That Joe Biden is considering a presidential run is no surprise. That his team is already considering a specific vice president turned some heads Thursday.
According to Axios, some of Biden’s advisers want to pair his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to select Stacey Abrams, who ran for Georgia governor in 2018, as vice president.
“The popular Georgia Democrat, who at age 45 is 31 years younger than Biden, would bring diversity and excitement to the ticket — showing voters, in the words of a close source, that Biden ‘isn’t just another old white guy,’ ” the outlet reported.
Choosing Abrams would be a smart move for Biden. It’s not so clear-cut for Abrams, who would have been the United States’ first black female governor.
If he runs, Biden has some built-in advantages. The 76-year-old is popular and polling well, particularly in early-primary states. He’s well-known and has the support of some of the biggest names in the party.
But he also has significant weaknesses. While he is progressive on some issues, his moderate positions and record working across the aisle (and bragging about it) don’t play so well with the Democratic base. In recent weeks, Biden has had to walk back mild praise for Vice President Pence after gay rights organizations pushed back.
Biden also comes with baggage. When professor Anita Hill accused Justice Clarence Thomas, then President George H.W. Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court, of sexual harassment, it was Biden who chaired the committee of mostly white male lawmakers before which Hill testified. He was criticized, Politico wrote, “for failing to blunt attacks on Hill and for not calling witnesses who could have supported her.”
If Abrams agrees to serve as Biden’s running mate, she could help blunt some of those attacks. She is unabashedly progressive and could help Biden make the case that his thinking has changed in important ways. Abrams is popular with women and voters of color, two constituencies to which Biden will have to appeal if he wants to win the primary. And she would probably help Biden attract voters in the South.
For Biden, it would be a win.
And Abrams would, surely, benefit in some ways by joining the ticket. It would shine the national spotlight on her even more and help Abrams bring attention to her signature issue, voting rights. She and Biden would make a formidable ticket. If Biden won, he might consider serving only one term because of his age, which would situate Abrams well for her own White House run.
But there are clear downsides, too. As Biden’s running mate, Abrams would be in the uncomfortable position of defending Biden’s past positions. Abrams might be called on as to how and why she could back a candidate that so many black and women liberal lawmakers find problematic. It also keeps Abrams from joining the ticket of another candidate or running herself.
Ultimately, Abrams is already a national player with a strong base of support and proven record of running a strong campaign. She was selected to deliver the 2019 response to President Trump’s State of the Union speech on behalf of the Democrats, and she’s building a national movement around the issue of voting rights. She doesn’t need Biden — she would be a formidable candidate for president or vice president on her own.
Abrams seems to know this. As she recently tweeted: “20 years ago, I never thought I’d be ready to run for POTUS before 2028. But life comes at you fast — as I shared in Q&A w @Yamiche at @sxsw. Now 2020 is definitely on the table…”