Pressure Grows On Joe Biden To Pick A Black Woman As His Running Mate
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As protests against racial injustice have swept the country, the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is facing more pressure to choose a black woman as his running mate. NPR's Asma Khalid reports.
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Last month about a dozen black women hopped on a conference call and made their pitch for a black vice president directly to Joe Biden. LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, was on that call.
LATOSHA BROWN: That was a couple of weeks ago, and now I'm even more convinced than ever that when we see around what is happening right now in this country, there is a clarion call for us to do something different.
KHALID: Brown says people want a candidate who understands structural racism, and she feels like a black woman brings that experience to the ticket. Democratic leaders frequently mention California Sen. Kamala Harris. Other names include Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Florida congresswoman Val Demings and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Personally, Brown voted for Elizabeth Warren in the primaries, but that doesn't really matter now.
BROWN: This isn't just about an individual. We're talking about a systematic exclusion of black women in the top positions in this country although we are often looked at to be the voting base.
KHALID: Brown points out that white men have been some of the least supportive Democratic voters in recent years, and yet, they're usually picked for president and vice president.
CORNELL BELCHER: History should tell you you should have a reservation about an all-white ticket because we have a lot harder time winning majorities with an all-white ticket than we do with a diverse one.
KHALID: That's Cornell Belcher. He's a Democratic pollster who worked on Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, and what he's referring to is the fact that Obama was the first presidential candidate in decades to win 51% of the popular vote twice. But Belcher, like other activists and Democratic leaders I spoke to, point out that just because a candidate is black doesn't mean black people are going to rally around that person.
BELCHER: A black face alone is not a panacea. It also has to be someone who those throngs of people who are upset about injustice - that they think is credible in this space.
KHALID: Still, the demands to pick a black woman are growing louder and not just from black voters. Polling from a Politico/Morning Consult survey this week found 46% of Democrats say it's important for Biden to choose a candidate of color as his running mate. That's up from 36% in April. Former DNC Chair Howard Dean says he's witnessed an evolution in his own thinking in just the past two weeks. Initially, he thought having a black running mate would be nice, but now he thinks it's key.
HOWARD DEAN: I just think it's smart politics. I mean, if I were on the vetting team, I would now go back and look again because I think there's been an earthquake in the United States.
KHALID: But above all, Democrats want Biden to beat Trump, and there's not unanimous agreement on what that will take. Stephanie Cutter is a veteran of multiple Democratic campaigns.
STEPHANIE CUTTER: The most important thing in all of that, honestly, is to make sure that the presidential candidate and the vice presidential candidate have a chemistry.
KHALID: Cutter speaks from experience. She worked on the 2004 Democratic race.
CUTTER: John Kerry and John Edwards didn't, and they paid a price for it.
KHALID: Cutter says the Kerry campaign chose Edwards because he was a younger guy from an important state - North Carolina. And she warns that whomever Biden chooses as his running mate, if the personal connection isn't there, voters will notice.
Asma Khalid, NPR News.
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