With the Iowa Caucus only a month away and the next Democratic presidential debate currently standing at five participants, it’s time to start looking at who is in the running to join the Democratic ticket in 2020.
The nominee of each party picks their running mate as candidate for Vice President of the United States. To be eligible for the Vice Presidency you have to be able to serve as President, so that means you’re at least 35 and a natural-born American citizen.
A historically (sometimes comically) insignificant office, the Vice President now sits on the President’s cabinet, has a West Wing office (and a backup office across the street), gets their own plane, and breaks tie-votes in the U.S. Senate.
It’s worth noting that Barack Obama was the most recent major party candidate to pick a primary-rival, Joe Biden, for the ticket; and in the same year that Sarah Palin was the most recent choice to catch everyone by surprise. Suffice it to say, speculation for who will get the Veep nod is a favorite hobby for politicos. To examine the field, I’ve divided the list into 2020 candidates, non-candidates, and long shots.
These are the current and former contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination who would make for compelling running mates. We will take it for granted that Biden, Warren, and Sanders would not want to be in the #2 slot for various reasons specific to them — though it could depend more on who is asking them to join the ticket.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Home state: Minnesota
Good pick for: Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders
Long shot pick for: Warren
Strengths: Demographic diversity, regional appeal in upper-midwest
Weaknesses: Conscious and unconscious sexism, stage presence reliability
Analysis: Klobuchar has managed to break into the top-tier of candidates and stay there, ahead of Booker, Yang, two billionaires, and six other contenders. She’s clearly resonating with part of the electorate and could help energize female voters (the key to the 2018 blue wave) while competing in the upper-Midwest.
Sen. Cory Booker
Home state: New Jersey
Good pick for: Everyone, but least helpful to Biden
Strengths: Demographic diversity, Senate and mayoral experience
Weaknesses: New Jersey is not a swing state
Analysis: Booker’s lack of progress in the 2020 contest is difficult to explain away, but as a relatively young candidate and one of the few African-Americans in the Senate, Booker could achieve the balancing act needed for many of the top contenders to build their coalition. If he was from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Florida he would stand a much better chance.
Sen. Kamala Harris
Home state: California
Good pick for: Biden
Strengths: Demographic diversity, Senate experience, former prosecutor
Weaknesses: Former prosecutor, potential Attorney-General pick, Californian
Analysis: Harris seemed to be most popular the day after she dropped out. She has raised significant concerns about her prosecutorial record and campaign management, but if she could somehow overcome those complaints, or turn them into assets with swing voters, Senator Harris could find herself in the West Wing.
Sec. Julián Castro
Home state: Texas
Good pick for: Biden, Warren
Strengths: Demographic diversity, Obama alum, Latinx voters
Weaknesses: Higher unfavorable ratings than you would expect
Analysis: Provided that Biden could get over Castro’s left hooks during the debates, the former Obama cabinet member would be a fantastic choice for Biden to signal the elevation of younger leaders. It’s also generally accepted that he and Sen. Warren have a good relationship too. Castro could help the Democratic ticket up-and-down the ballot with the Latinx community, which would pay big dividends in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and his home state of Texas. Obama saw something in him, let’s assume the rest of the country might too.
Home state: New York
Good pick for: Biden, Sanders, Warren
Strengths: Demographic diversity, relative youth and internet presence
Weaknesses: No establishment experience, some policy proposals
Analysis: If you’re looking for demographic diversity, energizing youth, and connecting better with voters in the age of social media… you could do a lot worse than Andrew Yang. He might also belong in the long shot column but whether he wins or loses the nomination, it seems unlikely this will be Yang’s last curtain call.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Home state: Indiana
Good pick for: Consolation prize coalition building
Strengths: Top-tier contender, military experience, LGBTQIA, midwestern
Weaknesses: Youth and inexperience, severe problems with black voters et al
Analysis: If the race is tight and you want to mend fences, and provided that Mayor Pete is in 2nd or 3rd, it might be pragmatic for the person in first place to build a coalition with an olive branch to Buttigieg’s supporters. Other than that he’s increasingly finding himself in a win-or-bust scenario.
These are leaders in the Democratic Party who had the courage not to run in the 2020 primary (and there are not that many) and who would also be excellent picks for the Vice Presidency.
Home state: Georgia
Good pick for: Everyone
Strengths: Demographic diversity, swing state, hero of the base
Weaknesses: No congressional or gubernatorial experience, sexism and racism
Analysis: Abrams is on just about everyone’s list of potential running mates and, even more interestingly, she has publicly said she would serve if asked. After an inspiring 2018 gubernatorial defeat in Georgia, Abrams is poised to be a future leader of the Democratic Party.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Home state: Michigan
Good pick for: Everyone
Strengths: Demographic diversity, swing state, executive experience
Weaknesses: Low name recognition
Analysis: If you’re worried about balancing the ticket and putting Michigan’s electoral votes back in the blue column, look no further than Governor Gretchen Whitmer. She won her gubernatorial bid in 2018 and comes with years of legislative experience after earning her law degree from Michigan State. You can count on one hand the number of Democratic women who are incumbent governors, only one is from a critical swing state.
Amb. Susan Rice
Home state: D.C.
Good pick for: A candidate needing foreign policy and demographic help
Strengths: Demographic diversity, national security experience
Weaknesses: Low name recognition, non-politician, Benghazi déja vu
Analysis: A veteran of the Obama Administration with vast national security and foreign policy credentials, Rice would complement most any ticket by offering a sharp, relatively-younger voice on the campaign trail. Rice has also given indications that she would consider running for office, though in the same stroke she decided not to further that ambition in 2020.
It’s always fun to speculate on dark horse contenders for everything, and never more so than when presidential politics is concerned. Here are two potential picks for VP that are worth thinking about.
Home state: D.C. (and Illinois)
Good pick for: Everyone
Strengths: Demographic diversity, popular appeal, White House experience
Weaknesses: Anti-Obama sentiment, perception of inexperience
Analysis: It’s too much to hope for, we shouldn’t even daydream about it, but with eight years as first lady, Michelle Obama is only a Senate-seat behind where Hillary Clinton was in 2001. Meanwhile, Michelle O. has broad popularity that Hillary never did and would explode Democratic enthusiasm for any ticket.
Gov. Jeb Bush
Home state: Florida
Good pick for: Biden, if he makes a one term pledge
Strengths: Bold statement, family connections, executive experience
Weaknesses: Republican. Plus family name, demographics, policy positions
Analysis: Bush makes for an intriguing consideration. The rumor was that in 2008, McCain was considering former Democrat Joe Lieberman (eight years after Lieberman was Al Gore’s running mate) for his own ticket in a bipartisan maneuver. Bush could help compete in Florida, complicate the Bush Family’s already icy relationship with the Trumps, and incentivize Trump-skeptic Republicans to jump ship.
Worth considering are Sally Yates, Mitch Landrieu, and Governor Jay Inslee. They each bring something unique that could complement the top-of-the-ticket and, in the case of Yates, are already in the conversation.
The field is shrinking quickly, especially if your metric is who appears on the debate stage, and in just two months we will have completed Super Tuesday. Is there someone that could be the running mate who is not on this list?