Whitmer is the first potential nominee known to have had an in-person interview with Biden. The meeting, first reported by the Associated Press, was confirmed by two people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Biden, who is notorious for blowing past self-imposed deadlines, initially said he would make his pick this week but is now expected to choose his running mate next week. Even close allies have had a hard time keeping up with whom and how many he is considering, saying that every time they think he has narrowed the list down they hear a new name. He vowed months ago to name a woman to the ticket.
While Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) was highly regarded days ago, there have been concerns about her past work in Cuba and warm comments about Fidel Castro. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) has long been thought to be at the top of the list, but she’s met some high-level dissension within the campaign. Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser, has a warm relationship with Biden and strong support from former colleagues in the Obama administration, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is also still under consideration, according to people close to the campaign.
Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for Whitmer, would not confirm the trip. “We don’t discuss the governor’s personal schedule,” she said. Biden’s campaign also would not confirm the trip.
A twin-engine chartered jet left the Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Mich., on Sunday at 5:33 p.m., headed for Delaware Coastal Airport, which is near Biden’s beach house in Rehoboth, according to flight records. After being on the ground for nearly three hours, the plane returned to Lansing, arriving at 11:16 p.m.
“She’d be wonderful if she’s the VP,” said Barry Goodman, a Michigan-based attorney who is a top fundraiser for both Whitmer and Biden.
Many top Democrats have predicted that Biden will pick a woman of color to be his nominee, and he has a number of Black women under consideration. If he went in a different direction, it would probably come as a disappointment to Black activists and some of his top supporters.
Goodman and other Whitmer allies have noted that Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (D) would become Michigan’s first Black governor were Whitmer to ascend to the vice presidency.
“That can be the saving grace if Biden even needs to respond to that,” he said.
He pointed to the perceived shortcomings of Biden’s other picks and said, “Everybody has a skeleton in the closet. I don’t know one for Gretchen. That’s a plus.”
Whitmer is a lifelong Michigan resident who served 14 years in the state legislature. Two years after Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes, Whitmer won the governorship by nearly 10 percentage points. She delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union address in February, and her profile rose as her state was hit hard by the coronavirus.
Republicans criticized her for instituting one of the country’s most aggressive stay-at-home orders, and protesters — some of them armed — came to the state capitol. She also earned the ire of Trump, who referred to her as “that woman” and “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer.”
But to Biden and his campaign, her performance has been impressive.
Asked during an interview on MSNBC in March if she was on his list — and if he had to lengthen it to include her following her response to the pandemic — Biden responded, “She hasn’t lengthened the list. She made the list, in my mind, two months ago.”
Whitmer had been scheduled to appear on MSNBC’s Kasie DC show on Sunday night, for a special hour covering Biden’s vice presidential selection.
On Saturday morning, according to host Kasie Hunt, her team unexpectedly canceled the interview.