2016 Presidential election. Results by county. Red denotes counties that went to Trump; blue denotes counties that went to Clinton. (Wikipedia)
I recently came across a survey on Democrats.com, in which users were asked to pick their favorite potential candidate for president in 2020. Here was the breakdown:
Joe Biden: 14.8%
Bernie Sanders: 11.44%
Liz Warren: 12.81%
Cory Booker: 10.16%
Kamala Harris: 9.48%
Kirsten Gillibrand: 6.7%
Andrew Cuomo: 4.57%
Eric Holder: 5.6%
Julian Castro: 4.31%
Amy Klobuchar: 4.41%
Opra Winfrey: 3.54%
John Hickenlooper: 3.26%
Deval Patrick: 3.08%
Eric Garcetti: 2.32%
Donald Trump: 0.88%
Along with 14.8% of the participating online community who took the poll, I voted for Biden. In many ways, Joe Biden is the antithesis of Donald Trump. Biden is strong, steady, seasoned, moral, and a tried and true public servant. Biden is “Uncle Joe” and a friend of women. Biden is working class and the father of a fallen Marine. Biden is the real deal.
For myself, as for 14.8% of the survey takers, the real question is who Biden will tap as his running mate. Likely it will be one of the names listed in this survey. But which one? How will he choose from such a disparate group?
Obviously the most important factor is the electoral map in 2016. Democrats are painfully aware that Trump took Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan. At the end of that contest, Trump held 77 more Electoral College votes than Hillary Clinton. Since it came down to razor thin margins in some of these states, common sense dictates that the Democratic VP in 2020 will be someone who can help Biden win in those places.
Truth be told, Biden could likely reclaim all five states on the sheer force of his personality, credentials in Washington, help from the Obamas, and his ability to speak directly to the needs of working class people. It may not matter who he selects, but he needs to pick someone.
Let’s start with Bernie Sanders. If Clinton would have teamed up with Sanders in 2016 she would have won the election. But this will be Bernie’s second go around. The same criticisms thrown at him in 2016 will be recycled in 2020: he is too old, too cantankerous, and too Socialist. Moreover, as a Senator from Vermont he does not bring a swing state to the table.
Elizabeth Warren is smart and capable; she has also been a fiercely consistent opponent of Trump. But Warren has become a very polarizing figure with significant drawbacks. It is true that as a woman VP she would be a historic selection, but as a Massachusetts liberal, Warren will not bring ideological diversity to a Biden ticket.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has been a rising star of the Democratic Party for the past decade or so. The only question is whether Biden would get along with him. Based on his close relationship with President Obama, Biden will look for someone who can offer honest advice and tough criticism when needed. Frankly, Biden will be looking for a VP who is a lot like himself. Is that Booker?
As an African-American woman and Senator from California, Kamala Harris would be historic on two fronts. As was on display during the Kavanaugh hearings, she is a skilled prosecutor and authentic social justice crusader. Harris is another rising star in the party who is destined to be on someone’s ticket in the future.
Kirsten Gillibrand is also extremely talented. But like Warren she will be tagged as an extreme liberal and fails to deliver a swing state. I do see her popularity growing, but it is not all together clear that she would want to be a VP rather than a New York Senator.
Garcetti, Klobuchar, and Patrick are all formidable; and they all appeal to significant voting blocs in this country. But all three lack name recognition. From this group, Klobuchar’s profile is the one which is increasing the fastest. I could see her being very valuable in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin.
I think we can rule out Oprah on the grounds that she does not want to be in politics. At least that is what she has declared recently.
How about Julian Castro? Could he deliver Texas? If so, that’s 38 electoral votes right there. If Castro can swing Texas, the Democrats are half way to the White House. What if Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and HUD Secretary in the Obama Administration, could mobilize Hispanics to vote all over the country? Running on a pro immigrant platform, Biden and Castro could possibly sweep Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona. What if Castro tips the scales in Florida? It is hard to deny his upside.
The same can be said of the charismatic Beta O’Rourke. The Congressman from El Paso ran an electric Senate campaign against Ted Cruz, almost defeating the incumbent and turning a deep red state blue. If he plays his cards right, there is no denying that he makes an exceptionally intriguing choice for VP.
The other possibilities are attractive options for different reasons. Yet none of them compare with Warren, Booker, Harris, Gillibrand, Castro, Cruz, and O’Rourke. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not nearly as popular in the rest of the country as he is in New York State. (And in New York State his popularity is segmented and mainly concentrated in NYC.)
Hickenlooper has very little name recognition beyond the Rockies. The nation may be in the mood for a bipartisan ticket, but as a Republican he can’t even guarantee a swing state. Not to mention, paired with Biden, it would be one of the least diverse tickets the DNC could assemble.
Holder is capable enough, but I think he is too controversial and tied to Obama. Nor does he have governing experience. Although Biden may trust him personally — and a strong endorsement from his former boss could go a long way — I don’t see Holder in that role.
If I had to make a prediction today, I would say that Biden and Booker would be the DNC’s most potent combination. That ticket has a nice ring to it. It’s energy and wisdom; it’s the white rural working class coming together with the black urban middle class. Both can speak directly to the needs of the working poor in a way that transcends racial and class barriers. Whereas Biden could focus on foreign policy, Booker could focus on domestic issues such as infrastructure, healthcare, student loan debt, and immigration.
Furthermore, Booker brings intellect, perspective, courage, and vitality to every discussion and task. In 2020, Booker would make a clear difference in North Carolina and Georgia, and he would certainly galvanize black voters everywhere. Simply put, states that went red in 2016 would turn blue in 2020 because of the brilliance and bravado of a Biden and Booker team. They certainly would have my vote.
Needless to say, so many questions remain. Who will President Obama endorse? Who has the most useful experience in Washington? Who would expand DNC’s base? And what will Hillary Clinton do? Would she have the audacity to run again? Who would tell her not to and would she listen to them if they did? Is it possible that she could run as a VP with Biden?
One thing is for sure, 2020 is shaping up to be one of the most interesting and consequential elections in American history. Who the Democrats get behind could determine the fate of the party and nation forever.