(This is the 16th edition of our weekly power rankings of politicians most likely to be chosen as Joe Biden’s Democratic running mate in 2020.)
We’re almost there.
“I’m going to have a choice in the first week in August,” former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday of his vice presidential pick “and I promise I’ll let you know when I do.”
Biden had said back in May that he planned to make the pick in early August. But subsequent reporting suggested he might delay until right before the Democratic National Convention opened August 17 in Milwaukee.
But he now appears to be back to the original plan!
So, assuming Biden makes the pick sometime next week, these are likely my last rankings of who that pick might be. (If Biden doesn’t announce the pick next week, obviously I will have one more set of rankings next Thursday.)
A word of caution before you proceed: The veepstakes is a very tough thing to figure out because the people who actually know what’s going on aren’t talking, even as virtually everyone else is talking. Below are my best educated guesses on the likelihood of these women being named as VP by Biden. But I wouldn’t bet your mortgage on it.
10. Tammy Baldwin: Democrats picked Wisconsin for the site of their quadrennial party convention because they believed the state held the key to winning back the White House. So picking the popular senior senator from the state as VP makes sense too, right? Yes, but as Biden’s lead nationally and in the Electoral College has grown, the necessity of making a geographic pick has waned. (Previous ranking: 10)
9. Gina Raimondo: If you want a real dark horse to be the pick, bet on the Rhode Island governor. Why? She’s like the female Biden: Catholic, working-class, small-state politician focused on pragmatism and competence. Her handling of coronavirus in her state, as an example, has won her plaudits nationally. (Previous ranking: 9)
8. Val Demings: After a burst of attention a month or so ago, the Florida congresswoman appears to have lost a bit of altitude in the selection process as a result of several stories that were very critical of how she dealt with controversial cases during her time as Orlando chief of police. That doesn’t mean she couldn’t still be the pick. As CNN’s Harry Enten noted last weekend, no Republican has won the White House without winning Florida in almost 100 years – and Demings on the national ticket would likely strengthen Biden’s hand in the Sunshine State. (Previous ranking: 7)
7. Elizabeth Warren: Admittedly, I have had the Massachusetts senator ranked all over the place during this VP process. She’s been as high as No. 3 and as low as No. 8. Last week I split the difference and put her at No. 5. I remain largely convinced that Biden will pick a woman of color as his VP nominee for lots of reasons – Trump’s clear attempts to weaponize race, the death of George Floyd and the protests that have followed, the passing of former Rep. John Lewis to name a few. But if Biden does pick a white woman, Warren is likely in the front of the line. (Previous ranking: 5)
6. Michelle Lujan Grisham: The rising competitiveness of the Southwest – Arizona and Texas now look like legitimate swing states this fall – makes the governor of New Mexico an increasingly interesting pick. Plus, she is the one of the highest-ranking Latina elected officials in the country at a time when that voting bloc is of huge importance to the Democratic Party. Did I mention she is also a health care expert? (Previous ranking: 6)
5. Tammy Duckworth: The Illinois senator has a personal story of service, struggle and triumph that could well have massive appeal across the political spectrum if she is put on the ticket. A helicopter pilot during the Iraq War, she was shot down and lost both legs. A Purple Heart recipient, she has served in the House and the Senate. She is the first sitting senator to give birth. And she also happens to be from the Midwest, a critical battleground this fall. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Karen Bass: The buzziest candidate in this final week is, without any doubt, this California congresswoman and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Bass is, according to Politico, a favorite of chief Biden vetter Chris Dodd for her ability to reach all parts of the Democratic Party. She also checks the experience box for Biden, having served as speaker of the California State Assembly. Plus, Bass clearly thinks she has a chance; she walked back her controversial reference to Fidel Castro as “Comandante en Jefe” in an appearance on MSNBC this week. (Previous ranking: 8)
3. Keisha Lance Bottoms: Loyalty matters to Biden. We know this. But so does experience. So, in the final assessment, what matters more when Biden and his team consider the Atlanta mayor? She was a prominent supporter and surrogate for the former vice president even when he looked like he was going to fail in a third bid for the White House. But her relevant governing experience is as the mayor of Atlanta. Is that enough for Biden, who has made clear that he believes his VP must be ready to step into the big job on day one? (Previous ranking: 2)
2. Susan Rice: This is the highest I’ve had the former US Ambassador to the United Nations ranked since I started doing this, but it feels as though a lot of things are falling into place for Rice. With Biden comfortably ahead, he can entertain making a governing pick rather than a political one. And, as reporting in Politico this past week suggests, Biden wants a VP who he can have the sort of close relationship with that he enjoyed with Barack Obama. Rice checks those boxes better than anyone. (Previous ranking: 3)
1. Kamala Harris: The California Senator was ranked No. 1 in my first list and she is going to be ranked No. 1 in my last one too. What to make of the reporting by Politico’s Ryan Lizza that Biden chief vetter Chris Dodd was (is?) unhappy with Harris’ level of contrition for her attack on Biden during a Democratic debate? I don’t exactly know. It could well be a smokescreen to buy the Biden team a few more days to get the Harris announcement all set. Or it could be a legitimate concern that means she won’t be the pick. I lean toward the former. (Previous ranking: 1)