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Tipsheet

Obama Official Says Biden Should Consider New Running Mate Due to 'Succession' Concerns

AP Photo/Alberto Mariani

There's been plenty of chatter among Democrats and a fair amount of handwringing over why President Joe Biden hasn't announced whether he'll run for reelection in 2024. There's been even more concern about his age, gaffes, and notably strange gait. The reportedly growing unease within Biden's party over his lack of a decision combined with concerns about his age and fitness have left Democrats somewhat adrift, waiting to throw everything behind Biden if he announces a reelection bid or ramp up primary campaigns if he doesn't.

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But now, The New York Times brings another option to the table courtesy of an opinion piece from an alum of the Clinton and Obama administrations — and it puts blame for some of Democrats' worries on Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Titled "President Biden's Succession Problem," former White House Counsel Greg Craig calls for Democrats to show "more respect" for Biden but then acknowledges that "questions about his age and physical condition will not go away, and it’s fair for voters to want reassurances and decisions that show the White House will be in solid hands."

Evidently, in order to do that, Kamala Harris might have to find a new gig. 

Craig suggests that the "smartest, most persuasive" way to make Biden's age and health non-issues is to make his 2024 VP someone Americans can stomach the thought of taking over for Biden before the end of his second term. "When considering who should be his running mate in 2024, Mr. Biden would do well to follow what Franklin D. Roosevelt did in 1944: He expressed a preference for certain candidates but turned the choice of his running mate over to the delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago."

That decision was made, Craig explains, because Roosevelt "knew full well that there was a good chance that the next vice president — whoever that might be — would be called on to lead the nation" due to his failing health.

"It would be only natural for this thought to pass through Mr. Biden’s mind as he prepares himself for the presidential election of 2024," Craig says rather darkly. "And he should take a page from Roosevelt’s book by telling his party that he will not dictate who will be his running mate but instead leave it up to the delegates to pick the person who is best equipped to take on that task," he adds. 

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Such a shift, Craig argues, "might address the Democrats’ enthusiasm gap" and "inject electricity and drama into an otherwise predictable if not enervating process."

Craig's column continues:

Opening up the V.P. nomination would also give the Democratic Party a chance to test-drive candidates of the future. Who does well in debates? Who does well on the hustings? Who can get voters excited and galvanized?

There will be those who see a decision to let Democratic voters pick Mr. Biden’s running mate as being a betrayal of Ms. Harris. That would be a misreading of the situation. Certainly he would be free to express his views about various possible running mates — as did Roosevelt in 1944 — and there is every reason to think that she would win the nomination on her own. There is nothing disloyal about putting the vice president in a position in which she wins the slot and becomes a more and more proven and battle-tested political leader in the process. If she were to prevail in her effort to be renominated, she would certainly be a stronger candidate and a more powerful vice president.

Craig's apparent confidence that there's "every reason to think that [Harris] would win the nomination on her own" ignores the last presidential election cycle. In 2020, Harris failed to do the things Craig says throwing the Veepstakes to Democrat voters would require the successful candidate to do. She ran out of money, her laugh drew mockery rather than likability, and she dropped out of the race before the Iowa caucuses were held. Would she do any better after serving as VP for a few years in which she had more staff turnover than policy accomplishments?

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Clearly, Democrats are grasping at straws while waiting for Biden to make up his mind on whether he'll run again. And while it would certainly be entertaining to watch Democrats scuffle over who gets to be his VP if he indeed runs, it's a nice sideshow to watch Democrats come up with ideas to make running and voting for Biden in 2024 a palatable prospect. 

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