Originally published on WBUR by Anthony Brooks.
Former Vice President Joe Biden says he will be naming a panel soon to help him vet and select a running mate. Biden has said that he intends to name a woman, which has led to buzz around a number of potential candidates, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“If he asked you to be his running mate, would you say ‘yes’?” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked Warren last week.
“Yes,” she answered, unequivocally.
Her answer came the day she enthusiastically endorsed Biden, even as she acknowledged she hasn’t always agreed with him. In the same MSNBC interview, she said that over the years she has talked a lot with Biden about policy, and that after she ended her presidential bid last month, those conversations resumed.
“We both want the same thing,” Warren said. “We want this country to work, and we want it to work for everyone. So, I’m in this fight to help in any way I can.”
That includes signing on as his running mate. Other contenders include Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as well as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor of Georgia. But Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University, says Warren stands out in a unique way.
“She was literally the policy planner,” said Zelizer, who laid out his case for Warren in a recent piece for CNN. “She’s incredibly sophisticated and intelligent in terms of dealing with issues, and she has a lot of experience. She, more than any of the other candidates, exudes that.”
Zelizer says most importantly, the current pandemic and economic crisis make Warren’s many plans and policy priorities that address the insecurities of the middle class — from health care, to college debt, to credit and pensions — more urgent than ever.
“This is her signature issue,” Zelizer said.
Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant in Boston, believes that Warren is on “a very, very short list” of names being considered by Biden. She points out that Warren has already been vetted as a possible VP candidate — by Hillary Clinton, in the last presidential campaign. And she argues that Warren would bring a lot of strengths to Biden’s presidential ticket, including broadening his appeal.
“[Choosing Warren] would be a big signal to the left and progressives,” Marsh says. “The fact is, short of Bernie Sanders, most Sanders supporters would welcome her on the ticket.”
Warren might help Biden build a bridge to some on the far left. But she’s most popular with highly educated, female, suburban voters — and hardly the choice of all progressives.
“I’m encouraged that Biden has said that he wants a woman of color to be his vice president,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a key Sanders supporter, told Politico.
“I think it would be encouraging if Biden also picked someone who was a little bit more progressive that could push him,” she said.
Many progressives want Biden to pick someone like Abrams, who missed becoming Georgia’s first African American governor by a whisker, and who declared that she’d make “an excellent running mate.”
Biden says he wants someone with whom he is “simpatico,”and he hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with Warren. The two sparred over bankruptcy reform back in 2005, and Warren was quick to use that against Biden when he entered the race.
“At a time when the biggest financial institutions in this country were trying to put the squeeze on millions of hardworking families, Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies,” Warren said at the time.
Later in the campaign, Biden suggested that Warren had a “my way or the highway approach to politics” that was condescending to “millions of Democrats.” There’s also the question of whether a liberal, Harvard professor from Massachusetts gives Biden his best chance of winning.
“Any Democrat from Massachusetts is going to be tagged as an out of touch liberal,” said Peter Ubertaccio, a political scientist and dean at Stonehill College. “There’s no getting around that. She’s also a lightening rod for those who oppose her.”
On the other hand, Ubertaccio says Warren’s experience, and her army of small donors and supporters make her one of several strong choices for Biden. But he points out that vice presidential picks rarely give presidential candidates much of an electoral boost.
Yet, if Biden were to pick Warrren — or any other highly-qualified running mate– it would create some momentary buzz and excitement, which could help Biden with his biggest challenge right now: his struggle to break through and be seen, as he continues to run for president in the midst of a pandemic — from his basement.