Dems shouldn’t scorn VP slot
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California is making one point very clear very early in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination: She doesn’t want to be Joe Biden’s VP.
She even quips cleverly, “If people want to speculate about running mates, I encourage that, because I think that Joe Biden would be a great running mate. As vice-president, he’s proven that he knows how to do the job.”
Touché. That’s the kind of thing any serious candidate should say at this stage, but some of them should be prepared to eat those words. Somebody’s gotta be the VP, and if Biden gets the top spot, the job is especially attractive.
There’s no guarantee, of course, that Biden will get the nomination. Plenty of front-runners fade in this process. But Biden is not just ahead of every other Democrat, he’s way ahead of all but one of them.
Biden is the first choice among 33 percent of Democrats in the latest Emerson Polling survey while Sen. Bernie Sanders is favored by 25 percent.
After that, only Sens. Harris and Elizabeth Warren are in double digits, and just barely. The others in this gaggle are mired in Single Digit Land.
It’s early, but it’s reasonable to speculate a few things at this point. If Democrats are going to choose an old white guy, it’s going to be Biden, not Bernie. And while Sanders did give Hillary Clinton a strong challenge in 2016, it’s highly unlikely that Democratic voters are going to choose a Socialist for their nominee.
(If they do, Trump can start searching for a new round of cabinet officers for his second term. For some reason, there’s been a lot of turnover in those jobs.)
So let’s go out on a limb and suggest that Biden gets the nomination, which is not a crazy thought. He’s a likable guy with widespread name recognition, and the party could do a lot worse.
Biden has many attributes for the job, but at 77 he’s also the oldest candidate in the race. His VP should be someone younger (which is everyone else) and it wouldn’t hurt if that person were a woman and/or a minority to broaden the ticket’s appeal. Democrats are particularly sensitive to this need, though I don’t think they should rule out Beto O’Rourke should he finish strong behind Biden.
Beto has a special appeal to a young generation of voters, and there’s a slim chance he could help Democrats win his home state for the first time since 1976. If Democrats could somehow take Texas and its 38 electoral votes, they win the presidency hands down. It’s a long shot, but O’Rourke lost to Sen. Ted Cruz by only 2.6 percentage points last year.
Whoever gets the second slot will be in a good position, again because of Biden’s age. Voters might give someone in his late seventies a chance at the presidency. When Biden turns 80, the age issue would loom much larger if he runs for re-election. While he’s in good health now, at some point Father Time will start to nag him.
In other words, there’s a strong possibly that Biden would be a one-term president. He’ll never say that now because he doesn’t want anyone to think he’s not up to the job, but the practical realities here cannot be ignored.
Should Biden bow out in 2024, guess which Democrat would be perfectly positioned for a shot at the presidency himself or herself? If you answered, “His vice president,” give yourself a gold star. That person — Harris or O’Rourke or whoever — would start out with huge financial and political advantages and almost be the person to beat.
Again, no one sets out to run for vice president. On paper, you’re shooting for the top spot. But only one of the 20-plus Democratic contenders will get the nomination, and that will leave a lot of ambitious politicians looking for the next step in their careers. The vice presidency is never a bad place to land, and the office could be even more important this time. If it’s offered to Harris or anyone, they should take it.
Thomas Taschinger, TTaschinger@BeaumontEnterprise.com, is the editorial page editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. Follow him at Twitter.com/@PoliticalTom