(This is the ninth edition of our weekly power rankings of politicians most likely to be chosen as Joe Biden’s Democratic running mate in 2020.)
The VP pick is coming! The VP pick is coming!
OK, not this minute. But soon!
At least according to former Vice President Joe Biden, who said he hopes to announce the pick by August 1 during a virtual fundraiser on Wednesday night.
“We’re in the process of deciding the basic cut, about whether or not they really want it,” Biden told attendees. “Are they comfortable? They’ve asked a lot of questions.”
So, assuming Biden holds to this self-imposed timeline, we are, at most, 66 days away from knowing his ticket-mate. Which isn’t all that long – especially when you consider the country has been in some form of quarantine since mid-March, which was 75 days ago!
Below, my latest rankings of the 10 women considered most likely to wind up as Biden’s pick. I update these rankings every week, so if your preferred VP nominee isn’t where you would like her to be, never fear: There’s still time! As always, special thanks to CNN’s Allison Gordon for her help in staying on top of the increasingly rapid stream of veep news.
(Important note: Former first lady Michelle Obama isn’t included on my rankings because she has given no indication she would accept the nomination if it was offered to her. If she did indicate some willingness, she would immediately seize the top spot in the rankings.)
10. Gretchen Whitmer: The Michigan governor is a magnet for media – and not all of it good. This week she had to apologize for a “joke” her husband made about whether he got special treatment to rent a boat because he was married to the governor. “Obviously, with the motorized boating prohibition in our early days of Covid-19, he thought it might get a laugh,” Whitmer explained. “It didn’t. And to be honest, I wasn’t laughing either when it was relayed to me, because I knew how it would be perceived.” Uh, yeah. Not good. (Previous ranking: 6)
9. Stacey Abrams: The former Georgia state House minority leader moves up in my rankings this week despite the fact that the last seven days may have been the quietest – in terms of Abrams stoking chatter about her prospects – in months. I tend to think that Abrams taking some of the attention away from her interest in being VP, choosing instead to play a more back-channel, behind-the-scenes game to express her interest is smart. Plus, if Biden was on the fence about picking a black woman for his ticket-mate, his “you ain’t black” gaffe may well have tipped him over the edge. (Previous ranking: 10)
8. Michelle Lujan Grisham: The New Mexico governor is not only the first Democratic female Hispanic governor in the country but also represents a state and a region that, as Ron Brownstein noted earlier this week, is an absolutely essential battleground for Democrats in the fall. Lujan Grisham hit a bump in the VP road this week, however, when a local TV station reported that she may have broken her own quarantine rules when a non-essential business opened so that she could buy jewelry and have it delivered to her. (Previous ranking: 8)
7. Susan Rice: There’s no question that Rice is one of the most qualified people – with the deepest resume – on Biden’s VP list. That she is an African American woman doesn’t hurt either – particularly in the wake of the “you ain’t black” controversy. Why isn’t Rice higher on this list? From Benghazi to the Michael Flynn/Russia email, her name is attached to a lot of controversies from the past Democratic administration. And picking her would send the conservative base into the outrage stratosphere. But maybe Biden doesn’t care? (Previous ranking: 9)
6. Keisha Lance Bottoms: If the Atlanta mayor winds up as Biden’s pick, she should send a thank you note to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who continues to say and do things that a) draw national attention and b) afford KLB a chance to push back hard in a variety of media outlets. Kemp’s latest? His attempt to recruit the Republican National Convention to Atlanta following President Trump’s criticism of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s approach to reopening the state. (The Republican National Convention is supposed to be in Charlotte in late August. “It was surprising to hear that, because there is a certain amount of coordination that has to go on as it relates to public safety, KLB told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about Kemp’s recruitment attempt. “But more importantly, we just aren’t there yet.” (Previous ranking: 5)
5. Val Demings: The biggest riser in the VP chase this week is the Florida House member. Why? Her response to Biden’s “ain’t black” comment was spot-on. “Look, the vice president shouldn’t have said it. He apologized for it,” she told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “But I really think the gall and the nerve of President Trump to try to use this in his campaign, he who has, since day one, done everything within his power, of course supported by his enablers, to divide this country, particularly along racial lines?” Demings is also emerging as one of Biden’s most effective surrogates; she blasted the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus during Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the state last week. (Previous ranking: 7)
4. Catherine Cortez Masto: The Nevada senator continues to bank on a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race strategy. With each passing week, she gains a little more traction in the VP news cycle and does a little bit more for the Biden campaign. On Wednesday night, Cortez Masto hosted a fundraiser for the campaign alongside Jill Biden. Of the former VP, Cortez Masto said this: “We need leadership, and Joe Biden brings that leadership. Because now is a time for a leader to put aside his own interest and his political interest and look out for the common good for all of us, not just some of us. And that’s the Joe Biden I know.” She is also helped by a growing awareness – within the Democratic Party and acknowledged by the media – that the Southwest is central to the party’s hopes this fall. (Previous ranking: 4) (Note: Cortez Masto announced after publication on Thursday that she was withdrawing from consideration as VP, citing the struggling Nevada economy as her main priority now.)
3. Elizabeth Warren: As CNN reported earlier this week, there is some sentiment in Bidenworld that given the massive challenges – economic, public health – he is likely to be forced to deal with if he is elected president, it might make sense to pick as a VP someone with a whole lot of bold plans for large structural change. Sound like anyone you know? The Massachusetts senator is also playing it cool about being Biden’s pick, a traditionally sound strategy. “So, let me say this, on the decision about picking a running mate is Joe Biden’s decision. It’s not mine and it’s not anyone else’s,” Warren said this week. “It’s a decision he should make and I don’t want to be in a position to crowd him on that at all.” (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Amy Klobuchar: The death of George Floyd – and the subsequent firing of four police officers involved in it – in Minnesota is a political double-edged sword for Klobuchar. On the one hand, she is playing a prominent role in seeking justice for Floyd; she, along with fellow Sen. Tina Smith and Rep. Ilhan Omar, have sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr regarding Floyd’s death. On the other, it could raise issues that some criminal justice reform advocates already have with Klobuchar’s record as Hennepin County attorney. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Kamala Harris: The California senator, who would be the first African American (and Indian American) woman on a national ticket, is undoubtedly aided by Biden’s “ain’t black” gaffe. While she was already the leader in the veepstakes, the pick makes even more sense now if Biden wants to do right by a community that, without question, won him the nomination. (Previous ranking: 1)
This story has been updated after Cortez Masto pulled herself out of consideration.