Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is poised to formally kick off his vice president search this week, with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., among those mentioned as a potential contender.
Biden has already promised to pick a female running mate, and while on the “The Late Late Show with James Corden” recently, he said his panel of advisers to vet prospects should be in place by May 1.
He added that up to five potential picks will be given screening interviews by his aides. The former vice president said he wanted the field narrowed to two or three finalists by July.
Biden, familiar with the vice presidential screening process – he obviously made all the cuts to end up running with Barack Obama – told Corden that most important is that when his selection is announced, “The public would look at that person and say, ‘She is capable of being president of the United States tomorrow.’”
He also shared the advice ex-President Obama gave him: “Pick someone who has some background or some competence that may not be your strong point; make sure that you are able to make up for each others weaknesses.”
Unfortunately, only two women in U.S. history have been major-party candidates for vice president: in 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale tapped Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York and in 2008 Republican Sen. John McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
In another time and place, female CEOs or others with vast accomplishments might be worth considering; the COVID-19 pandemic presents the next president with enormous challenges. It’s not time to run someone with no governing experience.
And with that, let’s look at 11 women Biden may be considering.
The governors: Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Whitmer is the one to watch since she has taken on a high profile as Michigan battles the COVID-19 pandemic. President Donald Trump tried to minimize her ascent, calling her “The Woman from Michigan.”
The senators who ran for president: Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California.
All of them have an advantage because they have, to a degree, been vetted during their presidential campaigns.
Harris is the most prominent African American of the 11.
Representative: Val Deming of Florida. Deming is best known for her role as one of Trump’s House Impeachment prosecutors.
Other: Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia in 2018 who now runs a voting rights group, Fair Fight 2020. She has never won major elected office nor run a major organization outside of her nonprofit. She is a former Georgia State House Minority Leader.
Other senators: Duckworth; Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
In handicapping stories, the Washington Post listed Duckworth 8th on their list, and in CNN’s weekly rankings, Duckworth has been 6th and 7th dropping to 8th last week. I’d rank Harris and Whitmer one and two with Duckworth several notches lower. She is in play but a long shot.
I talked to political operatives about how Biden’s team might analyze Duckworth as a potential vice presidential pick. Here’s what they said:
No one defines Biden’s central message – the U.S. can get through these difficult coronavirus outbreak times – as much as Iraq War vet Duckworth, who lost both legs and partial use of an arm when her helicopter was shot down. She personifies perseverance.
She knows the military – as an officer and former Veterans Administration official.
Her economic biography – coming from a family so poor they relied on food stamps – gives her a high empathy factor for what the nation is going through.
She is also an Asian American, with Biden under some pressure to pick a running mate of color. Duckworth also takes shots at President Donald Trump with some gusto, jabbing him for his bone spurs draft deferment.
She is also the first senator to give birth while in office. Duckworth used a baby blanket to make a homemade face mask.
Duckworth, who also served in the House, is of modest means; there are no complex finances to vet.
She has a relationship with Biden; in 2008, she introduced his late son, Beau, at the Democratic National Convention.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has been through the vetting process with Obama. In 2008, he told me in a recent interview, “with legal pads on our laps, going through a list of names and I’d say ‘so and so’ and he’d say ‘does not fit.’’
“I think Joe Biden is looking for the person who really fits his view of the world and his personal approach to politics,” Durbin said. As for Duckworth, “If you’re asking me whether she would be a good choice, the answer is yes.”