Jill Biden plays an influential role in her husband’s search for a running mate
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, sat down with CNN’s Chris Cuomo in July 2019 to discuss his 2020 presidential run.
In virtual campaign events and fundraisers over the past few months, Jill Biden has appeared with at least four women currently thought to be in the running to join the former vice president on the Democratic ticket, providing her with an up close view of the possible contenders as she serves as a sounding board for her husband in his decision making.
Jill Biden, like her husband, is in a unique position in this search having gone through the process when Joe Biden was selected as Barack Obama’s vice president.
“Joe really knows what he wants in a vice president certainly because he’s been there and he knows how important it is that the person he — the woman he chooses will have the same values and the same values as to how to govern this country. So that’s what he’s looking for. I’m thrilled that he chose a woman, and so I’m looking forward to see who he chooses,” Jill Biden said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today.”
Though she hasn’t publicly voiced a preference for his running mate, Jill Biden has praised her husband’s decision to select a woman and has provided some insight into her role as a confidant to the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“We have a marriage. We talk about things,” Jill Biden said. “Don’t you hope that your spouse is your best friend and your adviser and that, you know, you have this love affair together? Isn’t that what a marriage is?”
Ultimately, she says the choice is up to the former Vice President, telling ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “I would hope he would listen to me and get my advice, but it has to be his decision.”
As the campaign turned virtual amid the coronavirus pandemic, the former second lady has held a number of virtual fundraisers and campaign events in recent months with women who could be potential running mate picks, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, Florida Rep. Val Demings, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Biden said Tuesday that he would name his running mate in “early August,” noting the announcement would be made “several weeks before” the Democratic National Convention, which is slated to take place August 17-20.
As the campaign enters the final month of his search, people close to the process previously told CNN that it has been heavily influenced by a national reckoning on racism, following national protests on the police killings of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Biden has faced both public and private pressure to select a woman of color for the vice presidential slot.
Jill Biden did not say on Tuesday whether Biden would choose a woman of color to be his running mate, but told ABC’s “The View,” “I think we need women of color in every level of government, in every branch of government and especially on the Supreme Court, which Joe has committed to do, to put a woman of color on the Supreme Court.”
CNN previously reported that more than a dozen people close to the Biden search process believe that four of the leading prospects are Harris, Demings, Bottoms, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Biden said Tuesday that while the woman who will be his vice president does not need to have foreign policy experience because that is his strength, almost all the women he is considering for that position have had “some exposure to foreign policy and national defense issues.”
Having already served as Second Lady, Jill Biden may also be considering how she could work with the spouse of her husband’s vice presidential pick if Biden wins in November.
Karen O’Connor, a political science professor at American University who has written about the political influence of first ladies, noted that Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama worked closely together on a number of issues. She said, “If I was (Jill Biden), knowing that for the next four years my job is going to be tied up not only with my husband, but also with the spouse of the Vice President, it’s got to be entering the equation.”
O’Connor also noted that Jill Biden choosing to keep her job as a professor at a community college while serving as second lady gives her a unique perspective and “gives her a wonderful opportunity to be a sounding board for him.” Jill Biden has taught English at Northern Virginia Community College for a decade, and this year decided to pull back from teaching to focus on the campaign.
Last week, Jill Biden hosted a campaign event with Harris, who had a high-profile clash with Biden during the Democratic primary. At a Democratic presidential primary debate in June of last year, Harris attacked Biden about his past work with segregationists in the Senate and his decades-old opposition to the federal government mandating busing to integrate schools.
Harris, who was the only black female candidate in the Democratic primary, drew on her personal story with busing when confronting Biden. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day,” Harris said at the debate. “That little girl was me.”
As recently as March, Jill Biden described Harris’ debate attack as a “punch to the gut,” but sources close to the campaign have denied any tension exists from that heated debate moment.
Last week, Jill Biden praised Harris as a “role model” for girls across the country including for her granddaughters, making note of the “special connection” she shared with their son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015. The former vice president’s son served as attorney general of Delaware at the same time that Harris held the same job in California.
She’s also grown close with Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, describing him to CNN during the New Hampshire primary as “a lot of fun, always positive.”
“It’s politics and you get over it,” Jill Biden told ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday. “You just move on, right? I mean you can’t just keep harboring ill will.”
Jill Biden has also offered words of praise for the other women who are reportedly under consideration to be Biden’s running mate. During a virtual fundraiser together on Monday, Jill Biden highlighted Duckworth’s service in the US Army and said the senator inspires people across the nation.
“Tammy, it’s been such a pleasure getting to know you over the years, especially in our work on Joining Forces,” Jill Biden said, referencing the initiative for service members and their families that she spearheaded alongside Michelle Obama. Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran and the first female double-amputee in the US Senate.
She continued, “And you have served our nation in so many ways, in the Army, at Veterans Affairs and on Capitol Hill. And as a veteran, a disability advocate and a woman of color, and the first woman to have a child while serving in the Senate, you inspire so many people across this country, and we are honored to have your support.”
In May, Jill Biden held a virtual fundraiser with Florida donors and praised Demings, telling the congresswoman that she has been an “incredible leader in Florida and in Congress. Your wisdom and council have been invaluable to our campaign.” Jill Biden also campaigned in person with Demings, who served as the first woman chief of the Orlando Police Department prior to joining Congress, in Florida days before the coronavirus pandemic brought traditional campaigning to a halt.
At another virtual campaign event in Georgia hosted with Bottoms, Jill Biden told the Atlanta mayor that she and Joe Biden were “both so grateful for your counsel, your hard work, and most of all, for your friendship.” She said that Bottoms has “done so much to support Joe from the beginning.”