Last week, Axios reported that some of former vice president Joe Biden’s advisers were floating the idea of pairing his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to select Stacey Abrams, a Democratic rising star who unsuccessfully ran for Georgia governor in 2018, as VP.
“You don’t run for second place,” she said. “If I’m going to enter a primary, then I’m going to enter a primary. If I don’t enter a primary, my job is to make certain that the best Democrat becomes the nominee and whoever wins the primary, that we make sure that person gets elected in 2020.”
“Running in a primary to be the vice president is very different than someone who has been selected by the party to be the nominee asking you to serve as a partner,” Abrams went on. “I am open to all options.”
Abrams’s comments show she understands how valuable she is to the party. She is popular with the Democratic base. As a vice-presidential candidate, she could attract groups that Biden might struggle with, like women, millennials and people of color. But that appeal means she has lots of options, including a Senate or gubernatorial run and even her own presidential bid.
These options could be more attractive than partnering with Biden for many reasons. In the past, Biden has opposed using busing to fight school desegregation. He supported a landmark criminal justice bill that disproportionately affected people of color. I wrote:
“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.”
The rumors are also not playing well among some of Abrams’s fans, who fear the former vice president looks like he’s using Abrams as a “political cudgel.”
An adviser for Abrams told BuzzFeed that the potential proposals seem opportunistic. “What makes it particularly exploitative is that Biden couldn’t be bothered to endorse Stacey in the gubernatorial primary,” the adviser said. “Now he wants her to save his a--. That’s some serious entitlement.” (Biden did endorse Abrams, but he canceled a trip to stump for her because of a “scheduling conflict.”)
This is not the impression Biden wants to project, given that he still faces serious questions and criticism over his treatment of Anita Hill, who testified before a Senate committee Biden chaired in 1991 that now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her.
Abrams’s comments on “The View” are a good reminder of her role and power in the Democratic Party. She’s already leading a national voting rights drive, and she has several viable paths to win elected office, if she wants to.