Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the near-perfect pick to be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate.
Not any more.
Klobuchar’s single liability had been a shaky relationship with African-American leaders stemming from her time as Hennepin County district attorney when, rightly or wrongly, she chose not to prosecute several white police officers accused of police brutality against African-Americans.
She might have survived that controversy last week — Biden has reserves of goodwill with the black community — but the shocking videotaped death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers should effectively end any consideration of Klobuchar as a vice presidential candidate.
That’s a true loss for Biden.
But up steps a possible replacement, another former law enforcement official representing a key swing state in November, Florida Congresswoman Val Demings, who just so happens to be black.
Like Klobuchar, Demings is considered a moderate within the Democratic Party, in part because of her stint as Orlando chief of police (Orlando is 35.8% white, 31.7% Hispanic, and 25.5% black.) One of seven children from Jacksonville, Demings was the first in her family to graduate from college — Florida State — and her resume seemingly glows: she commanded Orlando’s Airport Division, Special Operations and Critical Incident Stress Management Team and she served both as a crisis negotiator and as executive vice president of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police. Demings’ congressional campaign website features her in full Orlando Police Department dress uniform adorned with commendations. It’s a good look.
In a powerful opinion piece in Friday’s Washington Post, Demings shows that she understands the moment politically and sociologically. “As a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing?” her piece begins.
Choosing Demings as a running mate would be a considerable risk for Biden, though. For one, she is a second-term congresswoman. Would she really have the chops to assume the presidency if an aging President Biden faltered? And, more immediately, could Demings endure the media pressure and opposition research parsing she would invariably undergo? A single mistake or resume discrepancy could sink the ticket with just five months to go before the election. There would be little time to rebound from any major mistake.
Many in the Democratic Party are looking to California Sen. Kamala Harris as a potential vice presidential candidate. Harris has a higher profile as a U.S. senator and a former presidential primary candidate, she served as California attorney general, and she’s a woman of color, as the term goes.
But Harris flopped as a national candidate. Myriad problems were reported within her campaign, and she was forced to walk back several claims and charges, including her position on busing, an issue she used to bludgeon Biden himself during a nationally televised debate. One can easily say Harris had her moment in the spotlight and wilted. What would be different this time? Besides, California’s already in the bag for Biden.
Klobuchar made so much sense because a. she exceeded expectations in the Democratric Primary, connecting with many voters and far outlasting Harris; b. she’s an unapologetic moderate with a reputation for working across party lines; and c. she represents a potential must-win state for Biden.
But circumstances have gotten in her way, to say the least. Funny how unpredictable politics can be.
The political betting market Predictit has Harris leading the field of potential VP picks at 39 cents based on one-dollar contracts that can be traded at any time. Out of nowhere, Demings is now tied for second with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 17 cents.
My advice to those so inclined: Buy Demings — she’s only going to get more interesting — but keep your eye on the news.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.