Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.
When it comes to the vice presidency, Joe Biden has a perfect candidate in mind: himself.
Well, if he were Josephine R. Biden Jr., of course.
In comments about his search for a running mate, Mr. Biden has made clear he wants someone with the characteristics that he believes made him the perfect pick for Barack Obama in 2008 — someone who is loyal, is ready to govern “on Day 1” and is, as Mr. Biden has said, “simpatico with me, both in terms of personality as well as substance.”
Of course, self-perception isn’t always accurate. Sure, Mr. Obama wanted someone he could work alongside. And, as his strategist David Axelrod later recounted, early chemistry between the two men helped finalize the selection of Mr. Biden.
But at the start, the Obama-Biden relationship was hardly the bromance immortalized in the Democratic memes that followed. People close to Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign have said they had real concerns about Mr. Biden, most centrally about his ability to stay on message and his propensity for political gaffes.
As the race against John McCain tightened that August, the thinking of those in Mr. Obama’s orbit was that they needed a white man on the ticket, preferably an “older guy” who could reassure voters worried about taking a chance on a young, barrier-breaking senator.
People involved in the process, The New York Times reported in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, attributed Mr. Obama’s decision to Mr. Biden’s appeal among white working-class voters and his compelling personal story. Another plus: At Mr. Biden’s age, then a spry 65 years old, Obama advisers didn’t expect him to run for the presidency (LOL).
“You are the pick of my heart, but Joe is the pick of my head,” Mr. Obama told Tim Kaine, then the governor of Virginia, after he made his choice.
So Mr. Biden’s idealized version of his own vice-presidential process clearly involves a bit of revisionist history.
He has already made at least one politically strategic choice by limiting the candidates to women. Limiting the prospects by gender eliminates a lot of Mr. Biden’s most loyal and presumably “simpatico” allies — a group that largely comprises white men. As one racial justice activist politely put it: “Even his set of relationships, I’m quite sure, are geared toward his world.”
Picking a woman isn’t about personal loyalty; it’s about energizing female voters and recognizing the momentum that women — particularly Black women — have given the Democratic Party during the Trump era.
Given his age, Mr. Biden also needs to reassure voters that there’s someone who can take over if he can no longer serve as president — a reason there aren’t many older women on the list.
I suppose this is a really long way of guiding you, dear readers, through the blizzard of vice-presidential speculation blanketing the political conversation.
Mr. Biden said he would announce his pick in early August, so the forecast this week is for more hot takes, rumors and backbiting. Because the field is all women, there will probably be a touch of sexism in the mix as well, as we’ve already seen in reports detailing largely anonymous concerns from donors who say Kamala Harris is “too ambitious” for the job. (I’ve never met an unambitious politician, but perhaps that’s a subject for a whole other column.)
Don’t get too caught up in the leaks and the counterleaks, the “close Biden allies” and the chattering donors. Sure, picking a running mate is complicated. Sure, personal relationships and trust matter. But you know who doesn’t care about chemistry? Losing presidential candidates.
In the end, there’s one strategic imperative that outweighs all of the others.
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Who’s the ‘pick of your head’?
We asked for your thoughts on the vice-presidential pick. Here’s some of what you had to say:
It should be Kamala Harris for several reasons: 1) She will have Mike Pence crying out for Mommy before the end of the V.P. debate. 2) When attacked by the Republicans for her gaffes as California’s attorney general, she’ll shame them as white nationalists trying to destroy another Black woman. 3) She has a winning smile. Think Reagan. Think W. Think Clinton. Think Obama. 4) Who else has an anagram of her name close to “I Alarm Shark”?
— Tom Woodward
The first — and most important — question the nominee has to ask of her/himself is: “Who would be the best president?” Susan Rice passes that test with all her experience, understanding, temperament and grace. And she’ll adapt easily to campaign mode.
— Tim Hulbert
Tammy Duckworth would be a strong vice-presidential candidate for the following reasons: She has campaign experience. She has congressional experience. She represents a seemingly forgotten constituency: the men and women actually fighting a war that can’t be won and apparently will never end. She juggles daily the responsibilities of motherhood with those of her political career.
— Elisabeth Martensen
And there were at least a few names not on Mr. Biden’s list …
I suggest Condoleezza Rice. As a former secretary of state, she has a strong background in world affairs, speaks Russian and could help repair the damage done by Trump around the world. Although she has not run for office, I think she would be an articulate speaker and candidate. Since she has served a Republican president, I think she would be appealing to the many Republicans like me who will be voting for Joe Biden.
— Irene McAllister
Michelle Obama. She has more experience and ability than all of them, including Biden.
— Jerry McCann
Compiled by Isabella Grullón Paz.
#teamleggings for life. The Washington Post quotes Alexa Muñoz, who is saying goodbye to jeans:
“I haven’t worn a single pair of jeans since the pandemic started,” said Muñoz, 46, a translator in Manhattan. “They’re looking at me sadly from the closet, but it’s like, ‘You know what? I’m not wearing those anymore.’ Why was I punishing myself?”
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