Former Vice President and presumptive Democratic Nominee for President Joe Biden is currently in the final stages of a process he’s been through himself. Within a few days, he will be selecting his running mate and Vice Presidential nominee. And the speculation of who he will select has centered on a half dozen women to fill the role. Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth, Congresswomen Val Demings and Karen Bass and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Each of these candidates have qualities that can enhance Biden’s nomination and make their selection a consequential choice. Each of them also have challenges that could been seen as impediments for the former Vice President and make his election a tougher proposition.
But to know, which candidate embodies the qualities that would either enhance or hinder Biden’s nomination, you have to look at the qualities that go into the selection and historically, what qualities Presidential nominees have sought in making their choices. Our current Vice President, Mike Pence, like most, was chose for several reasons, among them is his experience as a legislator and executive. However, where President Obama relied on such experience from Joe Biden as counsel, under the current administration, Vice President Pence’s role is more of a throwback to Vice Presidents in our history. For you Hamilton fans out there, you might know the first time such a selection was made, back in 1800, with our fourth election for President. Then Vice President Thomas Jefferson, who was running against his President, John Adams had Aaron Burr as his running mate. Burr, who had begun building quite the political machine in New York, was very popular(which of course did not last much longer) in a part of the country that Jefferson, a Southern from Virginia, was not. And that was the precipice behind the selection of Aaron Burr. Of course, Burr proceeded to murder a Founding Father, get arrested for treason, divorced by a wife 20 years younger than him for robbing her blind, who was represented by the son of the Founding Father he murdered that was finalized on the day of his death in an obscure boardinghouse on Staten Island, largely forgotten until a Got Milk commercial and Lin-Manuel Miranda reminded everyone of who he was(it’s called Hamilton after all and not Burr).
Anyway. I digress.
More contemporary, the reason of giving your candidacy a geographical balance has also been a quality Presidential nominees have sought after. Particular when it means those electoral votes can be on the line. Hillary Clinton selected Tim Kaine, due in part to this reason. With him, like Jefferson being from Virginia(and both Clinton and Burr were from New York… interesting). That sort of balance also helped Governor Jimmy Carter select Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale as his running mate as well as the two “Boston-Austin” candidacies of Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentson and John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
Another factor that went into Johnson’s nomination was his rather aggressive campaign for the presidency himself in 1960. The Democratic Party thought that uniting the different facets of the party under one ticket would not only send a message of unity, but assure voters that their concerns will be taken into account and excite the base. It was after tough primaries that other candidates also found running mates. reagan selected his running mate, George Bush under such conditions. Although with much less acrimony, John Kerry selected his running mate, John Edwards when he gave a strong showing in the 2004 Democratic Primaries.
However, there were other factors that caused Kerry to pick Edwards as well. Where John Edwards had strengths in foreign policy, legislative and military experience, many questioned his charisma and connection to the base of the Democratic Party, which Edwards successfully campaigned on as Senator and as candidate for president. There have been several nominees that have selected running mates with qualities they either are perceived to lack or outright might be a hindrance. Joe Biden himself was chosen because of the trepidation voters would have voting for Barack Obama with very little legislative and foreign policy experience.
Similarly, George Bush selected Dan Quayle because of the perception of his age being a possible barrier to his candidacy. He choose a candidate who not only was much younger, but Vice President Bush selected Quayle as a barometer of his party’s future. Future Republican Presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney selected Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan respectively, also attempting to buoy their age with the future of the party. However, when a potential nominee is selecting a candidate with youth on their side, the immediate worry is to not simply their lack of experience in government, but concern of their ability to be President of the United States if the time comes.
There was little doubt with Barack Obama that Joe Biden could be president if something were to happen. He had twice run national campaigns and had served in the senate for well over 30 years. Governor Bush selected former White House Chief of State, Minority Whip and Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney as his running mate, someone who he also had confidence in being able to be President if he could not serve. Now, despite inexperience being their impediment, Senator Bob Dole selected Jack Kemp to be his running mate who, like Cheney was a Member of Congress and Cabinet Secretary, but trusted to be able to lead if age were to be an impediment the other way.
Of course the obvious cannot be underscored, the fact that this will only be the third time a woman will be on the ticket for a major party nomination. Sarah Palin of course being the second, but the first was when former Vice President Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, igniting a under represented demographic in each of those elections. However, Biden isn’t simply interested in the diversity of gender, but also the diversity of race is something he’s pledged to factor into his decision in selected a running mate and administration.
So to put it all together, these are the qualities, questions and considerations that Joe Biden is looking at when he chooses his running mate this week.
Will one of these candidates give him a geographic(or demographic) edge? How will the importance of running a national campaign and having a profile help his nomination? How important is it to unite the party and ignite the base? How important is it to find a running mate that can be a trusted advisor and someone you are comfortable with running a campaign with? Does he need a candidate to reflect the future of the party or should he have a candidate that is ready to lead in his stead? Should all of these factors be considered? Is one more consequential than all others?
Will Joe Biden pick his own Joe Biden for himself or will Joe Biden pick history’s next Aaron Burr?