It looks like being perceived as another “old, white guy” is currently number one with a bullet on Joe Biden’s list of election anxieties.
Biden is reportedly considering a pledge to make Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial runner-up, his running mate if he wins the Democratic nomination.
Nineteen months before Election Day 2020 seems somewhat early to choose a name for the right side of the slash. It’s like Trump announcing what color he wants to paint the border wall. There’s a pretty big piece of business that needs to be taken care of first?
Announcing a running mate now would be a tacit admission by Biden that he can’t win the Democratic nomination on his own. Choosing Abrams is a tacit admission that he can’t beat Kamala Harris. If he thought it were possible, he would do everything in his power to win the primary without sacrificing the VP slot, which is his best tool for winning the general election.
Imagine Biden were to win the Democratic nomination with a plurality— which is a distinct possibility in a field this crowded- it would be smart politics to offer the VP slot to another candidate who pulled in a big chunk of votes. A voter decked out in Kamala Harris campaign swag with 25 “For the People” bumper stickers on the rear window of his car might have an easier time accepting Biden as the nominee if Kamala Harris is going to be campaigning right beside him for the second highest office in the land.
The VP pick can go a very long way toward mending the hurt feelings of those whose candidates lost. And, historically speaking, many Democrats don’t take it super well when their candidates lose. According to a Cooperative Congressional Election Study, 26 percent of those who voted for Sanders in the primary did not cast a vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. 12 percent of Sanders’ primary voters actually cast their votes for Donald Trump.
I’ll wager if Hillary Clinton had it to do over again, she’d pick someone to pacify the far-left socialist crowd instead of choosing Tim Kaine.
Due to the number of candidates, this is going to be a particularly savage primary that exposes every fault line within the Democratic party. So, why would Joe Biden play his VP card this early in the game? Biden’s decision would be a transparent identity politics ploy aimed squarely at Kamala Harris.
If this were a two way race between Biden and Harris, Biden would start with a big lead due to his name recognition, but Harris would likely upset him in the end- a fresh voice, a just-good-enough resume, and the prospect of a an historic first— a female nominee of color— is an excellent recipe for victory. It’s how Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary.
And like Obama circa 2008, Harris has all the momentum.
Until January, Kamala Harris was routinely polling at about 3 or 4 percent support. She’s now routinely polling in double digits. Most recently at 12 percent in the Emerson poll and 12 percent in the CNN poll. That may not sound like much, but hitting double digits in a race this packed is no easy feat. Especially given that Biden, the current leader, is only polling at about 26 percent with seemingly zero momentum.
Biden’s camp has seen the polls, and they know that at this point Harris is the biggest threat to him.
The tactic he’s using by announcing Abrams as his running mate this early on is an attempt to neutralize what he believes to be Harris’s best attribute. He wants to neutralize what distinguishes her from all those other Democratic candidates. Kamala Harris can generate the enthusiasm that inevitably comes with the prospect of the party nominating a female candidate of color for the first time ever. Being a white, male septuagenarian is unlikely to be the progenitor of much enthusiasm in the identity-obsessed Democratic party of 2019.
Biden’s solution is to manufacture the same kind of enthusiasm that Harris will create organically. By using a bit of political strategy, he could add the moniker “historic first” to his own campaign.
Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.