There are Three New Faces on the VP Tracker, One of Them is Now Biden’s Strongest Running Mate

Veepstakes season may have come early this year, but as you may know, we’ve been tracking the strongest vice presidential picks for all of the potential Democratic candidates for some time. This week, we’ve added a few new names to the tracker based on recent speculation and media attention.

The highest profile name has been talked about quite a lot in the last month as a Biden pick. She was not included on our tracker initially because she is a relatively fresh face in the larger political scene, but her management of the COVID-19 epidemic has garnered her a lot of attention. This is, of course, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has become a popular VP choice among some pundits. Despite having no federal experience, Whitmer does relatively well in the tracker and she is currently listed as the sixth strongest pick for Biden. This makes sense, since she’s not up for reelection until 2022 and represents a large (16 electoral votes) state with a Democratic lean of just one point. Her wealth of state experience is an asset to someone like Biden who has enough federal experience to more than make up for her lack thereof.

The second name added is Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor and UN Ambassador for Obama. She’s a national security and foreign policy pick, as well as a former administration pick, and has been floated as someone Biden might consider. She does not do particularly well in the tracker with Biden due to their similar levels of federal experience and her geographic proximity to Biden (we’ve listed her as being from DC, and Biden from Delaware, both of which are in the tracker’s “Mideast” region).

Finally, the most important addition to the tracker is former Secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano, who Jonathan Rauch of The Atlantic made a compelling case for. And perhaps that’s fair, she — just barely — is now Biden’s top pick overall. She ekes out former #1 pick California Senator Kamala Harris, only slightly and primarily due to recent changes in the generic ballot (the relative competitiveness of Arizona is far greater than that of California). If the generic ballot narrows a bit more to give Democrats less of an edge, Napolitano may not be as strong of a choice in Republican-leaning Arizona. Even so, she remains a strong candidate for Biden as her surfeit of both state and federal experience, distance from Delaware, and lack of electoral vulnerability (she is not up for reelection to anything) make her more advantageous than many other picks. She is a governance, competency, and pragmatism pick, lacking in pizazz to be sure, but the race is also crying for these qualities as national and global crises draw focus.

As always, drop us a line on this page if you want us to add someone else to the tracker, and I hope you’re enjoying the quadrennial veepstakes as much as we are!