Why Biden VP's First 24 Hours Is a 'Danger Zone'

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is expected to announce his pick for vice president this week, bringing months of speculation to an end.

The question of who Biden will choose for the role he once held under the Obama administration has faced growing scrutiny, particularly amid calls for the former vice president to pick a woman of color as his running mate.

In the lead-up to the decision, a number of potential candidates have come to the fore, with Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth emerging as potential candidates, along with former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Reps. Karen Bass and Val Demings.

Other possibilities include Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, among others.

Bruce Wolpe, a senior fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, told Newsweek on Tuesday that whoever Biden picks, the 24 to 48 hours after his decision is announced could be a critical "danger zone" for the presidential candidate's campaign.

"The public is going to make a snapshot judgment on 'is this person qualified?' and the media and commentators are going to make a snapshot judgment," he said.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign and conservative critics are likely to be prepared to try to shape that judgment after Biden's pick is announced.

While past research has suggested that who a presidential candidate picks as their running mate is likely to have a limited impact on their success on election day, in Biden's case, the stakes could be higher, given the former vice president's age and the current political climate.

"You could cut other nominees like [former President Barack Obama] and Hillary Clinton some slack because of their age vitality and so forth. This is slightly different because of Biden's age and I think he's acutely aware of it," Wolpe said.

When Biden's running mate is announced, one of the first thoughts likely to cross voters' and commentators' minds will be whether they can see his pick for VP as president.

"Because of his age, though everyone wishes Joe Biden well, it has to be a pick who can be seen immediately as a person who can step into the presidency at a moment's notice, so there's going to be a very sharp reaction when they see the nominee as to whether she's acceptable or not and whether she is qualified or not to be president," Wolpe said. "In the long term, he's selecting someone who could have a fair chance at being the next president."

Further, the political expert said, Biden's decision comes at a crucial time of widespread demand for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd's killing, with many calling on the former VP to pick a woman of color as his running mate.

On Monday, more than 100 Black men signed an open letter to Biden urging him to pick a Black woman as his vice president.

"Failing to select a Black woman in 2020 means you will lose the election," the letter, which was signed by several Black leaders across a wide spectrum of industries from rapper and actor Sean "Diddy" Combs to Ben Crump, the attorney for the family of George Floyd, said.

"Ultimately, I think choosing a person of color at this time in American history, given the issues this country is dealing with, is very important," Wolpe said.

Matt Grossman, the director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, told Newsweek that ultimately, whoever Biden picks, his decision is unlikely to lose him significant support among Democrats.

Historically, Grossman noted, "the research doesn't show that you know huge changes in election outcomes or votership based on vice presidential selections."

"What is different this time is that Biden is ahead fairly substantially and yet, that is almost all an anti-Trump sentiment," Grossman noted, pointing to polling that has suggested much of Biden's support is driven by anti-Trump feeling, rather than by support for the former vice president himself.

"That means impressions of Biden can still be formed," he said, and the former VP's pick for running mate could attract more support.

Unlike Wolpe, Grossman said he does not believe that Biden ignoring demands to pick a Black woman as a running mate would affect support among Democrats.

'The people making those claims are usually already guaranteed votes for the party," he said.

"I think people make a lot of claims about 'well, it must be this person or that kind of person," but the people making those claims are usually already guaranteed votes for the party," he said.

Whoever Biden picks, Rebecca Sive, a political analyst and the author of Vote Her In: Your Guide to Electing our First Woman President, said, "there will always be unhappy people."

"He has to manage the expectations of people," she said. "But, I think that, you know, he's prepared to do it and his people know what to do."

Ultimately, she said, whoever Biden picks, the former vice president will have to remind voters that the goal is to "gather together and work to defeat this autocratic person who doesn't believe in American democracy."

"If he keeps repeating that," Sive said, it's unlikely that Biden will lose support, regardless of who he chooses as a running mate.

For Sive, the most important thing is that Biden picks a candidate who has demonstrated strength in executive leadership.

Rice, Harris and Whitmer come to mind as potential candidates who have exhibited the leadership skills that will be necessary when it comes to helping Biden guide America through contending with "the pandemic, the economy and a nation of people who don't trust each other."

For his part, Wolpe said he sees Harris as the strongest pick, as someone with experience as an elected official and who had garnered support in her own presidential bid before dropping out of the 2020 race.

Rice, he said, would also be a strong pick, however he said that given her background in foreign policy, she might bring little balance to the partnership as Biden's second-in-command.

"She's foreign policy and he's foreign policy," Wolpe said. Further, he said, "she's not been elected to office before."

"I think she would be much better as secretary of state," he said.

Joe Biden
Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden participates in the 11th Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, D.C. on March 15, 2020. Biden is expected to announce his pick for VP soon. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

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