Restart: Biden Vice-Presidential Pick Do-Over - "The Sunday Political Brunch" June 14, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Last month I wrote two successive columns on who Democratic nominee Joe Biden might pick as his vice-presidential running mate. So many things have happened, and so many things have changed. Politics is often shaped by unplanned or unforeseen events such as Covid-19 and George Floyd. All of the sudden the political calculus has changed a lot. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!” – During one of the debates in the waning stage of the campaign, Joe Biden pledged to pick a female running mate. It was a bold move, especially considering how many women were on the debate stage this year. But when George Floyd died at the hands of police, that put even more pressure on Biden to not only pick a woman, but a woman of color. I’m now convinced he will do just that.

“Minnesota Minimizes” – For the past year I have been touting (not endorsing) Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, as the likely VP choice. Suddenly her viability has hit a brick-wall, dead-end. Klobuchar was Hennepin County District Attorney in 2006, when Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin and three fellow officers killed a suspect. While the case was pending, Klobuchar was elected to the U.S Senate. Her successor and a grand jury decided not to prosecute Chauvin and the other officers. The problem for Klobuchar is that she now tangentially linked to the George Floyd case, because Officer Chauvin is charged in Floyd’s death, making her potential running mate status radioactive. Is that fair? Of course not, but in a political sense she is damaged goods. She’s out.

“The Talent Pool” – In my White House Patch columns on May 3 and May 10, I profiled 14 women whom I was handicapping as potential Biden running mates. Eight of them are women of color. So, the nominee has plenty of talent to choose from. Here are links if you’d like to review: https://patch.com/us/white-house/so-who-does-biden-pick-vp and https://patch.com/us/white-house/chapter-two-so-who-does-biden-pick-vp.

“The Final Four” – As mentioned I profiled eight women of color in those columns, but at this point I believe only four are viable and under serious consideration. They are Rep. Val Demings (D) Florida, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) Atlanta, Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, (D) Michigan is the only white candidate still viable.

“California Dreamin’” – I’ve known Kamala Harris many years, from her days as San Francisco District Attorney beginning in 2004. She’s smart, charming, brash and gusty. She did the rare thing of challenging an incumbent in her own party and beating him. Harris is of mixed ethnicity as her mom was Indian and her father Jamaican. She was tough as California Attorney General at times, but some say too harsh on African Americans. That doesn’t help in a year where aggressive law enforcement is suddenly a big issue. California is more than likely to back Biden, no matter who he picks. Harris is still in the running, but I don’t think she is the first choice.

“Bottoms Up!” – So many people are pushing Stacey Abrams, who lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, that a fellow Georgian is getting overlooked. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) Atlanta, has run one of America’s biggest cities, one with a history of both racial divisions and racial healing. She was on the city council for eight years and has served as mayor for two. She and her husband could not conceive children, so they adopted four kids. She’s the daughter of the renown, late R&B singer Major Lance. Both she and her husband are accomplished lawyers. In short, she has chops, but she also has a backstory (including some trouble with campaign contributions). At 50, she is the youngest of my “Final Four” so her day may come down the road. But, keep an eye on this political rising star.

“Demings Rising” – I have my top-two picks. One of them is Rep. Val Demings (D) Florida. Yes, she’s only been in Congress four years, but before that she had a 27-year career as a police officer, ending up as Chief of Police in Orlando, Florida. Law enforcement is suddenly one of the top-three issues this year, and she’s an expert. Her husband Jerry Demings is also a career law enforcement officer and is now Mayor of Orange County, Florida. He was also Chief of Police in Orlando and later Orange County Sheriff. While in Congress, Val Demings was one of the seven House Impeachment Managers in the impeachment for President Trump. She could also help bring Florida back into the Democratic camp, and if they take Florida on Election Day, the race is over for President Trump. She’s a big-time contender here.

“Wanna Obama?” - I was on the Ronn Owens show on KGO Radio 810-AM in San Francisco this week. I shocked my old pal Ronn, when I predicted Biden was going to pick Michelle Obama as his running mate. He was stunned because just six weeks ago I had written off that notion as a gimmick. While she’s never been elected to anything, eight years as first lady is a real training ground. You get to see everything and be a part of a lot of decisions. Plus, when you are an Ivy League educated corporate lawyer, you’re not just window dressing. Some first ladies like Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton were very hands on. Others like Laura Bush and Roslyn Carter were more low-key, but you can bet they were in the loop and influential. The Obama-Biden bumper sticker worked, so why not Biden-Obama?

“My Logic?” – In my column from last week, I talked about how African American voter turnout plummeted in Wisconsin and Michigan by 12 percent from Barack Obama in 2012 to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Detroit alone, black voter turnout dropped by nearly 50,000 votes, and Trump won Michigan by a mere 11,000 votes. If the African American vote leaps back up in 2020, Biden can win those states and others with Mrs. Obama on the ticket. She’s the only candidate of my “Final Four” who has nationwide appeal and can help in multiple states. The others may help in their own state, but where do they add value beyond their borders? Right now, Michelle Obama is my prediction, with Val Demings still with a strong shot!

Who would you like to see Joe Biden pick for vice-president? Click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: PBS.org

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