Biden taps Kamala Harris as his 2020 running mate

It's official: former Vice President Joe Biden has tapped Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his 2020 running mate.
Image: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take the stage on the second night of the second 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Detroit, Mich. on July 31, 2019.Lucas Jackson / Reuters file
By Steve Benen

It's official: former Vice President Joe Biden has tapped Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his 2020 running mate.

"You make a lot of important decisions as president. But the first one is who you select to be your Vice President. I've decided that Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take this fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence and then to lead this nation starting in January 2021," Biden wrote in an email from his campaign to supporters.

The announcement is a breakthrough on multiple fronts: Harris is the first Black woman to ever join a major-party presidential ticket, the first Asian-American woman to ever join a major-party presidential ticket, and only the fourth woman to serve on a major-party ticket in any capacity, following Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, Sarah Palin in 2008, and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The first-term senator is also, oddly enough, the first Californian to serve as a Democratic vice presidential pick. This is relevant to the extent that, if the Democratic ticket wins in November, Harris will leave a vacancy in the U.S. Senate -- and as one of the nation's bluest states, California Democratic leaders would be optimistic about holding onto her seat.

Of all the finalists for the Democratic running mates, Harris brings among the most extensive backgrounds of public service to the table, having served as the San Francisco district attorney and California's state attorney general, before getting elected to the Senate in 2016.

Harris also, of course, ran against Biden for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, before ending her campaign in December after struggling to raise enough money to continue.

Though the two famously clashed during an early debate, Harris later endorsed Biden, who's repeatedly emphasized that he doesn't hold a grudge.

So, is she a good pick? By practically every measure I can think of, yes. Harris has a solid history with Biden -- especially after having worked closely with Beau Biden -- and she's proved herself to be an adept candidate at multiple levels of politics. Her presidential bid may have fallen short, but the fact that the senator went through the process largely unscathed likely gave her an edge over other women who were under consideration.

Harris has faced some criticisms from the left over her background as a prosecutor, though she's taken a variety of steps to address these concerns, including taking a leadership role in the Senate on police reforms.

Stepping back, it's also worth noting that Black women are not only a key constituency in Democratic politics, they also played an integral role in helping Biden secure the nomination. With this in mind, the former vice president was under considerable pressure to diversify his 2020 ticket, not only with a woman, but with an African-American woman in particular.

It contributed to Harris becoming a rather obvious choice. Indeed, for months, a variety of pundits and news outlets have released rankings of various contenders for the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and invariably, Harris was at or near the top. There's no great mystery as to why: she's smart, accomplished, ideologically aligned with her party, and prepared for a national leadership role.

By all accounts, Biden wanted a partner who'd help him -- both during the campaign and in the White House. It should surprise no one that he found that partner in Kamala Harris.