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Once A Top Contender, Elizabeth Warren Nixed As Joe Biden's Running Mate

Sen. Elizabeth Warren outside her home in Cambridge, March 2020. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren outside her home in Cambridge, March 2020. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Despite months on the shortlist, with voters, pundits and party officials regularly lauding her qualifications, Elizabeth Warren will not be Joe Biden's vice presidential pick.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, instead chose Kamala Harris, amid mounting pressure to select not only a woman, as he promised, but specifically a woman of color. His choice of a Black woman as running mate marks a first in U.S. history.

Harris is a former attorney general of California and currently the only Black woman serving in the U.S. Senate, where she gained recognition for her sharp questioning of Trump administration officials and nominees. During her failed 2020 presidential bid, Harris drew significant criticism for her work as California's top prosecutor, when she refused to intervene in two high-profile deadly police shootings of Black men in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Many of her critics also say she did little in that role to fight systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

It remains to be seen if Harris's tarnished reputation among some progressive factions will hurt Biden, but it's safe to say that she's more of a centrist than Warren.

Warren was quick to offer her congratulations and support to the Biden-Harris ticket, tweeting a statement less than an hour after the announcement.

Although passed over for the second-highest position, Warren may still play a future role in a Biden administration should the former vice president win in November. Her deep knowledge of the financial system and track record as a senator who gets things done, including her successful implementation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the Great Recession, have made her a likely candidate for a cabinet position, such as treasury secretary.

Biden's decision to pass on Warren as his running mate isn't altogether surprising. Although she has a passionate following and policy expertise, she also has political baggage that might have weighed down the Democratic ticket.

Early in her presidential campaign, she had trouble explaining her claims of Native American ancestry. And as a former Harvard professor from a very blue state, with a pugnacious political style, she likely would be easy to characterize as too progressive for many moderate and independent voters.

Warren and Biden's political relationship has also seen its fair share of acrimony through the years — with heated public exchanges dating back to 2005. Her most recent attacks on Biden came during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, when she ran as a progressive populist fighting for big, structural change.

“Nominating a man who says we do not need any fundamental change in this country will not meet this moment," Warren said at a rally in Los Angeles on March 3. "Nominating someone who wants to restore the world before Donald Trump, when the status quo has been leaving more and more people behind for decades, is a big risk for our party and for our country.”

After dropping out of the presidential race several days later, Warren waited more than a month to endorse Biden as he went on to consolidate his lead over rival Bernie Sanders. Soon after that, the coronavirus pandemic swept across the nation, effectively stopping the Democratic primary campaign dead in its tracks.

Since endorsing Biden in mid-April, she's become an enthusiastic supporter and advisor to Biden — raising $6 million for the campaign in a single fundraiser, while serving as a key author on Biden's post-pandemic economic recovery plans and speaking with the would-be president on a regular basis. In turn, Biden has adopted Warren-endorsed plans on the expansion of social security benefits and student loan debt forgiveness.

Biden has also embraced Warren's policy on personal bankruptcy reform — the very same issue they initially clashed over back in 2005.

This article was originally published on August 11, 2020.

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Wilder Fleming Twitter Political Producer
Wilder Fleming is a political producer at WBUR, focused on the path to November 2020.

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