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Whether Or Not Biden Picks Warren As His Running Mate, She Will Have Major Clout In Washington

Sen. Elizabeth Warren talks to the press after announcing that she was dropping out of the Democratic presidential race in March. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren talks to the press after announcing that she was dropping out of the Democratic presidential race in March. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
This article is more than 2 years old.

As Joe Biden prepares to announce his running mate in the next few days, he's under a lot of pressure to pick a woman of color. Even so, Elizabeth Warren is believed to be among the top contenders and already exerting a big influence on Biden's campaign.

The case for Warren begins with the most important criterion: she'd be ready to be president on day one, according to former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank. He says Warren not only has deep policy knowledge, but as the person who set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for President Obama, she also has deep executive experience.

"She established that agency, and she did a wonderful job," Frank said. "It was a great display of executive ability."

Another fan of Warren is Wendy Brawley, a state representative from South Carolina, who backed Warren for president, and who backs her now for vice president.

"She brings to the ticket the kind of balance that Joe Biden needs to engage the progressive wing of the party," she said.

Brawley, who's African American, points out that Warren polls well with Black voters. But following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the current racial reckoning in America, Biden is under pressure to pick not only a woman — as he's promised — but a woman of color.

"Biden owes, really, his presidential candidacy right now to Black voters," said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist, who points out that Biden's campaign was on life support until Black voters in the South Carolina primary, and then across much of the south on Super Tuesday, rescued it.

"So, I think that's first and foremost," Payne said. "I think secondly, the moment that we're in, I think it's hard to suggest that there is a better candidate than the very highly qualified African American women who are being considered by the Biden campaign."

Those women include California Sen. Kamala Harris, Florida Rep. Val Demings, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and several others.

"The political and moral case for an African American is clearly very strong," said Frank.

But whether or not Biden picks Warren, she has already left a mark on the Biden campaign.

As a presidential candidate, Warren talked frequently about the need for "big structural changes," and offered a series of detailed policy plans, which became her trademark. During the primary, she clashed more than once with Biden, who she accused of being too cautious; in return, Biden accused her of a "'my way or the highway' approach to politics."

But now Biden has adopted several of Warren's proposals, including her bankruptcy plan, as well as her plans to forgive student debt and boost social security payments, among others.  Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant in Boston, says that although Warren's presidential bid fell short, it left her with a big following and a lot of political influence.

"She has more clout now with her now famous plans than anybody, and she looks prescient in many of these cases," Marsh said. "The fact that we have now learned that Warren and Biden speak every ten days or so certainly reinforces her clout."

And yet, members of Warren's team point out that Biden has not embraced many of her plans, such as her call to break up big tech and her support for Medicare For All. Still, with regard to Biden's campaign to defeat President Trump, Warren says, "I'm all in."

If Biden doesn't pick the Massachusetts senator to be his running mate — or a cabinet secretary, should he win in November — Marsh says Warren will be among the most powerful members of the Senate, where she'd continue to wield influence over a President Biden.

"She can be a great advocate in the Senate, but she can also be an adversary if a Biden administration does not hue to some of those progressive causes," Marsh said.

Frank agrees, and says if Biden doesn't pick Warren as his running mate, he would like to see her remain in the Senate — rather than accept a cabinet position, like Secretary of Treasury.

"In the Senate, I think she's in a position [to be] a leader in confronting inequality, that basic change we need" Frank said. "I think that's a very important role for her."

Confronting inequality was a central issue in Warren's presidential campaign. So, whether she becomes Biden's running mate or not, it's a safe bet that she will have a plan for that.

This segment aired on July 31, 2020.


Anthony Brooks Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.



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