(This is the 14th edition of our weekly power rankings of politicians most likely to be chosen as Joe Biden’s Democratic running mate in 2020.)
These are not outliers. Virtually every credible poll released over the past six weeks has shown Biden with a lead over Trump that falls somewhere between high single-digits and low double-digits. And Trump’s decision to shake up his campaign leadership on Wednesday night speaks to the fact that the incumbent knows he is in deep trouble.
Which doesn’t mean that the race is over. Things change! The election is still more than 100 days away!
But the current status of the race clearly has an impact on how Biden goes about choosing a running mate, a decision we expect sometime in the next month or so.
Why? Because with such a large lead in both swing-state and national polling, Biden is less likely to make a choice driven by micro-politics (i.e., picking a vice presidential nominee from a state he needs to win) and much more likely to make a governing pick – a person who he believes is best equipped to not only serve as the vice president but also eventually step up to the presidency.
With that in mind, I’ve adjusted my VP rankings somewhat. Below is the new list of the Top 10 women I consider most likely to wind up as Biden’s running mate this fall. And here are last week’s ratings for reference!
(These rankings change weekly, so if your favorite isn’t ranked where she should be – or isn’t even on the list – there’s always next week. Necessary Michelle Obama caveat: The former first lady is not on this list because she has never indicated an interest in being a politician. If she did so, she would immediately jump to the top of these rankings.)
10. Tammy Baldwin: The senator from Wisconsin would be more than just a geographic pick: she would make history as the first known gay person on a major national-party ticket. There’s not much buzz around her at the moment, however, as the importance of Biden winning any single swing state has faded somewhat. (Previous ranking: 9)
9. Karen Bass: The California congresswoman is the least well-known person on the list. But as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus she is right in the thick of the national conversation about race and policing in the country. And her time spent in the leadership of the California State Assembly – she became speaker in 2008 – gives her the sort of governing experience that we know Biden prizes in a VP. (Previous ranking: 10)
8. Elizabeth Warren: The senator from Massachusetts is a pick to unite a fractured party. The Democratic Party, at the moment, doesn’t look very fractured. Plus, if Biden sees the VP pick as his chance to begin grooming the leader of the next generation of Democratic politicians, Warren, at age 71, doesn’t fit that bill. (Previous ranking: 7)
7. Gina Raimondo: The more Biden looks to a governing pick rather than a political one, the better the governor of Rhode Island looks. She is drawing raves for how she dealt with the coronavirus pandemic in her state (“How the Smallest State Engineered a Big Covid Comeback,” “And the Littlest State Shall Lead the Way on Covid-19”) and is widely acknowledged as one of the most hands-on governors in the country. (Previous ranking: 8)
6. Val Demings: This Politico story on Demings’ time as the chief of police in Orlando is VERY tough for her, casting the Florida congresswoman as part of the problem when it comes to policing. That said, Demings’ personal story is still so powerful – and she tells it so well. “I do believe that only in America can that little Black girl who grew up the daughter of a maid and janitor, served as the school patrol, be on a short list for vice president of the United States,” she told Jimmy Fallon this week. “I’m honored and humbled by the possibility.” (Previous ranking: 5)
5. Michelle Lujan Grisham: In an interview with The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capeheart this week, the New Mexico governor played coy about where she was in the VP process with Biden’s vetting committee. “I want Biden to pick what gets his ticket elected,” is all she would offer. That’s in keeping with the broader philosophy Lujan Grisham has adopted on her status as a possible pick: Just don’t talk about it. Like, at all. Maybe low-key is what Biden is looking for? (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Tammy Duckworth: The senator from Illinois is peaking at exactly the right time in the veepstakes. “Tammy Duckworth bursts into VP contention,” blared a recent headline in Politico. I’ve long thought Duckworth was the dark horse in this race – her personal story of overcoming obstacles is awe-inspiring – and continue to believe that the more people get familiar with her, the better her chances will be. And, thanks to Tucker Carlson, a lot more people know her name now than did a few weeks ago. (Previous ranking: 6)
3. Susan Rice: No one’s chances are improved more by Biden’s wide lead than those of the former US ambassador to the United Nations. In an interview with The 19th this week, Rice downplayed the importance of a running mate with experience in elected office. “I think what’s most important when it comes to governing is having a partner for the vice president that can get things done, that understands the executive branch, understands Congress, understands the budget and has the wherewithal to help drive the hard work that’s going to need to be done to tackle the coronavirus, to jump-start the economy, to address the nation’s inequities in a fundamental and profound way,” she said. Sound like anyone you know? (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Keisha Lance Bottoms: The Atlanta mayor’s struggle with Covid-19 – she, her husband and one of their children have the virus – gives her a very personal window into the illness and its consequences. Plus, she continues to be the go-to Biden surrogate on matters of race – an issue that Trump seems set on continuing to talk about. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Kamala Harris: The senator from California still makes the most sense for Biden: a historic pick (she would be the first African American and Indian American woman on a national ticket for a major party) from a giant Democratic state with experience on crime and policing. My only lingering doubt? Did Harris poison the well personally more with Biden during the primary campaign than he’s letting on? (Previous ranking: 1)
CNN’s Allison Gordon contributed to this report.