In the lead up to the US presidential election, all eyes are on Joe Biden this week.
The 77-year-old has rarely ventured out during the pandemic with an online campaign largely run out of his home in Delaware. But the presumptive Democratic nominee for the White House – who has a considerable lead in the polls over Donald Trump – is on the cusp of declaring his running mate.
Mr Biden said in May he hoped to name his vice presidential pick around August 1, and told reporters this week he would “have a choice in the first week of August.”
A public announcement might not come until next week, but there have been a couple major clues as to who it will likely be.
At the top of the list is Californian senator Kamala Harris, who Mr Biden spoke about to reporters last week while holding in his hand something that appeared to give the game away.
In his hand were notes that were captured by an Associated Press photographer which had Kamala Harris’ name scrawled across the top, followed by five talking points.
“Do not hold grudges.” “Campaigned with me & Jill.” “Talented.” “Great help to campaign.” “Great respect for her.”
While those are all observations Mr Biden has made about Ms Harris before, they take on new significance following a recent report that one of Mr Biden’s closest friends and a co-chair of his vice presidential vetting committee, former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, harboured concerns about her attack on Mr Biden during earlier debates.
The on-stage skirmish was one of the seminal moments of the Democratic primary when Ms Harris, who is Black, said the 77-year-old made “very hurtful” comments about his past work with segregationist senators before she slammed his opposition to busing as schools began to integrate.
Perhaps, Joe Biden is willing to forgive and forget. No grudges.
Of course these are all compliments he might pay to someone in line for Attorney General of the United States as well, but another clue this month suggests Ms Harris might be the eventual VP pick: Wikipedia page edits.
There is often a flurry of edits on the Wikipedia pages of candidates before they’re announced, and in recent weeks Ms Harris’ page was reportedly placed under “discretionary sanctions” after administrators discovered it had been edited over 500 times since early May.
‘This country is so nuts’: Sexism suggestions dog VP rumours
From the outset of becoming the presumptive nominee, Mr Biden said he would pick a woman and in the wake of the George Floyd protests, expectations are that it will be a woman of colour.
The scrutiny of his choices has intensified in recent weeks as allies have weighed in, sometimes in ways that feed the tension.
On Monday (local time) Ed Rendell, a former Democratic Party chairman and ally of Mr Biden, was quoted in The Washington Post noting that there has been recent buzz about former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who has also emerged as a front-runner.
Ms Rice was in the role during Obama administration but has never held elected office, making her an unknown quantity when it comes to how she’d fare in debates.
He observed that Ms Rice was smiling during a TV appearance, “something that she doesn’t do all that readily,” and that she was “actually somewhat charming.”
Mr Rendell, 76, has commented on another candidate’s demeanour, too, telling CNN last week that Ms Harris can “rub people the wrong way.”
Some see that sort of commentary — docking women for being aggressive and rewarding them for intangibles such as likability — as the sort of bias they say has dogged women in politics for decades.
Mr Rendell said in a phone interview Monday with the Associated Press that any suggestions his comment about Ms Rice was sexist were “ludicrous.” He said it was a compliment, a description of a good candidate, no different from when people commented on Richard Nixon smiling more on the comeback trail.
“This country is so nuts,” he said of criticism of his choice of words, blaming it partly on the media. “We’re going crazy.”
With questions surrounding Mr Biden’s age and mental fitness, his pick for a running mate is considered particularly important as they could conceivably find themselves stepping into the top job down the line.
Having a black running mate is thought to help in boosting turnout among the African-American voters, in an election where the handling of the coronavirus (which has disproportionately affected minorities) and racial justice are among the top issues.
In recent weeks, Mr Biden has held a roughly 8 to 9 percentage point lead in the average of national polls, a situation that would deliver him a decisive victory on November 3 if it remained.
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