Illustration for article titled Joe Biden Surrogates, Aides Say Kamala Harris Tops List of Potential Running Mates
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Everything is coming up Kamala.

According to people familiar with Joe Biden’s campaign—and the ongoing process to select a running mate—the California senator is emerging as an early frontrunner to accompany Biden at the top of the Democratic presidential ticket this year.

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“Biden aides, surrogates and major donors see her as the best fit at the onset of the process,” Politico wrote on Sunday, citing “more than two dozen Democrats, including advisers, allies, and donors aligned with Biden” as sources.

The former vice president’s team shared similar messaging to The Hill:

“It just makes the most sense,” said one longtime ally to Biden who is frequently in touch with the campaign. “When you really give it some thought, and you hear him talk about what he’s looking for in a running mate, she’s the one that checks all the boxes.”

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Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has been the sole contender for the role since early April when Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dropped out of the race. This is substantially earlier than in past election cycles, leaving Biden’s team a lot of time to mull over who would make the best fit as his running mate.

As Politico reports, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren also emerged as an early favorite among Biden’s team (a recent CBS News poll, meanwhile, had the progressive senator topping Democratic voters’ wishlist for a potential vice president). Roughly a dozen other women have been floated for the job by Biden’s vice presidential committee, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada; Florida Rep. Val Demings; Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; former national security adviser Susan Rice; and Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams.

But Harris is currently standing head and shoulders above the rest of the pack, some close to Biden say, despite Harris’ stinging attacks on the former Delaware Senator’s record on integration last year.

In a June 2019 debate—one of the first among a large and diverse group of Democratic presidential hopefuls—Harris called out Biden’s opposition to federally mandated bussing, a practice used throughout the country to integrate America’s segregated school systems. She also highlighted Biden’s working relationship with two segregationist lawmakers, saying his claim that those relationships highlighted “civility” in Congress was “hurtful.”

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Harris’ sterling debate performances won her praise, attention and money early on, and left some prematurely counting Biden out. But now that Biden is slated to receive the Democratic party’s nomination for president, members of his campaign say Harris has proven herself a “team player.”

“Sen. Harris is an exceptionally qualified individual who checks three important boxes: She’s black, she’s a woman and she can be president on Day 2 if needed,” one veteran of the Obama/Biden campaign told The Hill.

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For weeks, top Democrats have voiced their preference for Biden picking a woman running mate—with some specifically calling for the 77-year-old longtime public servant to select a woman of color.

“It would be good to have a woman of color. It would be good to have a woman,” Georgia Congressman John Lewis, one of the most revered voices in Congress, said in April. “It would be good to have a woman that looks like the rest of America—smart, gifted, a fighter, a warrior.”

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Sources who spoke to Politico and the Hill characterized the 55-year-old Harris as a sort of Democratic Goldilocks: not running too hot or too cold, able to maneuver between various Democratic strongholds and interests.

“She really is a standout in terms of keeping [Democrats] together and keeping donors warm,” a Biden bundler told Politico about Harris and her bid to vice president. “She doesn’t need to do a full-court press, and it would probably be seen as unseemly for her.”

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The Hill noted she provides a presumably safe middle ground for the Democrats, writing that Harris “may not be either too liberal or too centrist to engender anger with either side of the Democratic Party.”

According to recent reporting by The New York Times, internal polling for Harris showed she has broad political support across Democratic strongholds, “but that she was viewed most favorably among black women, liberal women and young people”—demographic groups the Biden campaign would certainly want to prioritize come November.

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Since ending her presidential campaign last year, Harris has been quietly preparing herself for the next step, whether that be as a potential vice president, attorney general, or taking a bigger role in California’s governance.

In the last couple of months, Harris has centered her focus on coronavirus-related legislation, teaming up with Senator Sanders to introduce a bill that would give Americans making less than $120,000 a monthly $2,000 check. She’s also partnered with Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley on a bill that would help small businesses during the public health crisis.

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Harris, who has been in the public eye since 2004, when she was elected District Attorney of San Francisco, is no stranger to layered, complicated political maneuvering. But the buzz around her vice-presidential potential might have you wondering what Harris herself might want out of all this. Here’s what the Times offers:

Among Ms. Harris’s backers, because there is no uniform effort to pitch her to Mr. Biden, there is also no consensus opinion that being the running mate is the role she most desires. After three years in the Senate, Ms. Harris has been frustrated by the bureaucracy of Washington, and has mused to allies about missing the control afforded to her in executive positions such as attorney general of California and as district attorney of San Francisco.

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Biden has previously said his VP selection committee would take until July to recommend a running mate, the Hill reports. His surrogates and other top Democrats have been asked if black voters might turn their back on the former vice president if he doesn’t select a black woman as a running mate. Biden has polled strongly with black voters throughout his campaign.

“Us African Americans, most of us grew up in the South, those of us who didn’t grow up in the South have roots in the South, one of the things we live by: one should never cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face. One should never,” South Carolina Congressman and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told the Times. “I’m still saying, my preference is an African American female and that’s just my preference.”

Staff writer, The Root.

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