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Analysis: Joe Biden says he’d prefer a running mate who is ‘of color and/or a different gender’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 8/28/2019 Eugene Scott
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Former vice president Joe Biden has been leading the Democratic field in most polls since he entered the race, but even he acknowledges that he’s a long way from winning the nomination. If he does, Biden said it would be ideal for his ticket to reflect the diversity of the American population.

The presidential hopeful told a small group of black journalists Tuesday that if he wins the nomination, he’d prefer that his vice presidential candidate not be a white male.

Asked by Washington Post reporter Vanessa Williams whether it would be important to him to select a running mate who reflects diversity, Biden replied: “Whomever I pick, preferably it will be someone who was of color and/or a different gender, but I’m not making that commitment until I know that the person I’m dealing with I can completely and thoroughly trust as authentic and on the same page [as me].”

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Biden spoke at length about Barack Obama’s choice of him as his running mate because, he said, Obama knew that they would usually be on the same page. He said that that consideration was more important to Obama than Biden’s ability to win over voters who might be slow to back a black man with an uncommon name.

“The one thing I know is the job of being president in 2020 as in 2016 and in 2008 is too big for any one person,” he said. “You’ve got to have somebody you can turn to.”

Obama “knew that he and I had the same value set and the same political disposition as what we should do, and he knew if I ever had any doubt, I would come back to him,” Biden added. “That’s what I most want in whomever I pick. They’ve got to be simpatico with what I stand for and with what I want to get done.”

Even before he officially joined the race, many Democrats who are supporting him expressed hope that he would pick a woman or person of color for the ticket. There was reporting before he announced his candidacy that his campaign team floated announcing 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as his running mate. (Spokesmen for Abrams and Biden denied this.) I previously wrote that some Democrats have told the news media that they’d like to see Biden consider Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate. But Harris, who experienced a brief rise in the polls after challenging Biden on his civil rights legacy at a debate, has made clear that she is running for the presidential nomination — not the second spot on the ticket.

Abrams showed little interest in March in the rumors about her possibly joining a Biden ticket. But she said Tuesday that she’d be open to the idea.

“The reality is I’m not running for president,” she said on SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show.” “And so, and I do not know who the nominee will be. That nominee will then have to decide who he or she wants to have as their colleague and their ally in this campaign. That is left to the decision of the candidate, and I can’t say who that person is, and I can’t say I’m the person they would choose. If the question is, would I like the job? I’m not going to be coy and say no. Of course I would love that opportunity.”

Vanessa Williams contributed to this report.

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