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Kamala Harris leads the list of Biden running mates

Victory has a thousand mothers and fathers. A successful political campaign has many building blocks. Joe Biden’s quest for the Democratic presidential nomination is no exception. There are many reasons for his win. But one factor that stands out in his claim on the Democratic nod was his success with African American voters.

After weak showings in the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Biden won a resounding victory in the Palmetto State with a strong assist from black voters there. In South Carolina, most of the primary voters were African American (56 percent) and they voted in large numbers for Biden over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (61 percent to 17 percent). 

After his big victory in South Carolina, Biden capitalized on his support with black Democratic voters with a strong showing on Super Tuesday. The former vice president’s win in Texas is a good example. Biden and Sanders received just about the same level of support from white voters (Biden 30 percent-Sanders 29 percent). But Barack Obama’s two-time running mate won the overwhelming support of African Americans primary voters in the Lone Star State (Biden 58 percent-Sanders 15 percent).

Why did Biden do so well with black primary voters? The relationship between Biden and Barack Obama was a big plus. The symbolism of an older white man serving a younger black man loyally for eight years makes it easy to understand Biden’s overwhelming support from black Democrats in the nomination campaign. Sanders in contrast was dismissive of many aspects of the Obama presidency. Biden called for an expansion of President Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act. while Sanders wanted to replace Obamacare.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is the favored vice presidential candidate of the most Democratic primary voters in a recent national poll conducted by CBS News. 

But black voters made Joe Biden. Will the presumptive Democratic nominee make good his debt to them with an African American running mate?

If Biden does decide to run with an African American, he has plenty of qualified women to choose from. For example, Chris Cillizza’s most recent ranking of the 10 most likely Biden running mates included five African American women. They were California Senator Kamala Harris (number 1), former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice (number 5), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (number 6), Florida Representative Val Demings (number 8) and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams (number 9). 

Harris trails Warren 36 percent to 19 percent in the CBS vice presidential preference poll. But the senator from California is at the top of running mate rankings of most pundits. There’s good reason for her standing with political insiders.

She has a killer resume. Harris has served in elective office at the federal, state and local level, which is strong preparation for serving as vice president or even president. Her career started as the San Francisco District Attorney in 2004. From there she went on to become Attorney General of California in 2011 and was elected U.S. Senator in 2016. 

Harris also has the kind of charisma which attracts attention. Harris, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), was one of the three members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who ran for president. During the hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Klobuchar and Booker made strong showings. But it was Harris who was the focus of press attention during the committee’s deliberations.

Harris’ unsuccessful run for president is also a plus. In this day and age, the media exposure and vetting in a run for president are worth their weight in gold even if the candidate loses. If Biden asks her to be his running mate, he won’t be in for any big surprises. It’s hardly a coincidence that three of the top four finishers in the CBS preference poll, Harris, Warren and Klobuchar ran for president in 2020. Stacy Abrams is the exception.

Klobuchar, like Harris, has served in elective office at all three levels of government. Klobuchar’s selling point is geography. She’s a daughter of the Midwest, which is ground zero in the battle for supremacy in the Electoral College.

But Biden may feel he owes a debt to African American voters for helping him become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. That obligation coincides with a strategic imperative for the Democratic nominee to run with an African American woman. An analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center indicated that there was a sharp drop from 66.6 percent to 59.6 in black turnout between Barack Obama’s last campaign in 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s race in 2016. 

African American participation is key to reclaiming the industrial Midwestern states that are important to victory in the Electoral College. Relatively low African American turnout in Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia contributed to Hillary Clinton’s narrow defeats in the key battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The wide choice of quality candidates and the need to balance competing political interests will make selecting a running mate a very tough call for Joe Biden.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

Tags 2020 election African American voters Amy Klobuchar Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Black voters Brett Kavanaugh Cory Booker Democratic nominee Democrats Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Pew presidential election Presumptive nominee Stacey Abrams Val Demings vice president

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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