11 names, 120 hours of interviews: Inside the grueling VP search that led Joe Biden to Kamala Harris

Written by on August 13, 2020

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Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden made his first joint look along with his working mate Sen. Kamala Harris. Related Press

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden sat in entrance of a laptop computer laptop at his house workplace in Wilmington, Del. It was round 2:45 p.m Tuesday, and after a months-long search, he was about to disclose considered one of his biggest campaign decisions to the girl who would make historical past.

Earlier within the day, Biden referred to as all the ladies who have been finalists in his seek for a vice presidential working mate, together with Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Val Demings. He talked about his determination and finally knowledgeable them he had chosen another person. 

On the previous vice chairman’s desk was a framed picture of the traditional cartoon, “Hagar the Horrible.” In a single body, Hagar, a matted Viking, says,” Why me?!” Within the subsequent, the gods above reply, “Why not?”

The tenuous and drama-filled course of that left politicos and voters alike on the edge of their seats was over. He’d made his determination.

He referred to as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., on Zoom.

“You able to go to work?” Biden requested her. 

“Oh my God. I’m so able to go to work,” Harris replied.

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At 4:14 p.m., the Biden marketing campaign broke the information in a mass textual content message to supporters. Harris, a first-term senator from California and considered one of his former Democratic main opponents, was his long-awaited choose as working mate in a history-making transfer elevating the first Black girl and first Asian American individual to a serious social gathering presidential ticket.

Supporters near Biden described a “deliberative” course of that encompassed a number of weeks, 11 critical candidates, 120 hours of interviews and, finally, one title. 

“He knew precisely what he was searching for in a VP as a result of he is been a VP,” stated Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., nationwide co-chairman of the Biden marketing campaign. “He was doing an evaluation of one, who he may work with, two, who may assist him win, three, who may assist him govern. And who he clicked with.

“I feel he makes use of the phrase, ‘simpatico.’ I feel he actually frolicked figuring that out.”

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A groundbreaking alternative and a secret to maintain

The number of Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, got here amid growing stress to decide on a girl of shade for the Democratic ticket, significantly throughout a interval of heightened racial polarization touched off by the demise of George Floyd that triggered nationwide protests over police brutality and racism. 

Whereas groundbreaking, the number of Harris was additionally standard with Biden choosing Washington expertise, a senator and ticket steadiness. Harris is 55 years previous, 22 years youthful than Biden, 77, and hails from the West Coast in distinction to Biden’s East Coast roots.

Within the hours earlier than Biden broke the information, he referred to as a variety of shut advisors and advised them the secret talking heads across the country spent weeks speculating about

Richmond was one of many few. “He was excited. I was actually excited. And it was, ‘Now let’s go win.’ ” 

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Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., whose endorsement helped flip round Biden’s floundering main marketing campaign, was one other who obtained the early heads up. He stated preserving the information quiet from his three daughters was a tough problem.

“Hopefully they’re going to forgive me for not letting the cat out of the bag,” Clyburn stated with a smilein a video name with reporters Tuesday. 

For Harris’ half, she did not give any public indication within the days main as much as Tuesday that she knew she was Biden’s choose. 

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Kamala Harris will make historical past as the primary Black girl and first Asian American individual to be on a serious social gathering’s presidential ticket. USA TODAY

South Carolina state Rep. J.A. Moore, a supporter of Harris’ main marketing campaign, acquired a name from her Sunday, nevertheless it wasn’t to speak politics, he stated. As an alternative, she referred to as to sing glad birthday to Moore’s daughter, who had simply turned 1.

“I have a look at her as an auntie,” Moore stated of Harris, including that they’ve checked in a number of occasions because the senator ended her presidential bid.

A working mate search course of not like another

Making this vice presidential search completely different than others earlier than it, Biden in March vowed to select a girl. The vetting course of was additionally constrained by a worldwide pandemic, with digital conferences changing some that may usually happen in individual.

The choice adopted greater than 120 hours of conferences through FaceTime between Biden’s vice chairman choice committee co-chairs – Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Cynthia Hogan, Biden’s authorized counsel when he was vice chairman – and Democratic activists, social gathering leaders, and pursuits teams.

The group additionally met with organizations focusing on getting girls elected to workplace to arrange for hurdles {that a} male vice presidential candidate would not face.

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Splitting into pairs, the co-chairs met nearly with an preliminary group of greater than 20 vice presidential contenders, asking every an inventory of uniform questioning that included, “What would you need your agenda to be? What do you assume Trump’s nickname for you’ll be?”

Biden’s choice committee submitted their findings and assessments to each Biden and his spouse, Dr. Jill Biden, who performed a central position. The bigger listing was whittled to 11 finalists, who underwent a deep vetting.

“He stated, ‘I’m not trying to make a demographic or a political or a geographic alternative, I’m searching for the most effective associate in governance. I’m searching for the best vice chairman,’ ” Garcetti advised USA TODAY, describing Biden’s instructions to kick off the almost four-month search course of. “He was very clear about that.

“Second, he was very protecting about everyone within the course of. He’s been by way of this himself. To have Joe Biden ask you to assist him discover a vice chairman is like Michael Jordan asking you to discover a taking pictures guard to be alongside him.”

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Richmond stated he believes choosing a girl of shade went into Biden’s thinking however that it wasn’t the overriding consideration.

“Since George Floyd, this nation has been in an actual inflection level,” Richmond stated. “I do not assume that was the most important issue. However did he discover she was a girl of shade? Completely.”

Together with Harris,Demings and Duckworth, the 11 girls vetted have been Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, California U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, former Nationwide Safety Advisor Susan Rice, and Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Though Biden by no means eradicated any of the 11 from consideration, he zeroed in closest on Harris, Bass, Duckworth, Whitmer and Rice, whom he’d work with within the Obama administration, in accordance with folks conversant in Biden’s pondering. 

Main the vetting course of was Bob Bauer, lead counsel for the Biden marketing campaign, Lisa Monaco, Obama’s former Homeland Safety adviser, and Dana Remus, deputy White Home counsel below Obama. Greater than a dozen attorneys labored professional bono to conduct a deep dive of the candidates and their backgrounds.

Biden met with all 11 candidates – some in individual, others nearly – earlier than finally selecting Harris, lengthy thought of one of many frontrunners for the job. Amongst these he met in individual have been Rice and Whitmer. As a complete, the search committee didn’t make a ultimate advice to Biden, however some senior marketing campaign officers made a robust case for Harris. 

“I feel there is a deep bond there – in fact momentarily frayed, perhaps, within the the marketing campaign,” Garcetti stated, referring to the desegregation assaults Harris torpedoed Biden with on the talk stage final yr.

In the course of the first Democratic debate final yr, Harris went after Biden on his civil rights file and Biden touting his capacity to work with Republicans, together with segregationist Sens. James Eastland and Herman Talmadge. She went on to criticize his opposition to highschool busing within the 1970s, telling the story of a woman in California who was a part of simply the second built-in class in her faculty.

“That little lady is me,” Harris stated in a second that went viral and was credited in serving to give her a short-lived bump within the polls.

“He moved on from that the second after it occurred. I simply sort of reminded him that I believed that that they had that bond that, he is working due to Beau’s reminiscence, I feel, as a lot as the rest,” Garcetti stated, referring to Biden’s oldest son who was shut with Harris earlier than his demise in 2015. “And he or she’s the one who’s the quickest path to that. That may’t be (overstated).”

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Like different search committee members, Garcetti stated he realized Harris was the choose from Jill Biden on Tuesday – however he had a “robust sense” that was the course within the ultimate days. The determination grew to become clearer when he began to get telephone calls from different candidates who have been simply advised they did not get the nod.

“I’d say someday between Monday morning and Tuesday morning might be when he stated, ‘Let’s go.'”

Hours of interviews and deep dives into historical past

The method was grueling and at occasions emotional for the candidates, much more so for individuals who had not been by way of such rigorous vetting for a White Home place, in accordance with those that have been near the method. Candidates needed to block off giant parts of their schedules to undergo each side of their private and non-private lives, typically unable to rely solely on employees as a result of many particulars are held solely by the candidates themselves. 

Some candidates reached out to members of Biden’s inside circle for casual recommendation as they moved by way of the method. A supply conversant in the method stated a number of of the candidates, together with Harris, talked with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a longtime Biden confidante. Coons would typically cross alongside noteworthy feedback to the Biden marketing campaign after these conversations, the supply stated, however famous Coons would usually direct the candidates to the marketing campaign’s official channels. 

A lot of the girls thought of appeared to depart the method with a way of gratitude and honor. 

“It was superb to be related to all of them and I do know that each one of them share the identical ceiling that I do, which is deep respect and honor as having been part of the method,” Bass advised USA TODAY.

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After Biden referred to as her Tuesday afternoon with the information she was not his alternative, Bass stated she was excited and knew Biden would choose “the strongest alternative.”

“I feel that the vice chairman, having served as vice chairman, is aware of precisely who’s the most effective individual for the job, and he made that alternative,” Bass added. 

Baldwin stated she was equally “excited” about Biden’s choice. In Harris, with whom she serves within the Senate, Biden had discovered somebody who “could be prepared on day one.” 

In response to folks conversant in the candidate conferences, the choice committee was impressed with Harris’ command of points and confidence in her capacity to tackle Trump. Harris additionally “spoke powerfully” about her friendship with Biden’s son late Beau. The 2 developed a bond when Harris was attorneys normal in California and Beau Biden held the identical position in Delaware. Harris’ private story, the daughter of immigrants who has skilled the “American success story,” resonated as properly.

Ultimately, sources stated Biden noticed Harris as somebody who may very well be a “governing associate” – a lot the best way Biden noticed his position with Obama. Biden felt a “private connection” to Harris and noticed her as skilled to function president if wanted. 

Clyburn stated he’d talked with Biden extra over the past 4 or 5 days “than I’ve talked to him all yr.”

Clyburn, the Home Majority Whip, stated he and Biden spent the calls discussing the host of candidates and their potential liabilities to his marketing campaign. That included Harris’ previous as a prosecutor, Clyburn stated, explaining he suggested Biden that most of the assaults on previous careers have been unfair. Some on the left have challenged Harris’ persona as a “progressive prosecutor” and argued she was on the incorrect aspect of a number of coverage points as a district lawyer after which California lawyer normal. 

“I don’t want to see folks’s professions held towards them,” Clyburn stated he advised Biden. “This entire notion that in case you develop into a chief of police otherwise you develop into a prosecutor, you ought not be thought of. Individuals must be thought of for the way properly they conduct themselves of their chosen professions. How can we ask to have police chiefs of shade, prosecutors of shade after which maintain that towards them?”

Clyburn stated he didn’t suggest any single candidate, solely providing his views on every of the finalists, who he stated appeared to have narrowed right down to Harris, Rice and Bass over the past two or three days. 

“I stated to him, ‘I am glad it was not me that needed to make the selection,’ ” Clyburn stated. 

Coons, who has identified Biden for at the very least 30 years, applauded the selection, calling Harris a “comforting and supportive” buddy. 

He stated the marketing campaign had appeared for somebody with the “expertise and background” for the position, an individual who, together with Biden, would be capable of characterize the “vary and the variety” of America, and somebody with whom Biden had “simpatico,” or a detailed relationship. 

A form-of audition course of for Harris

In what proved to be auditions for vice chairman, Harris had a dozen Biden marketing campaign appearances since he grew to become the presumptive Democratic nominee, giving her an opportunity to stump for Biden. 

On June 26, Harris participated in a digital roundtable with Jill Biden for a Wisconsin viewers to listen to concerning the president’s efforts to invalidate the Reasonably priced Care Act.

“Clearly, this administration is attempting to take well being care away from hundreds of thousands of Individuals. That is it. It is truly no more advanced than that,” stated Harris. “We want what (Joe Biden) so uniquely has, which is empathy for the American folks and an understanding of what struggling is like.”

A month earlier, Harris joined a Girls for Biden name Might 21 to debate what was at stake for girls in November. She recounted her friendship with Beau Biden and the way it opened her to a unique aspect of Joe Biden.

“I obtained to know (Joe) largely as a human being and as an individual, versus what I knew of him as a pacesetter — a longstanding public servant, a dedicated public servant,” Harris stated.

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“And I will inform you guys the sort of love, it was a really particular relationship that I witnessed between a father and a son and a son and a father, each of whom have been public servants.”

She pointed to the “horrendous loss” and struggling Biden has endured, including that America not solely wants a president with a “lifelong dedication to public service” however somebody who’s compassionate and “feels a way of accountability” to assist these in ache.

“Joe’s a fighter,” Harris stated, sounding like a working mate again in Might. “He fights for folks, and that is what we’d like proper now.”

Learn or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/information/politics/elections/2020/08/13/kamala-harris-inside-joe-bidens-grueling-search-vice-president/3351033001/


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