BENKOF: Stacey Abrams Would Be A Horrible Choice For VP

David Benkof Contributor
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As Joe Biden cruises toward the Democratic nomination for president, the “Veepstakes” have already begun, and a top name is former Georgia House minority leader (and defeated gubernatorial nominee) Stacey Abrams. A black woman, the theory goes, will add excitement to the ticket and boost Democrats’ chances with Obama-level black turnout.

It’s a loopy idea. Abrams is an illogical, risky choice both for the Democrats and the country.

For starters, she’s utterly unqualified. Georgia’s state house has 180 seats, which means she represented fewer than 59,000 of Georgia’s 10.5 million people. That’s about half as many Americans as former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the ex-mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who himself was widely criticized for lack of experience.

Abrams, who represented a heavily Democratic district, has never won a contested election. Sure, she garnered 1.9 million votes in her losing race for governor. But her electoral history consists of nothing but losing — and winning automatically.

And what has she done in office? Her Wikipedia page could only come up with two accomplishments not spearheaded by Republicans: reforming a state scholarship and defeating a tax on cable television.

Her own website’s list of accomplishments is hardly more substantial. The first four achievements are “built Democratic legislative power,” “fostered entrepreneurship,” “trained Young Democrats” and “supported Democratic candidates.” Would Biden really pick a running mate who considers three of her four greatest successes to be service to her party, not her country?

She does have a few notches under her belt — good reviews for her response to the State of the Union last year, and a successful second career as a romance novelist under the name Selena Montgomery.

But ultimately Abrams is best known for the impact she supposedly WILL make in the future than any accomplishments she’s yet had. Her resume is bursting with honors like “Thirty Leaders for the Future” and “Georgia Rising Star.” And indeed she has declared plans to be president by 2040.

Democrats should abandon their high hopes she’s going to attract blacks to the ticket in any significant way. Picking her for that reason might work for a candidate like Buttigieg, who did not connect well with minority voters. But at the top of the ticket would be Joe Biden, who’s already attracting record black turnout in the primaries. Any help Abrams could offer would be marginal.

And besides, it’s condescending to suggest that black voters need an African-American on the ticket to summon enthusiasm in a presidential race.

Political scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that vice presidential candidates make very little difference in the outcome. They virtually never swing a state, as Democrats discovered with their failed running mates in 1988 (Lloyd Bentsen of Texas) and 2004 (John Edwards of North Carolina). Running mates don’t help a ticket win a general election either. At best, the advantage of a good running mate is demonstrating the nominee’s wisdom and character in their first big decision.

The closest parallel to the “Abrams will turn out the black vote” shibboleth is Walter Mondale’s 1984 fantasy of massive female turnout to support his running mate Geraldine Ferraro. Mondale-Ferraro lost 49 states with less than 45 percent of the women’s vote.

A serious vulnerability relates to the reason Abrams is famous — her claim to have been cheated out of the Georgia governorship. Though allegations of voter suppression have been thoroughly debunked, she continues to refuse to concede and says the victor, Brian Kemp, is not the “legitimate” governor.

Americans don’t like sore losers — or conspiracy theorists — and a national candidacy will draw increased scrutiny to her fraudulent fraud claims. Those allegations have already been thoroughly examined — and rejected — for example by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the most important newspaper in the state. It found “no systematic malfeasance” and no reason for a runoff.

The biggest weakness in her case is her complaint that Republicans (legally) removed names of long-dormant voters from the rolls. But all those voters were notified first, and very few Georgians have come forward to complain they were thus barred from voting — and certainly not enough of them to swing an election Abrams lost by more than 50,000 votes.

The numbers just aren’t with her, so continued media attention to her most famous news splash will not help Biden’s chances.

As the summer’s convention in Milwaukee nears, identity-obsessed Democrats are increasingly strategizing the “perfect” running mate with the ideal qualifications — typically female, a minority and from a swing state.

But Joe Biden has been in politics long enough to know there’s only one qualification to be a good vice president — and that’s the ability to be a good president.

He’d be mistaken to bypass better-qualified running mates — no matter their sex, race, or region — to pick a novice like Stacey Abrams based on a flawed theory that a black woman from Georgia could clinch the race.

Of course, that wouldn’t be his first mistake, or his last. But given his advanced age (86 at the end of his, um, second term), it could be his worst.

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