The Democratic VP Will Probably Be a Woman: These Are the Leading Contenders
When Senator Kamala Harris dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary race in December, voters lost the hope of seeing a black woman—the second-ever to serve in the Senate, no less—win the White House in 2020. Then Senator Amy Klobuchar ended her campaign the day before Super Tuesday and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who inspired many with her detailed plans and progressive vision for America, dropped out days afterward, leaving Representative Tulsi Gabbard as the last remaining woman in the race. With only two delegates and abysmal polling numbers, she doesn't have a practical path to the nomination.
In a primary with a record-breaking number of women candidates, we're left with two men— Senator Bernie Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden—as the likely final Democratic nominee. The ultimate glass ceiling will remain unbroken for at least another four years.
But though some political commentators have argued that American isn't ready for a woman president (or didn't think one could win) and that sexism played a big role in the primaries, a woman in the White House isn't completely off the table. It's looking more and more likely that Biden and Sanders will choose women running mates as their VP nominees.
Considering the fact that both leading candidates are in their late 70s—Biden is 77 and Sanders is 78, and either would break the record for oldest president at time of inauguration (beating Trump, who was 70, and Reagan, who was 69), it's clear that the choice of VP has never been more important.
Who has the best chance of being chosen and becoming the first-ever female VP (and third-ever nominated)? Here's what the latest political analysis and public campaigning would suggest.
There's a good chance a black woman is chosen. Reverend Jesse Jackson endorsed Sanders on Sunday before calling for the VP nomination to go to a black woman. With Harris endorsing Biden, speculation has grown that she's a top option for his VP slot. Nikema Williams, the Democratic Party chairwoman in Georgia, told the New York Times that "a black woman on the ticket is the margin of victory." Considering that black women are the most loyal base of Democratic voters, with 94% of them voting for Clinton in 2016, rewarding them for that loyalty with representation seems like a good choice.
The choice for either candidate is between an ideological match or a gap-bridger—and it looks like both are leaning towards choosing one of their own. Speculation abounds as to whether Biden will choose moderate friend Klobuchar or a coalition-building lefter-leaning candidate, like Stacey Abrams. Sanders seems to be leaning more towards a fellow progressive, though many big names on that side of the party are unavailable for the VP slot because they're too young or they're foreign-born. Biden said this week that the most important thing for his selection would be picking someone who was "simpatico" with his vision for the country, and Sanders has said he will "look to women first" but would need them to "hold my political views," especially regarding Medicare for All.
Several women have been specifically name-dropped by either or both campaigns; others have been mentioned by strategists and aides. Any of the below women could be the first female Vice President of the United States.
Could be Biden's VP nominee:
Amy Klobuchar. Ever since the Minnesota Senator accidentally told Biden supporters in Michigan that she's honored to join his 2020 "ticket," speculation has abounded that she's already been selected as Biden's running mate.
Gretchen Whitmer. Michigan's governor, who won a tough race last year as a moderate Democrat, was just named as a national co-chair of Biden's campaign. Some say that means he's planning to tap her for the nomination.
Sally Yates. The former deputy attorney general was fired early in Trump's term for refusing to defend his executive order barring travel to the U.S. from several Muslim-majority countries. Since then, she's testified in the impeachment inquiry and been talked about as a potential VP nom.
Kamala Harris. While Harris went hard after Biden while they were both on the campaign trail—prompting Dr. Jill Biden to call her attacks "a punch to the gut" last week at a private fundraiser—some say her legislative experience and diverse background mean that she's a top contender for Biden's VP.
Val Demings. The Florida representative and former Orlando police chief endorsed Biden last week, and as a black woman in a battleground state, her support may be extra meaningful to the Biden campaign.
Jeanne Shaheen or Maggie Hassan. They wouldn't be a package deal, but Biden did mention "the two senators from the state of New Hampshire" last November when giving some ideas for his potential VP pick.
Could be Sanders' VP nominee:
Nina Turner. Former Ohio state Senator and a woman of color, Turner is currently serving as a national co-chair of Sanders' campaign. Supporters of the campaign have called on her to be his VP nom, citing her Midwestern connections as an extra bonus.
Could be either leading candidate's VP nominee:
Stacey Abrams. The former George House minority leader made a splash when she just-barely lost her race for governor last year. She's since pivoted her energy into fighting voter suppression. And she had a hell of an interview with polling website 538 where she said she planned to be president by 2040. If you manifest it, it will come, right? And she's one of the few major VP names who have yet to endorse a candidate. She could go either way.
Elizabeth Warren. While Biden selecting Warren wouldn't help balance out the age of his ticket—she's 70 (though her selfie-line energy belies that)—she would help bridge the ideology of his ticket, perhaps bringing in more progressive and younger voters. For Sanders, she'd be the nominee with the closest policy positions to his and a whole bunch of practical plans to start executing them. His campaign advisors have already publicly stated they'd love to have her on the ticket.
Whoever the Democratic presidential nominee is, I hope to see a woman on the ticket next to him. I'd like to see a woman president in my lifetime, and a woman VP seems like a good place to start.
When the pandemic began in spring and her friends (and fellow Carnegie Mellon master's students) started to find out that their offers for summer internships were canceled, Mai Sha held her breath.
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