Senator at debate gut-punched Biden, and now she’s his running mate
When the talk at a breakfast fundraiser in Glencoe on March 6 turned to whom Joe Biden would tap as his vice president pick, headliner Jill Biden offered up — and she didn’t have to — that Kamala Harris attacking her husband for his record on race during a presidential primary debate was like a “punch to the gut.”
At that Biden campaign event in the northern suburb, it seemed that Jill Biden was still smoldering over the Harris hit, because while juicy, it didn’t seem judicious for her to comment about Harris that way, especially because the junior senator from California already had quit her presidential bid.
Jill Biden told the donors she was surprised because Harris had a very close “bond” with their late son, Beau. Beau Biden and Harris got to know each other when he was the Delaware attorney general and she was the California attorney general.
Any remaining animus from either Biden against Harris washed away as Biden whittled down his list of potential running mates — including Sen. Tammy Duckworth, DIll. — tapping Harris on Tuesday afternoon.
Harris’ 2020 Democratic presidential nomination run gave her experience that Biden, I’m told, considered important. Biden’s failed 2008 White House primary bid opened the door for former President Barack Obama to make Biden his vice president.
Harris is a historic selection. She is the third female to be on a major-party presidential ticket. The daughter of immigrants — her father is a Black man from Jamaica and her mother from India — Harris is the first Black and first Asian American to be tapped by a major party for the vice president slot.
With her blended background, Harris is referred to most often as Black — the same
as Obama, the son of a Black man from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas. Obama said in a statement, the Harris “life story is one that I and so many others can see ourselves in: a story that says that no matter where you come from, what you look like, how you worship, or who you love, there’s a place for you here.”
Harris is the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, with ex-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., the first.
The most loyal Democrats are Black female voters, and an enormous Black turnout in key swing states is a key to a Biden win. While Biden pledged to pick a woman for his partner — and made no promise regarding race — his list of VP contenders included a string of Black women, highlighting the deep bench.
The Biden/Duckworth VP inside story
Duckworth made it to the final rounds in the Biden selection process, with sources telling me Biden phoned her Tuesday afternoon to let her know she would not be selected.
Duckworth had been undergoing intensive vetting by the Biden team for some three months, meeting multiple times with his four-person selection committee and various top Biden staffers and lawyers. Every aspect of the life of the wounded Iraq War vet went under the microscope.
On Saturday afternoon, Duckworth and Biden talked in an interview that lasted about an hour, sources said. Duckworth has known Biden and Jill Biden for years, especially through their mutual interests in veterans affairs during the Obama administration.
Biden will accept the nomination at the Democratic convention on Thursday, Aug. 20, and Duckworth has a prime speaking slot that night.
On Biden and Harris
We’ll see the new Biden/Harris ticket together Wednesday afternoon from Wilmington, Delaware. In the evening, Biden, 77, and Harris, 55, appear at a virtual grass-roots fundraiser.
Asked about a potential vice presidential pick in Glencoe, Jill Biden said a priority is to find a partner who is “compatible” with shared values, much as the Bidens had with the Obamas. Harris must have passed the chemistry test.
During her presidential run, Harris showed a warm side, some doses of charisma and the ability to deliver a stemwinder, on par with the Obamas.
And like the Obamas, Harris is culturally hip and has her dance moves. Google her playlists.
Harris can appeal to suburban women who gave President Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt in 2016, with the swingstate suburbs contested turf. Take a look at the video she made with actress Mindy Kaling about cooking the Indian dish Masala Dosa.
Sheila Nix to advise Harris team
Former Jill Biden Chief of Staff Sheila Nix, an Oak Park resident, will be a senior adviser to the team the Biden campaign put together to staff Harris.
Nix has been a leader in the Illinois Biden campaign. Nix was Jill Biden’s chief of staff from April 2013 to the last day of the Obama/Biden administration, Jan. 20, 2017.
Jill Biden ASHLEE REZIN GARCIA/ SUN-TIMES FILE
ABOVE: Sen. Kamala Harris with her mother, Shyamala, at a parade in 2007. RIGHT: Harris is held by her father, Donald Harris, in April 1965.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth