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Biden shouldn’t wait to pick running mate

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris spoke after the Democratic presidential debate in September 2019.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris spoke after the Democratic presidential debate in September 2019.Win McNamee/Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty

Nobody can say Joe Biden hasn’t been busy.

The presumptive Democratic nominee spent Tuesday presenting a sweeping plan to address climate change. It was just the kind of big thinking critics long claimed he was allergic to.

Though seemingly confined to his Delaware basement, Biden has also been launching regular attacks on his future opponent, President Trump, for his unconscionable mishandling of the coronavirus crisis. The former vice president also has released a string of little-noticed policy proposals.

But Biden has been largely mute on the largest issue in front of him: his choice of a running mate. I’m starting to wonder if that’s the best strategy.

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With both major party conventions headed for the uncharted territory of becoming online celebrations, there’s no reason to wait for the conventions to do anything. I think Biden should seriously consider starting his general election campaign now — by announcing a running mate and waking up this sleepy campaign.

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. So with nothing coming from the tight-lipped team at Biden HQ, every few days has brought a fresh crop of strong contenders, courtesy of advocates, consultants, and the opinion-industrial complex.

This week, the people who write about these things are high on Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. She’s an authentic war hero. Duckworth has also drawn offensive and nonsensical attacks from the right, a sure sign that she is a feared opponent.

Votes are also streaming in for Representative Karen Bass of California. She’s a mainstay of the Congressional Black Caucus and highly regarded in California, if little known beyond it. She won a surprising endorsement from conservative columnist George Will — not one to usually weigh in on Democratic affairs.

The punditocracy has cooled — or run out of new things to say — about the earlier wave of strong contenders, including Senators Kamala Harris and our own Elizabeth Warren, as well as Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate.

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That has no bearing on their chances of landing the slot, because it’s really all up to Biden.

There’s a simple reason the veepstakes is getting more attention than usual: By conventional standards, the campaign — for reasons we all understand — has been a little quiet.

Biden is picking his campaign appearances carefully. Trump is hiding in the bunker or busy trying to undermine Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose credibility seems to drive the president to distraction. Trump’s even canceling his beloved rallies.

As the above — and partial — list of prospects indicates, Biden is faced with a surfeit of riches. There are probably half a dozen people who could meet the requirements: a person who could beat Mike Pence in a debate, credibly serve as president-in-waiting; possibly help in at least one or two key swing states.

I think Biden — like his president, Barack Obama — will place a premium on political and personal compatibility. That might not be good news for Warren, who regularly clashed with him over financial issues, both before and during the Obama administration. Warren was mostly right, but we’re talking about relationships here.

Senator Harris has always seemed to me to be the logical choice. Her liberal politics are close to his. She is a woman of color who would break a glass ceiling. And she’s a senator, which matters.

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There’s nothing Joe Biden reveres like the US Senate. I think Harris wins the “Who would he want to govern with?” test hands down.

To the idea that picking — or announcing — a running mate now would kill the drama of the convention, I say: What drama?

If there were ever any doubt, the last four months have confirmed that this campaign is about one thing, and one thing only. It’s about whether this country can stand four more years of Trump.

Biden has a golden opportunity, and he should get on with trying to seize it. Pick Harris now, and get the party united behind the ticket.

The old timetables are out the window. The general election — and the fight for America’s future — needs to start now.


Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at adrian.walker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.