Now that Joe Biden has virtually clinched the Democratic nomination, the next question is his running mate. He’s promised to name a woman, and there are many good candidates — but his best bet would be Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota who ran a credible race for the top spot and strongly endorsed Biden after dropping out.
Numerous variables shape any political contest — race and gender, ideology and geography — and no one pick can satisfy them all. Gender would normally top the list, but since Biden will consider females only, geography is the next most important factor for the Democrats this year.
Their strongest political imperative is to rebuild the “blue wall” across the Midwest that crumbled four years ago and enabled Trump to win the White House. In the three critical states that decided the outcome — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — Trump won by a combined total of only 107,000 votes.
Klobuchar, who’s won three statewide races in Minnesota, could make a crucial difference in her home region. She should spend virtually the entire campaign appealing to women just like herself — middle-of-the-road, middle-class moms in the middle of the country.
There are good arguments for other choices — especially a woman of color. African Americans are the most loyal Democratic constituency (89% of blacks and 94% of black women voted for Clinton), and maximizing that vote is a major party goal. But Biden, through his association with Barack Obama, has already shown an ability to mobilize African Americans. And the most obvious black woman, Sen. Kamala Harris, ran a shaky campaign for the nomination and represents California, a state Biden can win easily on his own.
Biden turns 78 right after Election Day, and his age lends extra urgency to the old adage that any vice presidential candidate must be “ready on Day One” to assume the presidency. Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost a bid for governor of Georgia, is a blossoming star, but since she’s only served in a state legislature, it’s hard to argue she meets the “ready on Day One” test.
Latinos are making a big push for one of their own. They represent a significant voting bloc in bellwether states like Nevada and Arizona, and Biden has trouble mobilizing that constituency. But the strongest Hispanic possibilities, such as Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, have no national profile or campaign experience.
Biden’s other big weakness is ideology. If the left wing of the party doesn’t get behind him, they could cripple his chances of deposing Trump, and liberals are making the case for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She does have a national reputation and fits the “Day One” template, but she doesn’t really qualify under the framework Biden outlined last summer.
“I’m going to pick someone who is simpatico with me philosophically,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to turn and say to your vice president, ‘This is your responsibility.’ Because the job is too big anymore for any one man or woman.”
Which brings us back to Klobuchar. She clearly is “simpatico” with Biden, and in endorsing his candidacy, struck exactly the right note, highlighting Trump’s erratic and intemperate performance that disturbs so many female voters. “I think he has the decency that’s exactly what we need right now in the White House,” she said of Biden, “and a heart that just isn’t there right now.”
Her life story also dovetails with Biden’s. Her grandfather, an iron miner who emigrated from Slovenia, and her father, who overcame alcoholism, are staples of her campaign narrative and echo Biden’s message that he can connect with ordinary working folk, not the coastal elites that Trump loves to demonize.
Klobuchar turns 60 in May, and after 13 years in the Senate, she clearly qualifies under the “Day One” test. She’s also been vetted on the national stage, performing well in debates and finishing third in New Hampshire. Trump will have a huge head start in the fall campaign, and picking a running mate with that sort of campaign experience is a big plus for the Democrats.
Democrats can beat Trump only by running up the score among female voters. Clinton thrashed him by 13 points among women, but that was not quite enough. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Biden beats Trump by 27 points with females, 60 to 33. His running mate has to help him maintain that margin, especially in the Midwest, and Klobuchar is best-suited to do that.
Steven Roberts can be contacted by email at email@example.com.