Earlier this week, Joe Biden was asked whether the death of George Floyd, and the protests that have arisen in its wake, have had any impact on his thinking about who he might pick as his vice presidential nominee.
“They haven’t, except it’s put a greater focus and urgency on the need to get someone who is totally simpatico with where I am,” he said.
Don’t believe him. While Biden was, without doubt, considering several African American women as VP options, it’s virtually impossible to look at what has happened in the country over the past few weeks (as well as Biden’s past record on policing) and conclude anything other than that it is far more likely he picks a black woman as his vice presidential nominee today than it was on, say, May 11.
Is it possible that Biden doesn’t go in that direction? Sure. I could see, for example, him picking someone like New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, one of the highest ranking Latina elected leaders in the country.
But the odds that he picks someone other than an African American woman are less than 50-50 — at least at this point. Below, my rankings of the 10 women most likely to wind up as the VP pick. (And here are last week’s for reference!)
These rankings change weekly, so if your favorite isn’t ranked where she should be — or isn’t even on the list — there’s always next week. Necessary Michelle Obama caveat: The former first lady is not on this list because she has never indicated an interest in being a politician. If she does so, she would immediately jump to the top of these rankings.
Why Abrams, then? Because she has been and will continue to be a major voice — in Georgia and beyond it — about voter suppression efforts, which will be a MAJOR issue in 2020. (Previous ranking: 7)
9. Amy Klobuchar: The Minnesota senator’s stock in the veepstakes continues to trend downward as she got caught up — somewhat unfairly — in the criticism of the Minneapolis Police Department following Floyd’s death. But it’s shined a spotlight on her record as the top prosecutor in Minneapolis prior to coming to the Senate and led to liberals labeling her as part of the problem, not the solution. (Previous ranking: 9)
8. Gina Raimondo: The governor of the smallest state in the county (by land mass) gets less VP buzz than almost anyone on this list (although George F. Will is a fan). But here’s why to keep an eye on Raimondo: She’s got the sort of centrist approach to politics that appeals to Biden and she is a no-nonsense chief executive who has generally distinguished herself in her state’s fight against coronavirus. (Raimondo had a small slip-up early this week when she appeared in public without a mask.) (Previous ranking: 10)
7. Tammy Duckworth: I’ve slated the Illinois senator as my dark-horse choice to be Biden’s VP from the start of this process and I still think it could happen. Duckworth has been one of the most active senators at seeking to pass major police reform in the wake of Floyd’s death. And her background — helicopter pilot in Iraq, grievously injured after being shot down, the first senator to give birth while in office — is deeply compelling. (Previous ranking: 8)
6. Susan Rice: Biden’s interest in and focus on relevant experience in picking a VP seems ready-made for Rice, a former national security adviser and US ambassador to the United Nations.
But Rice’s association with Benghazi and Michael Flynn is weighty baggage that Biden and his team may not be willing to take on. (Previous ranking: 6)
5. Elizabeth Warren: Warren, who was all the rage as a VP choice just a few months ago, has receded somewhat as first coronavirus and then protests over police brutality have taken center stage. And reading between the lines of Biden’s repeated emphasis of needing a nominee who is “totally simpatico” with him feels to me like a major problem for the Massachusetts senator, who was vocally to Biden’s left during the primary fight. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Michelle Lujan Grisham: Given the current dynamics in the Democratic Party (and the country), if Biden doesn’t pick a black woman it makes the most sense for him to go with a Latina. And Lujan Grisham is, without question, the leading Latina on his list. She joined Biden (and James Taylor!) for a virtual fundraiser on Wednesday night in which she said this of the country: “They’re looking for a leader who’s going to get them to believe that hope is present in every single action we take.” (Previous ranking: 5)
3. Val Demings: The Florida congresswoman has previously confirmed that she is being vetted by the Biden team — and there’s no question her stock is rising at the moment too. As a former sheriff of Orlando, Demings’ voice on the necessity of police reform is powerful and important — and she has spoken convincingly about it during national TV appearances of late. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Keisha Lance Bottoms: The voting problems in Georgia’s primary this week put the Atlanta mayor, again, in the national spotlight. “I think the layers of voter suppression and the breakdown in our election system in Georgia run very deep,” she told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. And KLB spoke emotionally about her experience raising black sons in America in an interview with Axios, a personal experience with tremendous resonance at this moment in our history. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Kamala Harris: The most prominent African American woman in the Senate, who also happens to be from a massive Democratic state (in terms of votes and money) and who has spoken out passionately about Floyd’s death and the need to reform law enforcement? Harris is a no-brainer top choice. (Previous ranking: 1)