Joe Biden moves into the weekend weighing his presidential campaign’s greatest move so far, and people who are close to the process informed that it is understood the former vice president has now started to narrow his personal shortlist of possible running mates to a handful of women.
In more than two dozen discussions over the last few days, Congressional leaders, top Democratic donors, Biden associates and others close to the vice presidential screening process said California Rep. Karen Bass, the 66-year-old leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, has gained significant momentum in the late search stage.
Amidst angry last-minute lobbying and uncertainty about Biden’s historic decision, it is also suspected that California Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice, the former national security advisor to Barack Obama, are among the most serious candidate.
The search goes under intense secrecy, even with several top campaign advisors in the dark about the vetting process. Several other women, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Florida Rep. Val Demings and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, also underwent comprehensive assessments by the Biden team. Others such as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have received varying rates of scrutiny from the screening committee.
Biden’s team has yet to inform any of the women they have been talking about the vice presidential position that they are formally out of the running, stated people familiar with the situation, with one source claiming that 11 women are still being officially considered.
Strong lobbying on her behalf by some of her House colleagues like prominent California Democrats and major donors has driven Bass’ new appearance as one of the top contenders. Her star rose up after Speaker Nancy Pelosi advised weeks ago not to forget Bass.
In recent weeks they have reached out to members of Biden’s inner circle, making an eloquent argument for why the selection process does not ignore the congresswoman. Her supporters painted her as a widely liked and admired House member, a team player with experience working with Republicans and leading a state legislature, an African-American woman with a convincing biography grounded in humble origins and, in particular, a comfortable political option that would not rock the boat.
Steve Westly, the former California state controller and major fundraiser for Biden, who stated he was pleased to see both Bass and Harris on the shortlist for Biden, said, “I think Karen has been under counted since Day One.”
“Everybody likes Karen Bass. People are scratching their heads saying, who is this woman?” he said. “When you’ve been speaker of the legislature for a state that’s twice the population of New York and the world’s fifth biggest economy, you know how to manage media, you understand the economy. I think she is stronger than people think.”
Pelosi, who is close to some of the candidates, does not have a favorite quest candidate, aides say.
Another undeniable trend emerging in recent days: a concerted attempt by some Biden supporters to sabotage the prospects of Harris being picked.
Also as Biden has publicly endorsed Harris in previous months, some of his backers — both private and public — have proceeded to pose concerns in the press, often using derogatory terminology, about whether Harris will be a trustworthy team member, sometimes bringing up Harris’ popular attack on Biden in a Democratic primary debate over busing.
This direct statement was provided by one Democratic aide with knowledge of the selection process: “Biden allies are laying the groundwork for the vice president to have a reason to not choose her.”