Joe Biden has a dilemma when it comes to choosing a running mate.
The Democratic presidential nominee wants to pick someone who is like him (or at least the way he saw himself as vice president): loyal, trusted, experienced, apolitical, someone with whom he will bond.
“He’s not kidding when he says I really want someone I’m simpatico with — someone he can trust,” said a close Biden ally. “His experience with Obama was one of genuine closeness and trust.”
As Biden conducts a series of interviews with a final list of potential running mates ahead of his August decision, his biggest concern is that there is nobody on his list with whom he has any previous deep relationship.
According to conversations with a dozen Democrats — a mix of elected officials, formal campaign advisers and outside strategists, most of whom were granted anonymity to share their candid assessments — Biden pines for a partner who could be to him what he was to President Barack Obama: a friend and confidant who subsumed his political interests to those of his boss.
The elusive hunt for Biden’s Biden has recently pushed Susan Rice into the top tier of candidates. As Obama’s national security adviser for his entire second term, Rice and Biden worked closely together on an almost daily basis, making her the only potential running mate whom Biden knows so intimately.
But very few of the other candidates come close to meeting that test, which means that the one-on-one candidate interviews could be unusually important. A dark horse candidate who aces her oral exam with the nominee could end up as the finalist — and considering Biden’s commanding status in the race, as well as his age — the most likely person in America to be the 47th president.
There are other considerations aside from Biden’s gut that Democrats are whispering about. One adviser to the campaign who has been asked for his assessments about several vice presidential candidates said the political considerations were less important than previous cycles.
“The first rule here is do no harm,” he said.
Because Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump is so significant — and because there’s not much empirical evidence that running mates can have a major positive electoral impact — many Democrats dismiss overly political calculations about how a potential candidate might affect various demographic groups or states.