Now that Joe Biden has officially announced his candidacy, it is time to point out the obvious.
There are twenty or so announced Democrat candidates running for president — except they are not. Some know they can’t win and, among them, they have ulterior motives. Running for vice president is first among them.
There are five reasons to run for president: 1) to become president, 2) to raise your profile, 3) to champion an issue, and/or 4) to satisfy your ego. Of course, there is also the large motivation of becoming vice president.
As I have written before, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is likely to win the nomination and Joe Biden is likely to fade in the polls. Even if that is not the case, they are the two strongest contenders. Many of the other candidates are not. That begs the question, who among them are legitimate vice-presidential candidates?
As we consider that question, we would do well to remember that the choice of vice-presidential running mates historically had been made to balance a party’s ticket. Decades ago, balancing was a regional consideration. So, General Dwight Eisenhower, who spent his post-WWII time in Washington, picked Californian Richard Nixon. Northeasterner John F. Kennedy picked Texan Lyndon Johnson to great effect.
Recently, with the internet and mass media creating a smaller country and making all things national, the territorial issue appears not to be as paramount. So, Barack Obama balanced his youth with Joe Biden. George W. Bush and Donald Trump chose candidates with greater political experience, Washington ties or ideological appeal or all those things.
So where does that leave the 2020 Democrats? It depends.
If we engage in identity politics among Democrats, if Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden win the nomination, their balancing act will require three considerations: age, gender and race. Sanders will be 78 next September; Biden will be two weeks shy of 78. Both, ironically, are white males.
To balance that, you can expect both of them to pick a woman of a younger age. Of those running, moving West to East, that means Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Marianne Williamson (look her up), Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Of those, the one currently generating the most interest is Kamala Harris. She fundraises well, comes from a big state and is a woman of color. However, she is not as moderate as Amy Klobuchar and California is in the bag for the Democrats already. If both Bernie and Biden want to balance the ticket with someone from the middle of the country and ideologically Amy Klobuchar could be their choice.
What happens if Kamala Harris wins the nomination? Well, Bernie and Biden are out. Joe Biden wouldn’t want VP again and Bernie never wanted it. Would Harris want an all-female ticket? She is a bit of a risk taker so the answer could well be yes. She would need what Amy Klobuchar could deliver.
If Amy Klobuchar won, she would need gravitas. None of the other VP eligible Democrats running for president can give her that. If Klobuchar somehow emerges from the field (and would need a big showing in Iowa, which is possible given she is from Minnesota and her more moderate views), look for her to go outside the existing list of Democrat candidates in favor of someone from Washington.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg you say? If he won, he would need Democrat experience from Washington. He is likely not VP material, however, because he comes from a state he more than likely cannot deliver and he has very limited political experience. On the other hand, Beto O’Rourke was an internet sensation in 2018 and Buttigieg may be the same in 2020.
Beto? So far, he not only trails Bernie and Biden but also Harris and now Mayor Pete. His inexperience is showing on the national stage and Mayor Pete is 2020’s version of Beto. If somehow Beto did win, given who he is, there is no doubt he could want a woman on his ticket. See above for Harris and Klobuchar.
Could Beto be a VP candidate? Some say he could put Texas in play if not bring it to the Democrats. That polling would have to be pretty compelling in June of 2020 for Beto to be picked by Harris or Klobuchar — both of whom could benefit from a more seasoned running mate.
The only other possible choice among the current field would be Julian Castro, the former Obama Cabinet member. His fundraising numbers so far have been among the weakest — but, he hails from San Antonio (where he was mayor) and is Latino. He is far left and supports impeachment hearings. That means there are strong pros and cons about him for anyone to consider for the VP slot.
As for the rest, they are very long shots either to win or to be VP. None are national names other than Warren, and she likely doesn’t poll well at this point. None are fundraising machines either.
So there you have it. Almost all of them are off and running for vice president, only they are not — yet.