Biden, a former vice president himself, said recently that he hopes to appoint a running mate by early August and has given no clear signal on the direction he is leaning other than to say his choice will be a woman.
“The time for the old playbook to get the geographic balance on the ticket came out the window with Sarah Palin,” said former Senator Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), the first African-American woman to serve in the Senate and a Biden surrogate. “This is an extraordinary time, Joe is an extraordinary candidate. The only way he can energize voters is to have a black candidate — a black woman — for the vice-president.
Just 10 days ago, Biden’s top surrogates pointed to Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar as a contender because of his call as a Midwestern moderate. But his star fell in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Social justice activists have sharply criticized Klobuchar’s past as a Minneapolis-area prosecutor and urged Biden not to choose her.
Moseley Braun said the campaign must take into account the outpouring in the streets.
“It’s not just a signal, it’s a cry. It’s a cry from the hearts of the American people — “we have to go in a different direction,” she said. “We must repudiate white supremacy.”
A source familiar with internal discussions about vice presidential selection described the campaign’s view of the need for a black vice president as “an evolution” over the past two weeks.
In an interview, Bottoms referred to Biden’s campaign on questions about his prospects as Biden’s running mate.
“I can tell you that obviously, like so many mayors and governors across the country, I’ve been focusing on our streets in the last few days,” Bottoms said.
In the campaign, the mayor of Atlanta is seen as a loyal, front-line warrior who stood with Biden almost as soon as he launched his 2020 candidacy last year. His position has been strengthened by his recent emergence as an authoritative voice at a time of racial restraint in the country.
Bottoms began to see an increase in television bookings in the Covid-era peak, when she spoke frequently about how the virus was disproportionately affecting African Americans. But it has become a ubiquitous presence on the airwaves in the wake of a widely praised, out-of-script speech May 29, which followed a night when thousands of protesters and looters took to the streets of Atlanta.
“When I saw George Floyd’s murder, I hurt like a mother would hurt. And yesterday, when I heard that there were rumors about violent protests in Atlanta, I did what a mother would do. I called my son and said, “Where are you?” I said, “I can’t protect you, and black boys shouldn’t go out today,”” she said at a news conference calling for an end to the violence. “So you’re not going to over-concern me and worry about where we are in America. I wear this every day. And I pray for our children every day.
Bottoms lambasted the criminals, telling them that they were dishonouring Martin Luther King’s legacy of enacting change through peaceful protests.
“What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. It’s chaos,” she said. “A protest has a purpose. When Dr. King was murdered, we did not do that to our city. So if you like this city, this city that has a legacy of black mayors and black police chiefs… If you care about this town, then go home.
The first city mayor to endorse Biden, Bottoms served as a campaign trail surrogate for more than a year, defending him on national television with various verbal gaffes and campaign flubs -even after Biden clashed with Kamala Harris on the stage of the presidential primary debate, when the California senator excorised his record on race.
Harris, who has raced statewide twice before, is also considered a possible race companion and had been considered a favorite candidate at first.
But while Harris was sitting on the sidelines for a while after she left the 2020 field, Bottoms volunteered for Biden in Iowa. On caucus night, the former judge and member of the Atlanta City Council even stepped up to deliver an impromptu speech about Biden’s candidacy when the district captain did not run. Throughout the campaign, Bottoms traveled extensively across the South on Biden’s behalf, joining him for events in Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas, among other places.
When Biden’s candidacy appeared on life support after the routs in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bottoms went on national television to remind audiences “the South has something to say” because the South Carolina primary had not yet taken place.
“She was with Joe Biden before it became cool to be with Joe Biden,” said Tharon Johnson, a longtime Senior policy adviser at Bottoms. “She was with Joe Biden when it was unpopular.”
Johnson said Bottoms, who is 50, would bring gender, racial, regional and generational balance to a Democratic bill.
“He is someone who for me has the stamina and the vigour and discipline to take to the national stage if chosen … It brings a level of humanization to the questions. It has now built a huge national profile,” Johnson said, noting that she is looking to add staff to help cope with the media demand, which has been four to five television visits a night. “Not only does she share her commitment to issues, she complements Joe Biden’s vision of America.”
In addition to Harris and Demings, other African-American women in the campaign envisions include fellow Georgian, former house democratic house leader Stacey Abrams, who has been a staunch advocate for her own candidacy, and former national security adviser Susan Rice.