On Politics: Vice-Presidential Chatter

On Politics: Vice-Presidential Chatter

Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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  • Usually, becoming a presidential candidate’s running mate is a little like being asked to prom: The best way to show you’re interested is to look away. You haven’t had time to think about it. Rarely — if ever — do viable contenders come out and simply say they want the big invite. But that’s exactly what Stacey Abrams did in an interview with Elle published on Wednesday. “Yes. I would be honored,” Abrams, the former candidate for governor of Georgia and longtime voting rights advocate, told the scholar Melissa Harris-Perry when asked if she would be willing to serve as Joe Biden’s vice-presidential candidate. “I would be an excellent running mate. I have the capacity to attract voters by motivating typically ignored communities.”

  • Biden has committed to choosing a woman as his running mate, and Abrams — the former minority leader of the Georgia State Legislature — has often been floated as a potential choice. But so have a number of other prominent politicians with more experience on the national stage. They include three senators who ran against Biden for the presidential nomination: Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren (the last of whom endorsed Biden on Wednesday; more about that development is below, from our reporter Maggie Astor). A Biden campaign co-chair said that details on a vice-presidential search committee could come as soon as early next week.

  • Another name that has been floated as a possible pick is that of Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan. Right now, though, she has plenty keeping her busy at home. Michigan is one of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus, and thousands of protesters descended on the State Capitol on Wednesday to protest the governor’s stay-at-home order, one of the country’s most restrictive. It bars Michigan residents from doing things like traveling to vacation homes even if that residence is within the state, and requires large retail stores to shut down some aisles devoted to merchandise considered nonessential. Wednesday’s protest, using the name Operation Gridlock, was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group tied to the DeVos family. Organizers had meant this to be a drive-through protest, with demonstrators instructed to stay in their cars and observe social distancing norms. But by the hundreds, protesters defied those instructions, clumping up on the Capitol steps to wave flags — some saying “Don’t tread on me,” others bearing the Confederate stars and bars — and to issue chants of “Open up Michigan” and “Lock her up.”

  • Perhaps no presidential primary campaign in history has performed as well among Latinos — or relied as heavily upon them — as Bernie Sanders’s did this year. Now that Biden has vanquished Sanders to become the presumptive Democratic nominee, his allies will be hoping to pick up a few lessons from the Vermont senator’s success. Alumni from Sanders’s campaign are forming a $22 million political action committee, led by the Sanders campaign veteran Chuck Rocha, to target Latino voters in key swing states — particularly in the Midwest. They plan to use a mix of online and TV ads, as well as phone calls and other forms of direct contact. Rocha told our reporter Jennifer Medina that in Nevada, whose caucuses Sanders won by a wide margin in February, the senator’s campaign made contact with the average Latino resident no fewer than 22 times. “We showed that works,” Rocha said.

  • Starting next week, Americans will start receiving one-time payments under the stimulus package enacted last month. Some will have that money deposited straight into their bank accounts, but everyone else will receive a paper check. And on that check, for the first time in the country’s history, will be the president’s signature. It’s not because President Trump actually needs to authorize the check: That responsibility belongs to an official in a division of the Treasury Department whose autograph will still appear in the “signature” field. Rather, Trump’s squiggles will show up in the “memo” field, below a line reading “Economic Impact Payment.” The White House hasn’t explained the decision to plaster his name on the personal payments, but Democrats denounced what they called a bald attempt to score political points. “Only this president would try to make a pandemic and economic catastrophe all about him,” said Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

President Trump walked to the Rose Garden for the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday.

Warren’s endorsement of Biden on Wednesday gives him another jolt of liberal firepower as he tries to win over left-wing Democrats.

Biden has been rolling out big endorsements all week: Sanders on Monday, Barack Obama on Tuesday and now Warren. The whole process is a show of force meant to demonstrate that Democrats are uniting against Trump after a hard-fought primary — one in which Biden accused Warren of having an “elitist attitude,” and Warren argued that his policies didn’t go nearly far enough.

Biden knows he needs to make at least some concessions to the left now. He has adopted parts of Warren’s and Sanders’s proposals, and the combination of those concessions and the new endorsements could be important in bringing young voters and progressives on board.

Our colleague Shane Goldmacher, who reported extensively on the Warren campaign, tells us that Warren didn’t demand any specific concessions in exchange for her endorsement. In fact, she offered it some time ago; the delay in announcing it was a matter of timing strategy on Biden’s part, not reluctance on hers. But in her endorsement video, she made a point to thank Biden for the moves he had made.

“One thing I appreciate about Joe Biden is that he will always tell you where he stands,” Warren said. “When you disagree, he’ll listen — not just listen, but really hear you and treat you with respect, no matter where you’re coming from. And he has shown throughout this campaign that when you come up with new facts or a good argument, he’s not too afraid or too proud to be persuaded.”

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