Here’s who’s most likely in the running to be Joe Biden’s VP


AP Photo/File, Richard Drew

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gestures during a foreign policy statement in New York.

This November, we know the Democratic Party’s candidate is Joe Biden. But the other name on the ticket? Anybody’s guess.

Biden said he’ll pick a woman in this year’s so-called “veepstakes.” His campaign says they’ve formed a selection committee, meaning the vetting process may have already started.

“The presidential candidate is going to look for different kinds of balance,” said Chris Bury, professor and senior journalist in residence at DePaul University. “Geographic balance, ethnic balance and ideological balance.”

Bury said for Biden, a candidate who provides ideological balance — one whose politics align with the farther-left progressive wing — is the least important of the three.

“We have to look at what he’s said himself,” Bury said. “And the words he used was, he wanted somebody who was ‘simpatico.’”

Perhaps one of the biggest factors in the selection process will be age. At 77, Joe Biden would be the oldest person elected president. Bury echoed that concern, saying he thinks the Biden campaign will try to avoid having a ticket with two people over 70. The previous record-holder is Donald Trump, elected at 70 years old.

Speculation on who’s in the mix has run rampant in recent weeks, with about 10 names garnering most of the attention. Below, you’ll find a summary of each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses as Joe Biden’s running mate.

Stacey Abrams

The former Georgia gubernatorial candidate now finds herself in the thick of the VP conversation — a fact she embraces.

“She has been actively pursuing the vice presidential pick, which may be a big mistake on her part,” Bury said.

Abrams has pushed back on this notion recently, telling “The View” co-hosts that she’s learned she has to speak up for herself to be recognized.

“Sometimes the work needs a hype man,” she said.

During her time in the Georgia legislature, Abrams worked with Republicans to save the state’s popular HOPE scholarship program. She also thwarted what some consider the largest proposed tax increase in Georgia’s history.

Abrams would represent both a progressive policy advocate and a voice of color in the nation’s second-highest office. Considering Biden’s age, the fact that Abrams is only 46 also plays into her favor; she is the youngest person under serious consideration.

Experience may prove a weak point, however, she’s never won a national or statewide office. Her only legislative work came from a 10-year stint in Georgia’s House of Representatives, where she served as minority leader from 2011 to 2017.

Some argue the political geography works against Abrams.

“As a practical matter, the best VP choice is a candidate in a state that the Democratic candidate has a shot of winning,” said DePaul political science professor Wayne Steger in an email interview. “Even with Abrams on the ticket, [Georgia] is a long shot for Biden.”

Perhaps her greatest vulnerabilities are the areas where President Trump could attack her most viciously.

“I think there’s some concern among Democrats that Trump would be able to portray her as a loser, because she lost the gubernatorial race,” Bury said. “My sense is, she’s not going to get up there in the top two or three choices.”

Tammy Baldwin

The 58-year-old senator from Wisconsin hasn’t attracted the same attention as some other names, but that could be a mistake. Her home turf figures to be prime electoral real estate once again.

“The strategy is going to be to win the midwestern battle states, the three states that Trump won: Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Bury said. 

And of those three, Wisconsin could prove the most crucial, according to Steger.

“From the standpoint of making a difference in the election… Baldwin may add the most, since Trump very likely cannot win without Wisconsin,” he said.

She can boast a formidable legislative portfolio, too. Baldwin has co-sponsored numerous gun control bills, legislation opposing privatizing the postal service, and the Reward Work Act, a labor rights bill.

If selected, Baldwin would be the first openly gay vice president — a potentially valuable point of diversity for the Biden ticket. And when judging by experience and readiness to serve, Steger said Baldwin lands in the top tier of candidates.

Her level of name recognition, however, lags behind others in the running.

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Bottoms, 50, the mayor of Atlanta, has vaulted into the conversation after criticizing Georgia governor Brian Kemp’s decision to lift restrictions on parts of the state’s economy.

She could have Biden’s ear, as well, since she’s campaigned for him longer than anyone else on this list — endorsing his campaign last June. 

“She’s done a strong job as mayor of Atlanta, and she’s very respected in her city,” Bury said.

Bottoms established the city’s first Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. She has maintained a policy of not cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying Atlanta is a “welcoming city.”

But even with her recent rise in prominence, “KLB” hasn’t hit that all-important critical mass of name recognition. And because she’s never held national office, picking her as a running mate could be risky for Biden.

“She hasn’t been nationally vetted, and she doesn’t really bring the state,” Bury said. “I don’t think Biden, even on a really good day, is going to win Georgia.”

Catherine Cortez Masto

The senior senator from Nevada would be the first Latina on a presidential ticket if chosen — a fact that could look appealing, considering the Hispanic population’s rapid growth.

“Unfortunately, the actual voting numbers of Hispanics are very low compared to other ethnic groups, so the turnout is always an issue,” Bury said.

The 56-year-old Cortez Masto would likely not bring a state into the fold for Biden, since Nevada has gone to the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 2008. She’s also served a relatively short Senate tenure, still in just her first term.

Steger said this shows Cortez Masto isn’t experienced enough to merit serious consideration, adding that she has “almost no name recognition.”

But she might have already earned the favor of the top name on the ticket.

“Newsweek reported that Biden told Harry Reid that she was one of his top three picks,” Bury said. “I found that very interesting if that turns out to be true.”

Cortez Masto cosponsored the 2017 Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, a bill banning bump stocks in response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas that year. In 2018, she cosponsored the STATES Act, a marijuana decriminalization bill.

Val Demings

Demings could have Trump to thank — at least indirectly — for her newfound elevation. That’s because she served as one of the House of Representatives’ impeachment managers during the President’s impeachment trial this year.

“She did a very good job, received a lot of prominence during the House impeachment hearings,” Bury said.

In response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting of 2018, Demings announced her opposition to proposals that would arm teachers with guns. She was a vocal supporter of the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act.

Demings, who turned 63 last month, hails from the crucial battleground state of Florida. The real question is whether she truly holds sway in the state.

 “She represents one congressional district in Florida,” Bury said. “Not sure she has enough to carry the whole state.”

Steger sees her as a less-likely candidate, too.

“Trump could not win the election if Biden wins Florida,” he said. “But Demmings isn’t even well known in Florida, though it might help a little.”

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth, 52-year-old Illinois senator, would bring loads of political capital to the Biden ticket. The former Army lieutenant colonel has already made history as the first sitting United States senator to give birth.

“She has a compelling story. Lost her limbs as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, decorated veteran, Asian American,” Bury said, noting her prospects as a V.P. candidate. 

They do, however, suffer from three downsides. 

“One, she’s from Illinois, one of the bluest states in the country. So in terms of the map, she doesn’t really bring anything to Biden,” he said.

The second downside Bury sees with her is one shared by several other names in the mix: the general public, nationally, just isn’t very familiar with her.

“And number three, she’s not the most dynamic and articulate person on the campaign trail,” he said. “She’s very solid, but you wouldn’t say she has a lot of charisma at all.”

Bury added that Duckworth actually lost an early run for Congress, a race many thought she should have won easily.

Duckworth sponsored two bills in 2019 aimed at drinking water contamination, and she regularly proposes legislation affecting veterans and the disabled community.

Kamala Harris

Harris, 55, has been a well-known figure for a few years. She gained substantial attention while questioning Trump administration nominees.

Steger and Bury both rank the former attorney general among the highest on this list in experience and name recognition. Harris has served in both legislative and executive roles.

She’s cosponsored several bipartisan bills, including a bail reform bill with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and the unanimously-passed Justice for Victims of Lynching Act.

An early frontrunner in the race for the presidential nomination, Harris has the benefit of having already gone through a national vetting process. And Bury says interpersonal compatibility — one of Biden’s most prioritized qualities in a running mate — stands as one of Harris’s biggest strengths.

“They have to have a personality melding of sorts […] the same way that Joe Biden melded very well with Barack Obama,” Bury said. “My sense is Biden is looking for that same person, someone that he can really meld with.”

Some have pointed to her “tough on crime” record as attorney general in California as a potential weak spot, with more Democrats favoring less punitive measures.

“And Harris, don’t forget — in that first debate, she really laid a blow on Joe Biden when she castigated him for his support of school busing backing the 1970s,” Bury said. “I’m not sure the people around Biden have forgiven or forgotten that.”

Amy Klobuchar

Rumored to be in the highest tier of the veepstakes along with Harris, Klobuchar recently appeared on Joe Biden’s podcast, where he gave the 59-year-old senator credit for his Super Tuesday win in Minnesota. And since Minnesota is considered a key state in the race to the White House, Klobuchar’s potential effect on the electoral map could make her an attractive addition to the ticket.

She passed more legislation than any other senator in the 114th Congress, running from January 2015 to January 2017. Quick to work across the aisle, Klobuchar has achieved historic success rates, either sponsoring or cosponsoring 131 pieces of enacted legislation.

Klobuchar has another leg up on much of the competition: her candidacy for the presidential nomination means she, too, has undergone the valuable national vetting process.

Bury agreed with the widespread belief that Klobuchar is likely in the top two.

“If I have to choose right now — and I have no idea who he’s going to choose — my guess is that Sen. Amy Klobuchar is the most likely choice for him,” he said.

Susan Rice

Rice, age 55, served as the National Security Advisor under Barack Obama, so while she does have experience at the highest levels of government, she’s never held elected office.

Steger pointed to that fact, as well as Rice’s lack of campaign experience, as major drawbacks for her viability as a running mate.

Bury believes Rice has an even taller hurdle to clear.

“Susan Rice is formidable — she’s very respected in foreign policy,” he said. “But she’s got one big problem, and it boils down to one word: Benghazi.”

The September 11, 2012 attack on the Libyan embassy resulted in four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Investigations found no criminal wrongdoing by either Rice or then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Rice’s chances at being named Biden’s running mate suffer from another problem: her strengths don’t exactly shore up any of Biden’s weak areas.

“She’s got strong foreign policy chops, but so does Joe Biden. In fact, he was chosen by Obama largely because of his foreign policy expertise,” Bury said. “I think Susan Rice is a real longshot.”

Elizabeth Warren

Thanks to her long run in the presidential primary race, Warren has been a fixture in the political spotlight as long as anyone on this list. She’s also been nationally vetted, and she represents a successful fundraising base.

Warren has long been an advocate for consumer interests in banking – to that end, she introduced the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act in 2015. Last year, she introduced legislation that would expand food stamp eligibility for low-income college students.

“I know the progressive wing of the Democratic party would very much like to see Warren, but I think she’s got some significant drawbacks,” Bury said. “One, she’s already been pilloried by Donald Trump, called Pocahontas. I think that’s going to come back again.”

Still, she’s kept herself in the conversation, drawing attention for giving a point-blank “Yes” when Rachel Maddow asked if she’d accept Biden’s VP spot.

Warren’s age, though, could be her greatest disadvantage: Biden is 77, and she will be 71 this June.

“I think because of Biden’s age, Warren gets disqualified,” Bury said.

Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has commanded more media attention than most of the other candidates on this list, due to the severe coronavirus outbreak in her state. Part of that has also resulted in President Trump attacking her.

“She’s got good poll ratings in Michigan, and Michigan is one of the six battleground states that are going to be absolutely critical,” Bury said. “On the other hand, she’s a first term governor, and has not been nationally vetted.”

Whitmer does have age on her side, though. At 48, she’s the second-youngest candidate in the mix. She also made an appearance on Joe Biden’s podcast on April 3. Biden said of Whitmer, “She is one of the most talented people in the country, in my view.”

She has proposed offering two years of free college or trade-based training to all high school students, and supports expanding Medicaid.

Ultimately, however, Whitmer lacks the robust national stature Biden will want, Bury said.