The Woman Who Biden Picks for VP Should Bring Back the Centrists Democrats Lost in 2016 | Opinion

Two things are known about the Democratic presidential ticket: Joe Biden will lead it and a woman will be his running mate. The former VP will be nearly 78 years old if elected, hence the second spot takes on more importance.

Bernie Sanders' legions are already putting on a full court press for an avowedly progressive choice such as Elizabeth Warren or Stacy Abrams. The surface appeal is obvious: Such a solution would join the establishment and Sanders' camps and present a united party heading into the fall.

With apologies for a Republican telling the other party how to handle business, Biden has an easier path to victory: Broaden your electoral base by reaching out to centrist Independents and some Republicans to win popular and electoral college majorities. Here are a few reasons why this is his best strategic approach:

First, most every Democrat and progressive will support Biden regardless of who is selected #2. This is almost exclusively because of their antipathy for a second Trump Administration. However many wandered in 2016, it says here that leaving the electoral reservation again is not an option. Indeed, that's why Biden became the chosen candidate in the first place, namely, that Democrats of all stripes overwhelmingly concluded that he was their strongest general election nominee.

A better way for Biden to generate enthusiasm and support from any still reluctant progressives is to utilize his party's platform to underline common themes and goals.

Second, the much discussed "Sanders surge" of young, committed leftist activists in the primaries never happened. Democratic turnout did surge, but not among Sanders' backers. Rather, the turnout growth occurred in state after state in voter rich suburbs dominated by moderate, problem solving voters who turned overwhelmingly to Biden. The suburban turnout in large states such as Texas, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and Michigan will test GOP efforts to win those states, save Texas, in November. Suburban voters were not impressed by Sanders' appeal to "fundamentally change" America. They were more in tune with Biden's promise to bring "normalcy and civility" back to American governance, a non ideological but powerful message.
Poll after poll demonstrates Americans' desire to lower the decibel level of political discourse and look to find solutions to the country's problems. The coronavirus crisis underlines the appeal of politicians who work to protect public health and safety by creative and efficient use of public and private sector resources.

Third, the Democratic imperative is geographic, not demographic. An enduring myth of 2016 was that Hillary Clinton lost because progressives abandoned her. Recall that she did win a popular majority of nearly 3 million votes, however she lost narrowly in a band of Midwestern states, older and whiter than the national average. A large number of blue collar and working class voters abandoned her and took a chance on the GOP. The real Democratic imperative is to win back these voters. Biden has appeal here and can underscore that appeal with an appropriate selection such as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, or especially Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Unlike Clinton in 2016 who seldom visited the region, the charge to his running mate would be to supplement Biden's blue collar strength with appeals to women in large suburban counties surrounding Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

An avowed leftist like Warren or Abrams would have little appeal here. The much discussed Kamala Harris probably wouldn't either, and her chemistry with Biden might not be the best.

In a famous story recounting, Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks and responded, "That's where the money is." For Biden, the votes next time are in the Center.

Frank Donatelli served as assistant for political affairs to President Reagan and as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​