Biden podcast with Whitmer sparks running mate speculation

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s praise of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is stoking more speculation that her star’s rising as the all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee begins the process of choosing a running mate.

“Gov. Whitmer is an outstanding governor. She is one of the most talented people in the country in my view,” Biden said Monday as he introduced the governor on the second edition of his newly launched podcast series. “She also is a supporter. She was also a co-chair of my campaign. She’s a good friend, but she has been laser-focused, laser-focused on delivering for her state.”

BIDEN TELLS SANDERS THAT HE'S MOVING AHEAD WITH THE VP SEARCH

“Governor, I paid close attention to your leadership in Michigan from the time you got elected while you were campaigning and particularly with this past week. And it's impressed me, as both impressive and important your leadership has been,” Biden added.

And taking aim at President Trump’s handing of the federal response to the crisis, Biden said “I think our listeners would benefit from hearing about what governors are doing to combat the Coronavirus in the absence of presidential leadership.”

Michigan’s been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak -- and as Whitmer’s steered her state’s response to the pandemic, she’s made national headlines.

As a frequent guest in recent weeks on the cable news networks and other national TV, Whitmer joined other governors in repeatedly criticizing the federal government’s response to the crisis and its assistance to the states.

THE LATEST FROM FOX NEWS ON THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Trump fired back, calling the governor “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer” in a tweet and saying that she was “way over her head’ and “doesn’t have a clue” on how to combat the pandemic. At a recent White House briefing, Trump said that he had told Vice President Mike Pence – who’s steering the administration’s pandemic response -- not to call “the woman in Michigan.”

Biden, in the podcast, said that “a lot governors Democrat and Republican have not been getting what they expect from Washington DC and the leadership from Washington, I found it very offensive when the president lashed out at you.”

Whitmer told the former vice president that “you would expect to be able to call your partners in the federal government no matter what party they're in, we're all Americans and all Americans are being impacted by COVID-19 and, and get some help.”

Republicans – who’ve argued that Whitmer’s politicizing the coronavirus crisis – pointed to the podcast as the more evidence that the governor is “auditioning” to be Biden’s running mate.

“It's obvious Democrat Gretchen Whitmer has been focused more on VP auditioning than her job,” Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel wrote on Twitter.

“Case in point: Biden's campaign just posted a podcast with Whitmer interviewing Biden about snacks. Seriously,” added the chair, who’s a Michigan resident.

The 48-year-old Whitmer, a longtime state lawmaker who became Michigan’s first Democratic state Senate leader, was elected governor in 2018. Earlier this year, she was selected to give the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union Address.

The governor endorsed Biden five days before Michigan’s March 10 primary and spent campaigned with the former vice president in the days before the contest, which Biden won convincingly over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 17 percentage points.

Biden’s said he plans to name a woman as his running mate if he wins the nomination and recently shared that here are between six and 10 current contenders he’s considering. He added that he started considering Whitmer as a potential vice presidential nominee about two months ago.

A Democratic source close to Biden told Fox News Whitmer was chosen as a guest for the podcast because “she’s on the frontlines” in the battle against the coronavirus outbreak.