The spike in attention to Rice and Bass was widely interpreted within Democratic circles as a sign of how seriously Biden was taking them compared to the others. The truth is that, this year, the selection process has at times been more difficult to decode than in any recent election because it has almost all happened remotely. (In 2016, reporters staked out Hillary Clinton’s home to monitor her interviews with VP candidates; that’s basically impossible now — news of Whitmer’s meeting with Biden only broke when the Associated Press tracked a chartered plane flying from Lansing to Delaware. Meanwhile, Biden, who often says more than he should, hasn’t exactly been gossiping about the process with visiting friends who might leak the intel; he has had almost no visitors.) And while the Biden team is, in fact, giving both women a close look, that doesn’t mean Demings or Warren or Whitmer or Harris — who has always been the front-runner — have slipped. Instead, much of this attention has come simply because of their relatively late emergences, whereas Warren and Harris each faced excavations of their past during the presidential campaign, and Demings, for example, saw a slew of stories about her time as Orlando’s police chief earlier in the summer, when her name started circulating seriously among Biden allies.

“A week ago, I would’ve said it’s Kamala versus the field, then I would’ve said Karen Bass has it won. Now, I think it’s Susan or Kamala,” said one senior Democrat close to Biden and some of his top aides. He then paused and admitted he didn’t actually know much at all. “Who’s in the hunt? We have no idea how one through five goes.” He paused again. “We have no clue.”