be president if something happens to him,” a senior Democrat in close contact with the Biden team told me… “I’ve actually talked to Barack about this,” Biden told his Atlanta donors. “The most important thing is that there has to be someone who, the day after they’re picked, is prepared to be president of the United States of America, if something happened.”

In chats with advisers and outside allies, he’s been loosely outlining the criteria that are now most important for him. “The reason why it worked for Barack and me so well is we agreed substantively on every major issue. We disagreed on some tactical ways to approach the issues,” Biden said on the call. (This isn’t quite an accurate retelling of their eight-year working relationship, but nonetheless a that’s-so-Joe thing to casually throw out there.) “So it’s going to be important that whomever I pick is completely comfortable with my policy prescriptions, as to how we move forward.” In private, he’s grown especially firm on this point, though when other benchmarks are brought up in conversation — like finding someone who can help him win the Rust Belt states in November — he agrees those are important, too.

Still, “I would put ‘someone who he’s comfortable with ideologically’ as number two [in importance],” said the congressman close to his team.

Whom can we eliminate based on those criteria? Abrams, one would think, is immediately out. She’s never held statewide or federal office. She’s a hard sell as “ready on day one.” Demings was impressive during questioning at some of the impeachment hearings, and she’s from Florida, which is nice. But she’s only been a member of Congress for three-plus years. She’s a hard sell too. Whitmer is a governor and thus an easier sell, and of course Michigan is a plum prize this fall. But Biden just nuked Bernie in Michigan; he might not need Whitmer to get him over the hump there. And Whitmer spent most of her career as a state legislator. She’s been governor for just 14 months. Biden could do worse, but like I say: He’s a Senate guy.

So it comes down to Warren, Harris, and Klobuchar. Harris would work well with Biden. They’re friendly, and I’m sure she’d reorient as a centrist if Biden required it in return for the job. She’s only been a senator since 2017 but I think he would say that any time in the Senate makes you ready to be president. (Obama had only been a senator for a bit more than three years when he was elected.) Does Harris bring anything to the ticket that Biden needs, though? He’ll win California handily without her. Judging from the primaries, he’s far more popular with black voters than she is. She doesn’t offer much by way of ideological content, as we saw from her vacillations on Medicare for All. She’s meh.

Warren is the bold pick. The key asset she brings, obviously, is a bit of progressive cred that Biden might use to attract Bernie voters. He’s already moved towards her position on a few subjects and she conspicuously hasn’t endorsed Sanders despite expectations that she would. There’s clearly some outreach going on from both sides. Warren would also make a good attack dog on the trail: She enjoys the role, as she demonstrated in shredding Mike Bloomberg, and she clearly loathes Trump. But she and Biden have had a … strained relationship in the past. And New York mag reminds us that a Republican governor would get to appoint her replacement in the Senate, a potential catastrophe for Democrats if they end up with a 50/50 Senate split this fall. I don’t think Biden wants to pick her. The question is whether he’ll conclude that he has to.

Klobuchar is the most natural fit for him. She has more Senate experience than Warren and Harris combined, a solid “ready on day one” case. She’s won her elections in Minnesota going away and helped Biden win the state a few weeks ago when she endorsed him before Super Tuesday. Having her on the ticket might be worth something in the midwest. (Same goes for Whitmer.) She’s center-left, like Biden, and she’s low-key, a good trait in a veep. She won’t clash with him on ideology privately or risk upstaging him publicly, as Warren might. But filling Klobuchar’s vacant Senate seat could be tricky for Dems in a state like Minnesota that’s turning redder. And Klobuchar doesn’t bring much to the ticket either. She’s the safe, “do no harm” choice. Maybe she’ll help in the Rust Belt, but probably only marginally.

Coincidentally, YouGov asked Democratic primary voters recently whom they’d like to see him choose. Result:

Not a lot of Klomentum there. Warren was also the top choice among independents who voted or will vote in a Democratic primary this year at 20 percent. Maybe the most interesting result, though, was among Republicans who crossed over to vote in a Dem primary or plan to do so. They preferred Bernie (which isn’t happening), then Kamala Harris at 19 percent, then Klobuchar at 12, then Warren at … seven percent.

Republicans really dislike Elizabeth Warren. I don’t know if that’s factoring into Biden’s calculations right now, but it probably should. There are lots of right-leaning suburbanites who have drifted towards Democrats over the past two years, likely out of disgust with Trump, but putting Warren on the ticket might give them pause about Grandpa Joe. If they fear Warren will inherit the presidency and start raiding their savings accounts for new social programs, that’s a potential dealbreaker.

I think he wants to pick Klobuchar. Whether he feels he can afford to is a question yet to be answered.