Lob­by­ing to be Bi­den’s run­ning mate ramps up

Rep. Bass of Calif., ex-na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Rice in mix

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Jonathan Martin, Alexan­der Burns and Katie Glueck

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.

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