13 VP Contenders Ranked: Why Some Frontrunners are the Worst Choices

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has committed himself to picking a woman as his Vice President. As is always the case, it is unclear how much the VP impacts the overall outcome of the election. Still, because of Biden’s age, there is potential for this choice to be more important than it usually is. Thus, I have ranked all of the potential picks who have either been mentioned as a possibility or no doubt will be.

It should be noted that this ranking is not based on who is mostly likely to be selected, but who I think most helps Biden moving forward. For this reason, I looked at what Biden was missing from his campaign. In other words, how much do they add to the ticket? The key attributes Biden is lacking are a vision for the country, excitement, youth, and diversity.

The following women are ranked, accordingly.

13. Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan

The coronavirus launched Gretchen Whitmer from relative obscurity to the symbol of government control. Though many believe she is handling the crisis well, there has been consistent critique from more conservative Michiganders and fervent protests by the far right towards her extreme measures. While the majority of her citizens are giving her the benefit of the doubt, if she were to join the presidential ticket, all of that good will disappears. It turns her actions political, especially when coronavirus could resurge in the fall and she will need to make equally, if not significantly, unpopular decisions. For Whitmer’s own political career to be sustainable, she cannot be on the ticket. She is better advocating for Biden during the crisis, rather than campaigning with him.

12. Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar, Senator from Minnesota

Now, make no mistake, Senator Klobuchar is a force to be reckoned and lasted quite a long in the primary campaign. She works well with Biden and they share an appeal to the average American worker. The issue is that she is the equivalent of a Tim Kaine pick. She is a white woman, with very similar policies, from a state that leans blue. Tim Kaine was a white male senator, with very similar policies, from a state that leans blue. While one of the reasons Kaine was picked was the belief that his ability to speak Spanish would strengthen Hillary Clinton’s support with Latin Americans, that did not end up being near enough. Klobuchar is the same way, except with women. Though Minnesota is still considered a swing state, almost voting for Trump in 2016, Klobuchar can do just as much good in her home state by an endorsement. She doesn’t bring anything new to the table, nor does she garner much excitement, making this apparent frontrunner a bad choice for November.

11. Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris, Senator from California

Everyone has their eyes set on Senator Harris as Biden’s VP choice, as she seems to check the most boxes. She is a prominent Black member of congress, an excellent debater, exciting, and has experience that would allow her to step into the role of president, should she be required to. But if we look closely at Harris, she actually brings far less to the ticket than conventional wisdom would suggest. First, she represents California and, with Biden having represented Delaware, it makes the pair easy targets for coastal elite criticisms from the right. Second, while she is a Black woman, many in the Black community have criticized her for her District Attorney record, deeming it to be too harsh and contradictory of her current persona. It’s part of why she lost steam in the primary, so she might not shore up as much support from Biden’s base as he might hope. Lastly, and most crucially, Harris doesn’t really stand for anything specific in the way that Biden needs. During her own campaign, she tried to establish herself in between moderates and progressives, but ended up pleasing neither, because she adequately define herself. Her message consistently changed to try to meet the moment. Progressives do not like her and moderates won’t likely be swung to the ticket because of her. Biden needs someone with a vision for the country, so while Harris would be an excellent president, I don’t believe she will add that many votes.

10. Susan Rice

Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor

The former national security advisor is not being talked about as much, but is no doubt in the conversation, as she worked closely with Biden during the Obama administration. Choosing Rice would be the strongest play to bring in 2008 nostalgia, which has its positives and negatives. Obama’s campaign was electric and many traditional Democrats remember this time period fondly. But, the Obama administration was one of the things that turned off voters from the Democratic party in 2016, with both Trump supporters and progressives highly critical of this era. She is also forever associated with Benghazi, which was frequent cannon fodder for Republicans against Clinton. This alone would appear to take her out of contention, but that all changes if enough time has passed for the stink of the attacks to have weakened. She is, after all, a woman of color with credentials you cannot question. She has been the Ambassador to the United Nations, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and the National Security Advisor. During a national pandemic, someone with this much experience, who does not have national or state responsibilities to take care of, could end up being a solid choice.

9. Keisha Lance Bottoms

Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor of Atlanta

Mayor Bottoms is currently dealing with the coronavirus in her city of Atlanta. She has been brought into the spotlight by her opposition to Governor Kemp’s decision to start reopening the state, claiming it to be too soon to make such a call. Being a mayor, as opposed to a governor, allows her to have hands-on experience dealing with coronavirus, while also skirting most blame should the situation get worse in her state. Bottoms is quite popular with the Black community, which saved Biden’s campaign, and Representative Jim Clyburn, who proved to be one of the few politicians to still have valuable sway in elections during the South Carolina primary. Her early endorsement of Biden shows her loyalty and belief in the former Vice President. With Georgia and nearby swing state North Carolina showing signs of becoming bluer, Bottoms would be an excellent choice to make a big play for those voters. Her biggest issue comes with experience. In a pandemic, with Biden potentially being the oldest president to enter a first term, voters may worry about her possibly having to lead the country. She has also yet to be vetted on a national stage and would be a gamble for Biden, but if it works the payoff will be incredible.

8. Val Demings

Val Demings, Representative of Florida’s 10th congressional district

Representative Demings from Florida was elected the same year Trump won the state. Since then, she has been a prominent member of the party, serving as an impeachment manager in the Senate trial of the president this year. Before entering congress, Demings was the chief of the Orlando Police Department, being the first woman serve in this role.  Florida, which will need African American turnout in order to win the state, has voted for the national winner since 1960. The state carries so many delegates that if Clinton had won the state in 2016, it would have been almost everything she needed to become president. With Governor DeSantis’ slow reaction time to the virus, as well as the state’s cruise and theme park businesses devastated, this is prime time to make a move towards the state. Like Senator Harris, her record as being part of law enforcement comes as a mixed bag, nor is she very progressive. But since she is less prominent than Harris, the distaste from progressives could be less potent. All she needs to do is carry her home state and she will have contributed greatly to the campaign.

7. Veronica Escobar

Veronica Escobar, Representative from Texas’s 16th congressional district

While not on many VP choices lists, Representative Escobar from El Paso should not be overlooked, for she satisfies two criteria that have largely evaded this list: diverse and progressive. While there are loud calls for Biden to select a woman of color for his ticket, there are unfortunately few women of color who appeal to the progressive base, besides The Squad, whose name alone would cost Biden the election. Escobar currently represents Beto O’Rourke’s previous district and is considered a rising star in the party, selected to give the Spanish-language response to Trump’s State of the Union. A member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Escobar could help bring in progressives, while also appealing to Latin Americans who largely chose Sanders in the primaries. Part of the baggage of the Obama administration is the amount of deportations that occurred under it. Thus, choosing a Latina could help bridge the gap. The biggest detriment to Escobar, like others on this list, is experience. She has only been serving in Congress for a little over a year and confidence in her ability to take over for Biden will be crucial to many votes. Still, the combination is too appealing to not at least vet her, especially when Texas shows signs of becoming a blue state, however slow the process may be taking.

6. Catherine Cortez Masto

Catherine Cortez Masto, Senator from Nevada

Though she doesn’t get much spotlight or coverage, the Senator from Nevada is certainly high up on Biden’s list. In fact, it is rumored that the former Vice President mentioned Cortez Masto to be in his current top three. Now, it seems far too early for a top three to mean anything, but it would make sense if this senator is at the top of consideration. She received former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s endorsement when he decided not to run again for the Nevada seat and is highly talked about within the party. She is the first Latina senator to hold office, from a state Sanders beat Biden in, and is the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant, exemplifying the American dream. However, she is not progressive and Reid’s own endorsement would no doubt make her appear to be a “Corporate Democrat” that progressives would prefer not be selected. She has, however, worked with Warren on measures to rein in Wall Street, but the amount of good will that will bring is questionable. Furthermore, from watching her debates and speeches, I do not believe she would bring the spark that Biden so desperately needs to fire up voters. She would be a sensible pick, but like Tim Kaine, which we want to avoid, she may be too safe to inspire enthusiasm.

5. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Michelle Luis Grisham, Governor of New Mexico

While Cortez Masto usually outranks Lujan Grisham for the top Latina on other lists, I put her in the top five because she has more to bring to the table. Before becoming the Governor of New Mexico, Lujan Grisham was in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2019. This gives her high level experience at both state and congressional offices, something many politicians simply don’t have. Furthermore, she was previously the Secretary of Health for New Mexico, which puts her in an excellent position to explain why she is suited to help deal with coronavirus. Whereas Cortez Masto lacks the spark needed to energize the Democratic base, I believe Lujan Grisham would be able to rally the public to Biden’s cause. We will have to see how coronavirus plays out in her state in the coming months, but unlike Whitmer and Cortez Masto, her state is very unlikely to go to Trump, meaning she is likely the best gubernatorial choice, should Biden decide he needs one.

4. Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth, Senator from Illinois

A veteran of the Iraq War, the current Senator from Illinois lost both her legs in the line of duty, becoming the first female double amputee in the war. She served in the House from 2013 to 2017, before entering the Senate. It is there that she became the first senator to give birth while in office. She’s got the fire the Biden campaign needs and would be the only person on either ticket to have military experience. Duckworth’s biggest issue is that she’s not progressive and from a heavily blue state. In fact, she has openly criticized the progressive movement’s ability to win the midwest. However, I can imagine there would be a certain amount of respect towards Duckworth that would win at least a few Sanders supporters over. And though not from the Rust Belt, she’s close enough to know how to relate to its voters. Born in Thailand, Duckworth would also represent a demographic that is often forgotten in these discussions: Asian Americans. Biden is currently grappling with picking a candidate from the Black community, who he owes his nomination to, or the Latino community, who he has yet to win over. Perhaps Duckworth can satisfy both by not making Biden choose between the two.

3. Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts

When Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in 1976, he chose significantly left-leaning Walter Mondale to be his Vice President. This ticket went on to unite the party and beat the incumbent president, Gerald Ford. The parallel between this duo and a Biden/Warren ticket is striking, which means it could be the winning formula. These two have gone head to head in the past, most famously over a bankruptcy bill in 2005, but the disagreements have always been about policy, rather than any personal distaste between them. Warren can garner enthusiasm and support like no other, giving the youth of this country hope that they will see change. The two would be a team of rivals, coming together because of the threat that is Trump. This would mean, however, that they would have to find common ground. How does Warren’s record of support for Medicare for All square with Biden reforming Obamacare? Moreover, how does Warren defend Biden against Tara Reade’s accusations when she called for Kavanaugh to be impeached over his own allegations? They’d have to figure out how to make it work. Not to mention, Warren comes from a state with a Republican governor, meaning he would appoint a conservative replacement in what will be a very evenly split Congress. However, the Governor of Massachusetts is a fairly moderate one, with high approval ratings, which means the sacrifice of a Warren vice presidency may be worth it. Still, Warren could potentially do the same amount of good as the Secretary of the Treasury. If Biden was to announce that Warren would receive this position upon his election, she may be able to do just as much good as she would if put on the ticket, with the discrepancies between the two less of an issue.

2. Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin, Senator from Wisconsin

The Senator from Wisconsin takes the second to best spot because, like Warren, she is a foil to Biden, but without the national negative attention Warren has received from conservative media. She’s never claimed to be a Native American and she can likely square her support for Biden better than her Massachusetts parallel. Wisconsin is the Rust Belt state that has swung the least from Trump, making it battleground zero for 2020. Arguably, it could all come down to a few votes in this state, which makes Baldwin, who won reelection in 2018, a practically perfect choice. Baldwin is also a member of the LGBTQ community, being the first openly gay person elected to the Senate, which helps add some diversity to what would be an all white ticket. While she would have to give up her Senate seat, Wisconsin has a Democrat as its governor, meaning the temporary replacement wouldn’t risk losing a majority. Though Baldwin is less well known and exciting than Warren, she brings enough of both, especially in certain circles, that her positives would outweigh all of the negatives.

1. Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams, former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives

The former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives tops this list because she gives Biden the perfect amount of everything he needs to campaign and win against Trump. Though she lost her bid for governor in 2018, she came pretty darn close, especially when taking into account voter suppression. Since then, she has been able to maintain her national spotlight, through her Fair Fight Action organization, which moves to protect voting rights and registration. Therein lies Abrams biggest strength: inspiring people to vote. She knows the ins and outs of the system that hurts Democrats and is a machine when it comes to mobilizing the masses to beat those odds. Abrams is a successful Black woman who is highly respected by both her community and the Democratic Party. She is the future of the Democratic Party and will be 47 on inauguration day, the same age Barack Obama became president in 2008. Though her outright campaigning for the job is strange and may end up hurting her chances, Abrams knows that staying in the conversation is key to any shot she has at joining the ticket. Biden needs someone who helps him where he is most vulnerable. Abrams is rousing, diverse, young, and leans progressive enough to make waves this election season. Joe Biden would be a fool not to offer her the job, which we know she would take.

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