Lobbying to be Biden’s running mate ramps up
Rep. Bass of Calif., ex-national security adviser Rice in mix
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has entered the final stage of his deliberations about choosing a running mate as he prepares to talk one-on-one with the finalists next week, while Democratic leaders lobby him furiously to elevate their allies and sink their enemies.
Biden’s campaign has conducted extensive polling and focus groups with voters on a collection of candidates and weighed an array of factors, such as the impact of the pick in battleground states and whether to choose a Black woman. Aides said the announcement will come the week before the Democratic convention this month.
Two candidates who received scant attention early in the process are among the most formidable contenders: Rep. Karen Bass of California and Susan Rice, the former national security adviser, according to Democratic officials briefed on the selection process. Bass has moved rapidly toward the top of Biden’s list amid an intensive lobbying drive by her fellow House Democrats, including prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Biden is said to be focused on finding a running mate he regards as capable of advancing his priorities in governing and who can be counted on not to stray from the urgent challenges facing the nation to pursue their own political priorities, according to people familiar with his thinking. His advisers would also prefer a running mate who would not present a rich political target for President Donald Trump, given that the incumbent is lagging badly in the polls and has so far struggled to deliver credible negative attacks against Biden.
In conversations with Biden and his vetting committee, lawmakers have recommended Bass as a consensus candidate who is well-liked across partisan and factional lines and would be a loyal lieutenant to him in government.
Bass has reinforced that message by assuring Democratic officials she has no interest in seeking the presidency, according to lawmakers directly familiar with the discussions. That commitment could assuage concerns in the Biden camp that he might be overshadowed by a running mate positioning herself to succeed him.
Bass has also waged a previously undisclosed campaign to woo influential liberal leaders, telephoning union presidents to seek their counsel and support.
“I had a great conversation with Karen Bass,” said Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, adding that Bass had made her interest in the vice presidency clear. “She talked to me about how real it was.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is close with Bass, whom she named to oversee the recent policing reform bill, and has made her admiration clear in private conversations, including with former President Barack Obama.
Pelosi’s aides said she has not conveyed support for any one candidate, is fond of a number of them and, in speaking with Biden’s vetting team last month, urged them to find somebody who could ensure the ticket is victorious.
Two prominent Democrats, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, along with a handful of other women, remain as possibilities; both lawmakers have the statewide political experience and large national followings Bass and Rice lack. Warren has become something of an informal adviser to Biden on economic issues and has won support from her party’s progressive wing, and Harris is regarded as a muscular fundraiser with the backing of important people in the Democratic Party’s donor class.
For some of the long-shot candidates, talk has already turned to other potential roles in a Biden administration: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico has expressed interest in the job of health and human services secretary, according to officials familiar with her thinking.
Among other candidates Biden has looked at closely are Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan; Rep. Val Demings of Florida, who has enlisted her home state’s sizable congressional delegation to make appeals on her behalf; and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is backed by veterans advocates.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois has called Biden’s team to urge them to put Duckworth, a military veteran, on the ticket; and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has shared his high opinion of the combat-wounded Duckworth with the Biden camp, people familiar with the conversations said.
Some contenders have been trying to position themselves in the same fashion as Bass. Harris and Rice have asked senior Democratic officials to make their case to Biden and the vetting committee.
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., left, and former national security adviser Susan Rice are two women receiving strong consideration to be Joe Biden’s running mate in November.