If Biden wants to use his vice-presidential pick to amplify that message rather than broadening it, there’s an obvious choice who agrees with his theory of change, can offer insight into the states he needs to win and ultimately can help him govern: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Klobuchar easily surpasses the minimum requirements for the job. She’s been in the Senate for over 13 years. She ran a strong campaign for president in 2020, ultimately placing third in New Hampshire and proving she can deal with the rigors of a general-election campaign. And in her nearly year-long presidential campaign, no reporter or rival campaign found a major scandal or damning opposition research, other than stories about her being a tough boss and, like Biden, changing her stance on race and policing issues.
But unlike other former presidential candidates who also clear that bar, Klobuchar is a good fit for the Biden campaign. Klobuchar’s 2020 pitch was simple: She knows how to win swing voters and get liberal legislation through Congress because she does it all the time. She consistently posts eye-popping margins in Minnesota, where Hillary Clinton only eked out a 1.5-point win over Donald Trump. And according to a Vanderbilt University study, she was better at moving legislation through Congress than any other Democratic senator. This pragmatic, liberal, electability-driven appeal should sound familiar — it’s Biden’s pitch sans the gratuitous Obama name-dropping.
A Biden-Klobuchar ticket would let Biden be Biden, but in a good way. If Biden picked a progressive running mate such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or California Sen. Kamala D. Harris, he’d have to deal with constant questions about why he and his vice president disagree so vehemently on so many issues. President Trump will call Biden a socialist — or at least a Trojan horse for socialism — no matter whom he puts on the ticket. But if Biden picked a bona fide progressive, some of those attacks might land harder.
And Klobuchar would fill in some gaps in the ticket. Biden is a man leading a party that’s majority-female. If he really cares about representing the diversity of Democrats nationwide, he should stick to his promise and pick a woman. Klobuchar is also significantly younger than Biden: He’s 77, and she’s 59. If Biden decided not to run for a second term or was sidelined by a health problem, Klobuchar could assume the office and carry out his policy program with minimal disruption.
Klobuchar isn’t a perfect choice. The Democratic Party is roughly 40 percent nonwhite, so an all-white ticket would be a little cringeworthy — especially when Biden loves to talk about his role in President Barack Obama’s historic administration and talented nonwhite candidates including Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker are available. The Biden-Klobuchar team also wouldn’t excite the most progressive parts of the base. And people who expect Klobuchar to deliver the Midwest may be asking too much: Vice-presidential candidates are almost never the decisive factor in winning their home regions.
But nobody is perfect, and Klobuchar is as good as it gets. She’d be an asset both as a running mate and as a vice president. And, maybe more important, whoever Biden picks would likely start out as the favorite in the next open Democratic primary. If he picks someone who is ideologically simpatico, then he could cement the Obama-Biden-Klobuchar brand of neoliberalism as the dominant strain of the Democratic Party for years to come.