Will Biden Pick a Female Running Mate?

Andrew Hahn, Writer

Following the first four Democratic Primary Elections, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders led a field of seven candidates. The field narrowed to five just before Super Tuesday on March 3, when former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the race and threw their support for former Vice President Joe Biden.

After an impressive performance on Super Tuesday primary elections involving 14 states, Biden took the lead, with Sanders finishing in close second. Being far behind with no viable path to the nomination, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg left the race and endorsed Biden. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren quickly joined Bloomberg on the sidelines, although she did not immediately support any of the remaining candidates.

Aside from Biden and Sanders, only Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard remains in the race. However, her chance for victory seems highly improbable, as she has garnered only two delegates thus far. In comparison, Biden has more than 600 of the necessary 1991 delegates necessary for nomination.  With the winnowing of the candidates, many democratic politicians are weighing whether to endorse Biden or Sanders. Biden received welcome news when Kamala Harris, California senator and former presidential candidate, declared her support for Biden on March 8. Some viewed her announcement as a desire to be considered as a potential Vice Presidential candidate.

There has been speculation that Biden will choose a woman as his running mate. Certainly, Harris has the resume to fit the bill. Other names that have been mentioned are Klobuchar, Arizona senator Krysten Sinema, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin. Sinema, Whitmer, and Baldwin are attractive candidates because they represent states that Donald Trump barely won in 2016. Undoubtedly, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona will play a pivotal role in determining who will win in 2020.

The idea behind having a female running mate is based on the potential increased turnout by Democrats who get off the couch and vote because a woman on the ticket energizes them. It is probably less likely that a Trump supporter would switch to Biden just because his vice-presidential candidate is a woman, although it remains a possibility. It is also plausible that Biden would lose votes by having any woman, even Harris or Klobuchar, on his ticket. And of course, none of this may matter.

Looking at history, it would appear having a female running mate is a bad idea. In 1984, Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale chose congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate and got clobbered. He only won his home state of Minnesota, with Republican Ronald Reagan winning the remaining 49. In 2008, Republican candidate John McCain ran with Sarah Palin and got trounced 365 to 173 by Barack Obama.

Although historical data may be helpful to understand politics, the results of the 1984 and 2008 elections may not be predictive of current or future contests. In 1984, Mondale was running against an extremely popular incumbent president, Reagan, who was given credit for a robust economy. McCain, on the other hand, was following a fellow Republican, George W. Bush, who presided over the infamous 2008 financial crisis. Neither Mondale nor McCain had a reasonable chance at the White House, and many viewed their vice president selections as acts of desperation. In other words, the economy, not female running mates, decided the 1984 and 2008 elections.

Most experts view the 2020 general presidential election as a competitive race, with no clear favorite. Therefore, if Biden wins the Democratic primary and chooses a female running mate, it would not appear to be an act of desperation. Instead, Biden may think that a woman would help his campaign. Or perhaps, he feels a particular woman is simply the best candidate for Vice President.