DETROIT (AP) — After a devastating start to the Democratic primary, Joe Biden’s campaign was revived when black voters in South Carolina and throughout the South overwhelmingly sided with him. Now that he’s the presumptive Democratic nominee, black voters and leaders are pressing for him to pick a black woman as his running mate.
Biden launched a committee last week to begin vetting possible candidates for the vice presidency, a process he has said will likely last through July. He has already committed to picking a woman.
But black voters and leaders say he needs to go further and pick a black woman. They argue that Biden’s success — and that of the Democratic Party as a whole — depends on black people turning out to vote in November. They want a tangible return for their loyalty, not just a thank you for showing up on Election Day.
“Black people want an acknowledgement of the many years of support they have given the Democratic Party,” said Niambi Carter, a Howard University political science professor.
Joe Biden through the years
Washington, DC. 6-9-1987 Senator Joe Biden (D.,DE.) announces his candidacy for president. Credit: Mark Reinstein (Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. September 9, 1990 (Photo by Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Democratic politician Joseph R. Biden Jr, the United States Senator from Delaware, circa 1980. He became the US Vice President in 2009 under President Barack Obama. (Photo by Nancy Shia/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
American politician and US Senator (and future US Vice President) Joe Biden smiles in a ‘Bicentennial Minutes’ segment, a series of nightly shorts commemorating the bicentennial of the American Revolution which aired from 1974-1976, August 12, 1974. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US Senator Joe Biden(D-DE) briefs reporters prior to the 15 January start of the second day of the US Senate impeachment trial of US President Bill Clinton on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. House prosecutors will summarize their case against the president 15 January. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)
392389 02: U.S. President George W. Bush meets with members of the Senate and House foreign policy leadership in the Cabinet room at the White House July 25, 2001 in Washington, DC. Seated next to the president is Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES – MARCH 08: Joe Biden during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES – MAY 12: Democrat vice chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), throws up his hands as he speaks during debate on the nomination of John Bolton as US Ambassador the the United Nations May 12, 2005 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Joe Marquette/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON – JULY 12: U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) speaks during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on ‘North American Cooperation on the Border’ on the Border’ on Capitol Hill July 12, 2005 in Washington, DC. The committee discussed border security and how to work together to secure the borders with Mexico and Canada. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO — Episode 3331 — Pictured: (l-r) Senator Joe Biden during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 22, 2007 (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
ORANGEBURG, SC – APRIL 26: (L-R) U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson greet the crowd before the start of the first debate of the 2008 presidential campaign April 26, 2007 at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The debate, featuring eight Democratic presidential candidates, comes 263 days before the first ballot will be cast in the Iowa caucus next January. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 23: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) talks with mayors from across the country, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, in the Roosevelt Room of teh White January 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is holding its annual conference in Washington this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Civil Society Forum on the sideline of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, on August 4, 2014. Washington aims to wake up US business to the opportunities in Africa with the landmark US-Africa Leaders Summit this week, as China and Europe steal a march on the world’s fastest-growing continent. As many as four dozen African leaders, and hundreds of businessmen with them, will for their part be looking to see if US investors and traders can move beyond old stereotypes of a continent mired in conflict and corruption and recognize its huge potential. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 18: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) swears in Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (L) as his wife Erica and daughter Carina look on during a ceremonial swearing in ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building August 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Castro, the former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was officially sworn in on July 28. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 30: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama (C), Robert McDonald (R) and Vice President Joe Biden walk back to the White House through LaFayette Park after President Obama announced his intention to nominate Robert McDonald to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. McDonald served as the chief executive of Procter & Gamble and will replace Eric Shinseki who resigned after allegations of delayed care came to light. (Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks to US Vice President Joe Biden after Biden introduced him during a signing ceremony for H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, on July 22, 2014 in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Presidential Barack Obama speaks on immigration reform beside US Vice President Joe Biden (R) in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – MAY 28: Vice President of the United States Joe Biden takes a selfie after the commencement ceremony at Air Force Academy in Colorado Spring, May 28, 2014. Biden spoke during the ceremony. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden gestures as he speaks at Ledra palace in the UN-patrolled Buffer Zone in Nicosia on May 22, 2014. Biden met Cyprus leaders Thursday to spur talks on ending the island’s 40-year division and seek support for threatened sanctions against Russia despite the economic cost. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden adresses a speech to students and officials at Cotroceni Palace, the Romanian Presidency headquarters in Bucharest on May 21, 2014. Tougher sanctions must be imposed on Russia if it undermines crucial presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25, 2014, US Vice President Joe Biden said in Bucharest. AFP PHOTO DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 29: U.S Vice President Joe Biden speaks during an event on protecting students from sexual assault at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. During the event, Biden announced the release of the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and outgoing Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius applaud as President Barack Obama names Sylvia Mathews Burwell (R), his current budget director, to replace Sebelius in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington,DC on April 11, 2014. Sebelius resigned, paying the price for the chaotic initial rollout of the US president’s signature health care law. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden waves upon arrival for a meeting with Lithuania’s President in Vilnius on March 19, 2014. Biden meets today with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian leader as part of a tour to reassure NATO allies during the Ukraine crisis. AFP PHOTO / PETRAS MALUKAS (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden listens during a meeting with the Polish Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland on March 18, 2013. Biden arrived in Poland for talks with regional allies as Russia tightened its grip on the Ukraine’s breakaway region of Crimea. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden arrives for a St. Patrick’s Day reception in the East Room of the White House on March 14, 2014 in Washington. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden during a joint press conference with Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera (not framed) at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, on March 10, 2014. AFP PHOTO/CLAUDIO REYES (Photo credit should read Claudio Reyes/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 27: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks during the Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting at the Capitol Hilton February 27, 2014 in Washington, DC. Biden addressed the Association of State Democratic Chairs. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
THE VIEW – Joe Biden, the 47th Vice President of the United States, was the special guest, live, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25 (11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, ET). The Vice President discussed the Affordable Care Act and the importance of signing up for health insurance through the marketplace before the March 31 deadline. Vice President Biden sat down with The View hosts Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy as part of the shows continuing Red, White & View campaign, which is committed to political guests and discussions. ‘The View’ airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network.
(Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images)
SHERRI SHEPHERD, BARBARA WALTERS, VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, JENNY MCCARTHY
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, looks on as President Barack Obama speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. Obama is meeting today with chief executive officers of companies from Bank of America Corp. to EBay Inc. who have committed to giving the long-term unemployed a better chance in the hiring process. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images *** Barack Obama; Joe Biden
US Vice President Joe Biden gives two thumbs-up prior to US President Barack Obama delivering the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on January 28, 2014 at the US Capitol in Washington. AFP PHOTO/Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA – MAY 24: Former Vice President Joseph Biden speaks at the Harvard College Class of 2017 Class Day Exercises at Harvard University on May 24, 2017 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Biden implored graduating students to become involved and paraphrased Plato by saying ‘The penalty you pay for not being involved is that you are governed by those worse than you.’ (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA – MAY 24: Former Vice President Joe Biden jokes, ‘Let’s break the internet’ as he puts on a pair of shades during Class Day Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on May 24, 2017. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Michael Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute, arrive on stage at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. The conference is a unique setting that convenes individuals with the capital, power and influence to move the world forward meet face-to-face with those whose expertise and creativity are reinventing industry, philanthropy and media. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC -ï¿½ APRIL 26: Former Vice President, Joe Biden and Mark Ein are seen at the game between the Washington Wizards and the Atlanta Hawks in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2017 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Joe Biden, former Vice President of the US tours the Museum of the American Revolution, on its openings day, in Philadelphia, PA, on April 19, 2017. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 12: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Medal of Freedom to Vice-President Joe Biden during an event in the State Dinning room of the White House, January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement in South Carolina was widely credited with helping widen Biden’s winning margin and start his avalanche of March primary victories, said “clearly” he would prefer a black woman. But he insisted he’s not pushing Biden in that direction.
“I’m the father of three grown African American women. So naturally I prefer an African American woman, but it doesn’t have to be,” Clyburn said. “I’ve made that very clear.”
Biden has been unusually vocal about the people he would consider as running mates. He’s referenced two black women, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia. Other black women, including Rep. Val Demings of Florida and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, have also been mentioned.
But Biden is also thought to be considering several white women, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
President Donald Trump said his November opponent owes the spot to Warren, theorizing that Sen. Bernie Sanders “would have won every single state on Super Tuesday” if Warren had dropped out of the primary race earlier.
In an interview Monday with the New York Post, Trump dismissed Abrams while claiming responsibility for her defeat in the 2018 Georgia governor’s race.
Zerlina Maxwell, a political analyst and former director of progressive media for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, said this is an opportunity for Biden to recognize the political force of black women.
“The Democratic nominee needs to make it completely clear that they understand the moment and that they understand that black women are the foundation of a successful Democratic Party at every level,” Maxwell said.
Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of Black PAC, said black voters are looking for “authenticity.”
“When folks have talked to us about what they want in a candidate, it is someone who can relate to them,” Shropshire said, noting the coronavirus’s disparate impact on black Americans.
But she said that doesn’t mean that a vice presidential nominee has to be a black woman.
“Having a black running mate checks that box for a lot of people, but I would also say in the same way that black voters weren’t simply during the primary contest saying, ‘Who’s the black candidate?’ I don’t think black voters are doing that for the vice presidential choice either,” she said, later adding the bottom line: “Ultimately, people want to win.”
Tharon Johnson, a prominent black strategist who worked for Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns, said Biden’s focus should be on “energy,” not necessarily on race.
“I am totally, 100% behind the narrative that it’s time for a black woman on the ticket,” Johnson said. “But he has to consider a lot of metrics. Who can he bring on that will increase enthusiasm and drive turnout in those states that matter most in November? And what characteristics are there that will bring that excitement?”
Biden campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and a former Congressional Black Caucus chairman, is a forceful advocate for African Americans within Democratic politics. But he’s also absolute in his assertion that Biden cannot be forced to check a demographic box.
“I’m not sure that the VP is going to throw names out there just to appease people,” Richmond said.
Symone Sanders is the highest-ranking black woman on Biden’s staff and played a key role in shoring up Biden’s campaign in South Carolina. But he also has an older cadre of advisers reminding him of the complicated calculations in putting together a winning coalition.
Kenneth Walden, a 26-year-old black man who lives in the battleground state of North Carolina, said the pick must be a black woman.
“And if not, I believe that it would be a repeat of 2016, where we had an all-white ticket and everybody was not energized,” said Walden, who works in telecommunications and on a YouTube show. “Black people are going to feel betrayed. We’re not just voting based off just party lines anymore.”
Cierra Conerly, a 32-year-old entrepreneur and small-business owner, said she’s torn about whom she wants to see on the ticket, but she said it needs to be someone who can identify strongly with diverse groups.
“I’m African American, I’m a woman, I’m a business owner and I’m also LGBTQ” said Conerly, who lives in Arizona, another state Democrats hope to flip. “All of those aspects are really important and I want someone who is going to be able to speak to those.”
Taylor Harrell, the political director for Mothering Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for mothers, said Biden’s choice shouldn’t be all that complicated: Choose a black woman.
“It’s become a cute catchphrase to say ‘trust black women’ or that black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, so if we’re truly the backbone, being the backbone should essentially mean being the vice president,” Harrell, a Detroit resident, said. “White people have had a voice for so long and having a black woman will allow us to feel like our voices are going to continue to be heard after they’ve been put on pause for these past four years.”
Barrow reported from Atlanta.
Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
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