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The right kind of woman: who is running alongside Joe Biden for the White House?

A woman of colour is likely to run alongside Joe Biden for the White House. But we still don't know her name.

As early as March, during one of the debates former Vice-President Joe Biden pledged to choose a woman as his running mate. During a campaign speech in Wilmington, Delaware, he hinted he's likely to have a woman of colour on his ticket, thus making his future administration look more like America. Whoever he ends up picking, his choice is going to be one of the most consequential decisions of his political career and will, to a large extent, determine the outcome of his campaign. In a country that has never had a woman vice-president and where no presidential campaign has featured an African American woman as a running mate, the decision is of historic proportions.

joe biden speaks at a campaign event
Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware/REUTERS by Leah Millis

Early on, sources close to Biden's campaign named as many as ten candidates he considered as his prospective 'veep', but just days away from the announcement the number has been narrowed down to 4-5 realistic candidates. Still, there is no shortlist per se, and the media is rife with speculation.

The choice is not being made by the presumptive Democratic nominee single-handedly, but rather with the help of a vice-presidential vetting panel.

Its members consult campaign donors and try to garner support for whatever choice they make. Still, the vice-presidential search is taking unusually long. In the past days, the lobbying between the candidates' supporters has intensified. There are concerns the women are being pitted against each other, creating an unhealthy competition for those who might join Biden in the White House.

During the year marked by the pandemic, the recession it caused, the police killing of George Floyd, and the protest movement it triggered, the American political landscape has changed dramatically. Matters of racial and social justice have become of paramount importance. Trying to balance the interests of the Democratic Party establishment and the party's progressive wing, while at the same time not disappointing minorities, and winning delegates in swing states like Michigan and Florida may prove to be a daunting task.

Biden is reportedly looking for a partner with whom he'll be able to replicate his relationship with Barack Obama during the eight years of his presidency.

At 77 years of age, Biden is going to be the oldest Democratic nominee in history. Apart from the apparent effort to gain credibility with younger voters by choosing a more vibrant and generationally relevant running mate, he will be faced with the task to pick someone with enough experience to lead the party's ticket in four years, since the vice presidency in the US has long been a stepping stone to the presidency.

Sources close to the campaign name (1) California Representative Karen Bass, (2) a former national security adviser and the UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and (3) California Senator Kamala Harris, as top candidates of colour strongly considered for the job. Since there is no official shortlist, there's still a chance (4) the war hero Senator Tammy Duckworth of Thai-American descent or (5) Florida Representative Val Demings who previously served as Orlando's police chief might end up on the ticket. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the Democratic primary candidates, also remains among the contenders thanks to her popularity among the party's liberal base, but, according to the analysts, is a less likely choice. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who's been named among the candidates before, appears to be getting mentioned less and less often.

All of these women have got their strong suits, but each is facing harsh criticism from members of the political establishment traditionally shaped by white and mostly male leaders.

Kamala Harris was labelled too ambitious, based on the history of her attacks on Biden during the first Democratic primary debate, plus the future president might not want to have someone on his ticket who'd outshine him in the long run. Susan Rice, on the other hand, has never run for public office, which is highly unusual for a prospective vice-presidential candidate, and it may cost her the nomination.

California congresswoman Karen Bass, currently heading the Congressional Black Caucus, has been called out on some troubling statements she made in praise of Scientology, and also on her long-time support of Cuba and its late leader Fidel Castro. At the same time, Bass has repeatedly claimed that she does not "envision" herself as president, which many view as a welcoming contrast with Harris, who seems to be too eager to become one.

The decision is likely to be announced sometime next week ahead of the Democratic National Convention that should take place on August 17th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Recently Joe Biden announced he wouldn't be travelling to Milwaukee to accept the nomination, citing coronavirus concerns, but instead would make a speech from Delaware. This week Joe Biden is probably conducting one-on-one interviews with the candidates, before making his announcement shortly before the convention.