Sunday, March 01, 2020

Who Will/Should Be the Democratic VP Nominee?

With Joe Biden's resounding victory in South Carolina, political observers can spend a few more days pretending like this primary field is anybody's ballgame before Super Tuesday re-confirms that Bernie Sanders will be the Democratic nominee. So in this narrow window of faux-potentiality, why not ask the question: Who will each Democratic contender nominate as their VP? And who should be their nominee?

Bernie Sanders
Who it will be: Elizabeth Warren.
Who it should be: Tammy Baldwin.

The first big point of potential conflict between Sanders and his base will come when he picks a VP nominee, as he'll be under immense pressure to select a "unifying" figure and they'll be on sharp watch for a centrist fifth column. Sanders' uneasy, at best, relationship with the Democratic establishment limits his options -- there are only so many high profile Democrats he trusts, and most of them are simply double-downs on his own electoral profile.

Elizabeth Warren will seem like an appealing option as a "unity" pick -- she's long been floated as a bridge between the establishment and the insurgents anyway, and she's by far the highest-profile party member whose at least arguably ideologically in his corner. Plus, I think Sanders knows that he needs a woman as VP. But as an outreach gesture towards the center of the party Warren (and I say this as someone who voted for her) is about as stingy as Sanders could get. And depending on how long she stays in the race his base is unlikely to forgive her perssssstance. Instead of being a unity candidate, Warren might again be caught in the middle as the worst-of-all-worlds choice.

By contrast, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin has sufficient gravitas to be a viable VP pick and has solid progressive bona fides while not being alienating to the center. Most importantly, she's kept a relatively low profile this primary campaign, so nobody on either wing of the party is conditioned to hate her. And the fact that she's from a midwestern swing state that Sanders will target hard is a not-insubstantial bonus.

Joe Biden
Who it will be: Stacey Abrams
Who it should be: Stacey Abrams

Biden announced early on that he wanted Abrams as his VP, and its easy to see why: she's a young, energetic Black woman who has unifying appeal across party constituencies and strong appeal in the areas Democrats are looking to grow in. Abrams herself has largely stayed out of the primary fray, and it's far from clear that Biden is her first choice, but I don't think she would turn him down if he was the nominee.

Mike Bloomberg
Who it will be: Kamala Harris
Who it should be: Lucy McBath

Having been hammered on his record on race, Bloomberg might think that lining up with the most prominent African-American woman in elected office right now might help assuage skittish Black voters going into the general. But Harris never really caught on with the Black community, and if your weakness is on race generally and racial injustice in law enforcement specifically, Kamala "IS A COP" Harris may do less for you than you'd think.

Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) would be a stronger choice. Gun control is Bloomberg's signature issue, and since there's no way for him to run away from it come November, he may as well lean into it, and McBath's personal story (her son died after being shot in an incident of gun violence) is a natural fit. McBath herself already endorsed Bloomberg, and while she's taken flak for allegedly having her endorsement "bought", if Bloomberg's the nominee frankly anyone who he chooses is going to face that accusation -- so it might as well be someone that endorsed him early.

Elizabeth Warren
Who it will be: Julián Castro
Who it should be: Julián Castro

If my Twitter feed reflected real-life, Warren would be the nominee in a landslide, but if my Twitter account reflected real life Castro would have at some point risen above 2% in the polls. In any event, Castro quickly endorsed Warren after he dropped out and they clearly have a good relationship with one another and a mutually-congenial approach to politics. Castro's youthful dynamism pairs well with Warren's wonkishness, and he also benefits from having dropped out early enough to avoid being hated by large numbers of people.

Pete Buttigieg/Amy Klobuchar

To be honest, even for purpose of this exercise I can't imagine them winning, so it's hard to imagine who they'd pick. Cory Booker could be a solid choice for either one -- Klobuchar could use someone to round off her sharper edges and Buttigieg cannot pick a White guy. Booker is a bucket of positive energy and a good team player, and while he doesn't do a ton to appease the Sanders Sib crowd, I can't think of any VP pick that either Klobuchar or (especially) Buttigieg could make that could mend that rift.

I have heard folks suggest, only half-joking, that Klobuchar and Buttigieg jointly would make a decent all-in-on-the-midwest ticket. There's no way that Klobuchar would serve under Mayor Pete, but I can imagine she might be fine with him being her subordinate. Just think of how many opportunities she'd have to throw a stapler at him!

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