US presidential race: Who will Joe Biden pick as his running mate?

The 77-year-old presumed Democratic nominee has committed to appointing a female running mate

With Joe Biden almost certain to become the Democratic Party's nominee in November's presidential election, the focus has turned to his possible running mate.

Biden is, of course, acutely aware of the significance and demands of the role of vice-president – he served as Barack Obama’s second-in-command between 2008 and 2016. Obama once described his decision to appoint Biden as “the best decision” he ever made – a phrase that has unsurprisingly been highlighted by the Biden campaign as he takes his own shot at the top prize.

Obama's pick for vice-president was the subject of much interest back in 2008, with figures like senator Tim Kaine, and even his one-time rival Hillary Clinton, in the frame. Ultimately he chose Biden, then a 65-year-old senator from Delaware.

While not quite a household name at that time, Biden was a well-established figure on Capitol Hill. As chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, he was perceived to have strong foreign policy credentials at a time when Obama's lack of experience was in the spotlight.


He also had many of the characteristics the 47-year-old senator from Chicago did not. Older, white and Catholic, it was hoped that Biden would connect with working-class, moderate Democrats in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Obama was still a relative unknown.

As Biden now considers his own choice for running mate, a similar dynamic is at play. He is likely to choose someone who can complement his own profile and help him fill gaps in his appeal to the electorate as he seeks to take on Donald Trump in November.

In an unprecedented move the 77-year-old has already committed to appointing a female running mate, an announcement made during a recent Democratic debate with Bernie Sanders.

There is speculation that Biden could pick a woman of colour, with Kamala Harris in the frame. The California senator famously took on Biden in the first Democratic debate in Miami last June about his record on race relations, but she endorsed him last month.

Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the Georgia governor race in 2018, is another possibility.

Swing states

Former candidates Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren are also possible choices. The former could help Biden in midwestern swing states, while Warren would appeal to more progressive voters who are disappointed with the outcome of the Democratic primary.

Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan whose handling of coronavirus in her state has enhanced her national profile in recent weeks, is also one to watch.

Other lesser-known names in the hat include Catherine Cortez Masto, who represents Nevada in the Senate and was previously attorney general in the state. If selected she would be the first Latina vice-presidential pick, and could help Biden connect with the Hispanic community which overwhelmingly voted for Sanders during the primaries.

One issue that is likely to inform Biden’s decision is his age. If elected, Biden will be 78 when he is inaugurated – he himself seems aware of the limits that brings. Welcoming 38-year-old Pete Buttigieg’s endorsement in February, he spoke about a “generation of leaders” of Buttigieg’s age, with “unlimited potential”.

A decision by Biden on his vice-presidential pick could still be months away given that the Democratic National Convention has been delayed until August. Yet with Biden very likely to be a one-term president, the choice of vice-president in this year's race may be more important than ever.


Kamala Harris (55, senator for California)

Harris is currently the favourite. Despite clashing with Biden during the Democratic debate last June, the two have put their differences aside. She campaigned with Biden in Detroit last month, and on Monday appeared in a Biden “virtual town hall” on race disparities and Covid-19. Her friendship with Biden’s late son Beau may also be a factor. A former state attorney general, she is perceived to have the experience needed for the post.

Stacey Abrams (46, former member of Georgia House of Representatives)

Abrams is seen as a rising star of the Democratic Party following her impressive though ultimately unsuccessful bid to become the first African-American governor of Georgia in 2018.

She served in Georgia’s state house as an elected member of the state House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017. She currently campaigns on voters’ rights and voting suppression issues. However, her lack of political experience in Washington is likely to go against her.

Amy Klobuchar (59, senator for Minnesota)

Klobuchar was one of the candidates most in line with Biden’s politics during the Democratic primary, positioning herself at the moderate end of the party. A Minnesota native, she is likely to appeal to white, moderate voters, and possibly swing Republicans, in midwestern states that are crucial in November’s election. A former corporate lawyer, she is one of the most experienced figures in the running, serving in the Senate since 2007.

Gretchen Whitmer (48, Michigan governor)

Whitmer has emerged as one to watch in recent weeks. Her endorsement of Biden just before the Michigan primary on March 10th was a big boost for his candidacy. Her profile has risen during the coronavirus pandemic as Donald Trump has taken aim, calling her “that woman in Michigan” who is “way in over her head” and “doesn’t have a clue” – comments that are likely to boost her profile among Democrats.

Elizabeth Warren (70, senator for Massachusetts)

Warren was the last of Biden’s former rivals for the Democratic nomination to endorse him and their politics are very different. But that may be exactly why she could be a good choice. Biden’s team is well aware that many supporters on the left of the party are disappointed with his candidacy, and Warren could help burnish his progressive credentials. Warren’s formidable command of policy detail could be a significant advantage, though her age may be a disadvantage as Biden seeks a younger running mate.