KEY POINTS

  • Sen. Kamala Harris has a law-and-order background as a former state attorney general
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leads a key swing state in the presidential sweepstakes
  • Former national security adviser Susan Rice is perhaps the most qualified but comes with baggage

With President Trump questioning Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s mental capacity and stamina, the choice of vice presidential candidate by the Democratic party’s presumptive nominee is crucial. Biden was expected to announce his choice this week, ahead of the Aug. 17-20 Democratic National Convention.

Early in the campaign, Biden said he would choose a woman as a running mate. As social justice protests erupted across the country, oddsmakers put their bets on a Black woman, with Sen. Kamala Harris of California leading the pack.

Biden told a Fox News reporter Saturday he had made his choice but declined to reveal who it is.

Biden is 78. He is expected to select a running mate considerably younger. Numerous names have been floated. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 71, was mentioned early on but she has taken on the role of trusted adviser instead.

Harris, 55, has a law-and-order background as a former state attorney general, a credential seen as significant in light of Trump’s attempts to portray himself as tough on crime. She is the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, ticking off another significant trait.

Harris took an aggressive line against Biden in the early Democratic debates, criticizing him for his stance on school busing and other issues. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has advised Harris to decline a spot on the ticket, saying it would kill her political career.

“Historically, the vice presidency has often ended up being a dead end. For every George H.W. Bush, who ascended from the job to the presidency, there’s an Al Gore, who never got there,” Brown said in an op-ed published during the weekend by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Of the 48 vice presidents in U.S. history, just five were later elected president.

California Senator Kamala Harris is considered a favorite to be selected as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate California Senator Kamala Harris is considered a favorite to be selected as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, 48 and white, met with Biden last week. Unlike Harris, Whitmer holds sway in a crucial swing state that went for Trump in 2016. She was elected in 2018 and since then has managed to needle Trump into abusive outbursts.

Trump has dubbed her “Half Whitmer” and expressed support for armed militia members who showed up at the state Capitol to protest her coronavirus stay-at-home order. She more recently took the president on after he suggested postponing the Nov. 3 election and railed against widespread mail-in balloting.

“It’s clear that the president is more focused on his chances in the 2020 election than on protecting families from a virus that has killed more than 150,000 Americans," she said in a statement last month. "The truth is that mail-in absentee voting is safe, simple, and patriotic – so much so that the president and more than a dozen of his closest advisers have done it. If we could hold an election in 1864 in the midst of a Civil War threatening to tear our country apart, we can and will hold one in 2020.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has faced criticism for strict stay-at-home orders that are beginning to ease on better trends for the coronavirus in Detroit Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has faced criticism for strict stay-at-home orders that are beginning to ease on better trends for the coronavirus in Detroit Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / BILL PUGLIANO

The third top contender is Susan Rice, 55, a former national security adviser and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Barack Obama – and she is Black. Though she is perhaps the most qualified of the top contenders, she has never run for political office and comes with potential baggage.

Rice was roundly criticized for statements following the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. In her autobiography, Rice said she could not understand why Republicans went after her for the widespread government failures that led up to the attack when she just presented intelligence community talking points.

“Why was I the one the GOP went after when I was a comparatively bit player in the actual Benghazi drama?” she asked in “Tough Love.”

Republicans already have started the campaign against her. An opinion piece on Fox News penned by Ian Prior labels her a “Baghdad Bob” after the Saddam Hussein spokesman tasked with putting a happy face on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The GOP also blamed her for the Obama administration decision to trade five Taliban prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his post in Afghanistan only to be captured by the insurgents.

susan rice Former U.N. Ambassador and national security adviser Susan Rice says Russian President Vladimir Putin is lying when he denies interfering with the 2016 presidential election. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Other names mentioned include former first lady Michelle Obama, Rep. Val Demings, a former Florida police chief, and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Obama, 56, and Demings, 63, are Black; Duckworth, 52, who lost both her legs in Iraq, was born to a Thai mother and father of British ancestry.