As Joe Biden goes about choosing a female vice presidential nominee, one person stands head and shoulders above the rest: Amy Klobuchar.
The Minnesota senator is far and away the best solution to the political puzzle that confronts the presumptive Democratic nominee as he tries to oust Donald Trump from the White House.
Vice presidential picks seldom decide an election, but they can provide a boost or prove a drag. Biden himself helped Barack Obama in 2008, giving a candidate who was a Washington newcomer with little international experience a political partner who was knowledgeable on foreign policy and versed in the ways of the capital. George H.W. Bush did the same for Ronald Reagan back in 1980, just as Walter Mondale had for Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Sarah Palin is the best recent example of a ticket-drag, a VP-nominee nullity who daily demonstrated her less-hefty-than-helium status — raising doubts about Republican nominee John McCain’s judgment and creating real concerns about the prospect of having her a septuagenarian-heartbeat away from the presidency.
At some point soon, Biden himself must address the allegation that he sexually assaulted a Senate staffer back in 1993. He should do so in a TV interview with a respected reporter, not with a prepared statement. Voters need to hear what Biden himself has to say. That should happen before he picks his running mate.
When it comes to that selection, Biden’s biggest need, at 77, is for a candidate who could step into the Oval Office and be a credible presidential replacement on day one. A third-term senator and accomplished national legislator with good relations on Capitol Hill, Klobuchar clearly passes that test. Although one wouldn’t call her a seasoned foreign policy hand, neither is she a neophyte. As a senator, she’s traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and a number of African countries. She’s been a leader on the very relevant issue of election security.
For Biden, she’d be a message intensifier, much the way Al Gore, as another New South moderate of the same generation, was for Bill Clinton in 1992. A fellow center-left candidate, Klobuchar would refresh and reinforce Biden’s brand as a practical, results-oriented liberal.
Some have suggested that Elizabeth Warren should be on the ticket, but that pairing wouldn’t make a coherent team so much as an ideological muddle. Warren, substantially to Biden’s left, would either have to reposition herself and embrace a set of policies and a brand of politics she derided for much of her campaign or spend long months biting her tongue.
Klobuchar, by contrast, is a Biden type of pragmatist, a politician who understands that change often comes in stages and thus requires not just powerful advocacy but also a willingness to compromise in its pursuit, and an ability to consolidate those gains, before pushing forward again.
As a Midwesterner, she would help Biden in the complex game of Electoral College hopscotch presidential elections have become. First, she would wrap up her home state of Minnesota, whose 10 electoral votes Trump hopes to put in his column. As a neighbor and an agricultural state senator, she’d likely also help in Wisconsin, whose 10 electoral votes Trump won in 2016, and Iowa, whose six electoral votes he claimed as well.
As a result of her own presidential campaign, Klobuchar has already undergone a good deal of media scrutiny. (The mean-boss stories clearly hurt her early on, but she managed to put that matter behind her.) She’s good on the stump, delivering a substantive message in a lively, funny, down-to-earth way.
Now, there is a problem here: Given the way the Black community resurrected Biden’s campaign, there may be an expectation that he choose a Black woman. Picking Klobuchar would obviously dash those hopes.
Biden has already made a step that should help there. Taking a page from Ronald Reagan, who promised in his 1980 campaign to appoint a woman to the then-all-male US Supreme Court, Biden recently pledged to put a Black woman on the court. He’d be well-served to float some names. One is obvious: Senator (and former California attorney general) Kamala Harris. Leondra Kruger, a justice of the California Supreme Court and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who currently sits on the US District Court for the District of Columbia, also belong on any such list, says Paul Collins, director of the legal studies program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
But whatever disappointments Biden’s pick creates, all Democrats must put them aside and enlist in the crucial effort to oust Trump. This year, against this divisive and dangerously incompetent incumbent, winning really is everything.
Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.