Biden has decided on running mate; no announcement yet

FILE - In this July 28, 2020, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Wilmington, Del. Despite all the secrecy, the speculation and the fierce jockeying behind the scenes, presidential running mates rarely sway an election. But as the political world awaits the imminent announcement of Biden’s vice presidential pick, there is a real sense among his allies and adversaries that this decision may matter more in 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden has decided on his running mate and has started telling people close to him as he nears the most consequential announcement of his political career.

Democrats close to the campaign who requested anonymity to discuss planning say an announcement is imminent, and could come as early as Tuesday. The campaign has already been preparing, even as Biden himself spent some of the past week privately interviewing contenders in advance of his final decision.

It will mark just the third time in history a woman has been chosen as a running mate on a major party presidential ticket, and could be the first time a Black woman is elevated to the role.

Reporters descended on an otherwise quiet Wilmington on Tuesday, anxious to detect any hint that Biden had made up his mind. But they found only security personnel gathered outside his home, with no indication Biden himself was there.

There didn’t appear to be a motorcade at the home that would have suggested Biden was there, though a small group of journalists staked out the area in cars parked on the other side of the road. Biden’s campaign wouldn’t confirm its candidate’s exact location, but video images from recent days have shown him in Rehoboth Beach, where the Bidens own a vacation home, about 90 miles from Wilmington.

Another group of about a dozen reporters gathered around entrances to the stately Hotel duPont in downtown Wilmington. The venue could serve as a backdrop if Biden decided to organize an in-person announcement event, though valets and other staff members milling about the exterior said they didn’t have any details about an upcoming event involving Biden.

Earlier Tuesday, the campaign announced a slate of nine staff members already assigned to the pick, including a number of longtime Biden and Barack Obama aides.

Appointment of those aides is meant to help the running mate get started immediately after she’s announced, according to Mo Elleithee, a longtime Democratic operative who served as a spokesman on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

“It has become typical over the past few presidential campaign cycles for the presumptive nominee to put a team in place so that the running mate can hit the ground running, and so that it’s a more integrated campaign,” he said.

And that immediate integration into the campaign becomes all the more important at a time when nearly all of the campaign has gone online.

The unique nature of this year’s campaign — set against the backdrop of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and a reckoning over racism — could add more weight to Biden’s pick than those in recent history. She’ll be called upon to speak credibly on issues of race and economic inequality, and she’ll be evaluated on her ability to govern and lead during a particularly rocky phase in America’s history.

She will have immediate help from aides.

Liz Allen, who previously worked at consulting firm Glover Park Group, served as both Biden and Obama’s deputy communications director, and will fill the role of communications director for Biden’s running mate. Sheila Nix, who served as chief of staff to Biden during the 2012 campaign and subsequently filled the same role for second lady Jill Biden in the White House, will be a senior adviser.

Karine Jean-Pierre, who held senior leadership roles on both the 2012 and 2008 Obama campaigns and worked as a regional political director in the White House during Obama’s first term, will serve as the running mate’s chief of staff. The full slate includes a policy director, political director and scheduling and advance staffers for both the running mate and her spouse, and a number of staffers who have been serving on the Biden campaign since 2019.

Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick in 2016, said that he and his wife did nearly 1,000 events, fundraisers and media interviews in the 105 days he was on the campaign. Kaine, describing himself as a “road warrior,” said he visited 140 cities in 40 states — but noted this year the running mate could be expected to do even more, from the comfort of her home.

“The bad news is, it’s gonna be hard to go to 140 cities in 40 states. The good news is, I spent a lot of time in the air getting from one place to the next,” Kaine said. He estimated he did on average seven events a day during the campaign, but now that the vice-presidential pick can do them by zoom, they might be able to do 15 or 20.