For months, perhaps even a year now, conventional wisdom said if former vice president Joe Biden wins the nomination, he’ll have to pick a female vice president, preferably of a minority background. There was plenty of talk and some real smoke around the potential of Biden picking former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, but that seems to have fizzled out. Then, more recently, the discussion focused on California Sen. Kamala Harris, and she remains in the running, but not at the top of the list.
At this point, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging around the globe and across the United States, the calculus for choosing a VP seems to have changed. Rather than looking for a popular personality, someone to ignite the base, but who may lack experience, the tables have shifted to require a VP with a depth of experience and at least some knowledge of working within the federal government during a crisis.
It’s in that line of thinking where Elizabeth Warren seems to be rising higher on the list given her background and status as a U.S. Senator. Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst, straight-up lays the case for why Warren is looking like one of Biden’s top prospects. The first point, made by Zelizer, is that Biden promised he would pick a woman, and he made that promise on national television, so that part’s a given.
Beyond the basics, Warren brings more to Biden, such as a reason for the Democratic Party base to get excited about their ticket:
Of all the contenders for vice president, Warren has one of the best chances of mobilizing progressives within the party. Without having to compete against Sanders, Warren can represent the left-wing and serve as a unifying force on the ticket. She is an unabashed supporter of using government to solve problems and she has consistently put forth policies that progressives agree with.
The other aspect where Warren easily outshines Biden is her ability to conduct cohesive and coherent interviews on pressing topics. No offense to the former vice president, but as almost every political observer has noticed, his television interviews have been a mixed bag, with meandering answers and statements that often don’t make sense depending on the topic.
When it comes to political communication, Warren brings the receipts. She could easily help Biden boost his public standing and communicate in ways that he is not comfortable with. Warren performed extremely well in the televised primary debates and showed an ability both to hold her own in contentious moments and explain complex ideas in a simple way.
Warren isn’t without her media flubs, remember her beer-drinking days in her kitchen back in 2019? She’s honed her messaging and communications since then after coming to the brink of a campaign collapse.
The one area, perhaps above the others, where Warren would instantly add an array of tools to Biden’s belt is the topic of economic insecurity. With “stay-at-home-orders” still in effect all over the country, and most businesses closed or running at a fraction of typical revenue, the economy has suddenly become a campaign issue in a way that President Trump was not expecting.
There are Americans hurting over this economic shutdown which will ripple for months and years to come. Warren’s messaging can be plugged into the crisis almost like it was made to order:
There are few politicians in the national arena who have tackled the economic challenges of the middle class as intensely as Warren. She spent much of her time as an academic studying the threats that the middle class faces from high credit burdens, education and health care costs, consumer fraud and nonunionized work.
Warren has something else to offer. She became known for having a plan, or what seemed like an answer for every problem. She thought systematically about the nation’s challenges and laid out detailed responses. At this moment, Americans are desperate for a plan. Somewhere in between the choice of permanent self-distancing and reckless liberation must come a well-thought-out plan that is comprehensive and clear.
For all her positives, let’s not pretend Warren is perfect, no politician truly is. The successful ones simply figure out how to overcome their weaknesses, and they all have weaknesses of one form or another. Warren seems to have put the days of misguided DNA tests behind her, though you could bet the issue would come up again, but she seems to have found a way to erase the liability of it with many voters.
There’s a case to be made for many VP options, but Warren does have a lot of upside for Biden.