WASHINGTON (CNN) — As date for announcing his VP pick draws closer, Joe Biden (and his campaign team) are saying less and less about who it might be. Which is normal — even in these most abnormal of times.
Think of the race to be the vice presidential pick like a baseball season. At the start of the season, every team is 0-0 and can dream about making a run to the World Series. But as the season goes on — and the playoffs near — it becomes clear that a much smaller group of teams actually have a chance at winning.
That’s where we are in the VP race right now. There’s a month(ish) to go before Biden’s previously announced early August deadline, and the field has separated into the contenders and the pretenders. And the contenders aren’t saying a whole heck of a lot — because they know the Biden team is watching closely and even a single slip-up could cost them dearly.
Below are my new rankings of the Top 10 women considered most likely to wind up as Biden’s running mate this fall. And here are last week’s for reference!
(These rankings change weekly, so if your favorite isn’t ranked where she should be — or isn’t even on the list — there’s always next week. Necessary Michelle Obama caveat: The former first lady is not on this list because she has never indicated an interest in being a politician. If she does so, she would immediately jump to the top of these rankings.)
10. Gretchen Whitmer: I debated between the Michigan governor and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass, who, according to CBS, is being vetted by the Biden team, for this final spot. I decided to go with Whitmer because she is the governor of a state that Biden needs in November and is (still) seen as a rising star within the party. Whitmer has had something of a rocky road — or, more accurately, a roller-coaster ride — during the Covid-19 pandemic, but now seems to have emerged not all that worse for wear. (Previous ranking: 10)
9. Tammy Baldwin: If Biden is really ahead by 10 points in Wisconsin, then picking Baldwin as his running mate gets less likely. Still, we know Baldwin is being vetted for the job and that she would be a historic pick — as the first gay person to be on a national ticket. (Previous ranking: 8)
8. Gina Raimondo: The more likely it looks that Biden is in position to actually be president, the more likely it is that he makes a governing pick rather than a political or campaigning pick. Enter the Rhode Island governor. She’s won praise for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic in her home state and is one of the most highly regarded members of the centrist wing of the Democratic Party. (Previous ranking: 9)
7. Tammy Duckworth: The stronger Biden looks in the trio of Rust Belt states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — the less he and his team will feel compelled to make a purely geographic pick. And right now he looks very strong. That’s why I have the Illinois senator ranked above some female politicians from those states. Plus, while Illinois won’t be a swing state in the fall, Duckworth is a Midwesterner who can credibly campaign for Biden in each of those states. She’s also got a military record — she’s a Purple Heart recipient — and a personal story that may win over independents and Republicans looking for a reason not to vote for Trump. (Previous ranking: 7)
6. Elizabeth Warren: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s decision to remove herself from VP consideration (she wasn’t going to be the pick anyway) and announce she believed Biden should pick a woman of color was a bit of a body blow to Warren. On the other hand, the strong showing by liberals in primaries in New York and Kentucky this week suggest that the power of the party is shifting more toward where Warren is. (Previous ranking: 5)
5. Susan Rice: I continue to think Rice’s chances of being the pick are slightly underestimated. Steve Chapman, a columnist at the Chicago Tribune, summed up her appeal for Biden nicely: “Biden ought to give the highest priority to finding someone equipped to take over the presidency at any moment. There is only one contender who meets that standard: Susan Rice, whose preparation puts her in a different league from anyone else in the running.” If Biden truly puts experience in doing the job above all other considerations, Rice makes a ton of sense. (Previous ranking: 6)
4. Val Demings: “I’m not sure I want the job as much as the job may want me,” the Florida House member told Anderson Cooper on CNN on Monday. That quote raised some eyebrows but if you read what she said next, it makes more sense. “I say that because I think that people are chosen, I believe, at certain times to address certain things,” Demings added. “And if we look at what is going on in our country right now, I grew up the daughter of a maid and a janitor in the South. I know what discrimination feels like, I know what racism feels like because I have been subjected to it.” Which is powerful stuff. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Michelle Lujan Grisham: This CNBC profile on the New Mexico governor smartly notes that Lujan Grisham has long made health care her calling card, after losing her sister to a brain tumor at 21. Biden’s campaign clearly believes health care — and Trump’s joke/not-a-joke regarding slowing down coronavirus testing — an opening on which to press the issue against the incumbent. Lujan Grisham would allow a doubling-down on the issue while also allowing Biden to make history with the first Latina on a national ticket. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Keisha Lance Bottoms: It’s been clear for a while now but the Atlanta Journal Constitution confirmed it earlier this week: Bottoms is among a handful of serious contenders getting a full vet from the Biden team. The first-term mayor’s weak spot is experience, which we know from Biden’s public statements he very much prizes in a second-in-command. But Bottoms had an answer for that Sunday on CNN. “There’s been no handbook for so many mayors and so many governors across this country dealing with Covid-19 and now with the demonstrations that we are seeing around the country, I think that there has been a response to crisis that not many people have been tested in this way in the same way that leaders across this country have been over the past several months,” she said. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Kamala Harris: Attempting to quiet criticism of her record as California Attorney General, Harris smartly made sure she was front and center in leading the successful Democratic effort to block the police reform bill pushed by Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. And Harris’ back-and-forth on the Senate floor with Texas Sen. John Cornyn — in which she pushed for the Judiciary Committee have a chance to scrutinize the legislation — became a viral sensation. (Previous ranking: 1)