- Joe Biden has pledged to pick a female running mate, and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has not been shy about her ambitions to win the spot.
- Behind the scenes, Abrams has been calling Democratic power brokers and asking them to lobby Biden’s team on her behalf,Politico reported Tuesday.
- She has also very publicly stated that she is interested in the role, and has only increased her public campaigning in recent weeks.
- Abrams is a sign that women “are saying, ‘Yes, I want this,'” said Nadia Brown, a political science professor at Purdue University. “I think its a welcome change, and I’m here for it.”
- Though Abrams is popular, she has less experience than governors, Senators, and former presidential candidates also rumoured for the job.
- “She will need to advocate for herself if she wants consideration,” said Niambi Carter, a political science professor at Howard University.
- Abrams has also promoted the idea that Biden should choose a woman of colour as his running mate, particularly a black woman, to reflect the importance of these critical Democratic voters.
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With Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, the race is on to serve as his running mate.
And Stacey Abrams is running.
On Tuesday, Politico reported that Abrams “has been privately calling Democratic power brokers, asking them to tell Biden campaign officials that she should be vice president.” But she has waged her campaign in the open as well.
In mid-April, Abrams told Elle magazine that she “would be an excellent running mate” and was “prepared and excited to serve.” She has repeated that desire in multiple television appearances, where the question of whether she’d accept Biden’s offer nearly always comes up.
Biden has pledged to nominate a woman as his vice presidential nominee. In media appearances, magazine interviews, and behind-the-scenes lobbying, Abrams, a former Georgia state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate, has conveyed her eagerness to serve. Her outspoken desire for the role – and for Biden to assemble a diverse ticket – is an unusually public display of hunger for a job that most politicians pursue with more clandestine tactics.
Vice presidential speculation has surrounded Abrams for over a year’ and she’s leaned into it.
Abrams’ profile has only grown since narrowly lost the 2018 Georgia governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp. She was chosen by the Democrats to deliver the party’s rebuttal to Trump’s 2019 state of the Union, and her speech was well-received in the party and the press. But with several other high profile female politicians more executive or legislative experience also reportedly under consideration for vice president, Abrams in recent weeks has stepped up her campaigning.
“If you want the job, you have to show people you’re serious,” Niambi Carter, a political science professor at Howard University, told Insider. “Abrams seems to be doing exactly that, as are the other interested in being Biden’s running mate. You cannot compete for the job if people don’t know you want it.”
Carter noted that Abrams was “quite popular and well-liked by the public” but that while “Georgia is an important state, she may not be a top-of-the-mind pick for the Biden because she hasn’t won a high-profile office.”
“She will need to advocate for herself if she wants consideration,” Carter concluded.
It’s a dynamic that Abrams herself appears to be well aware of.
“As a young black girl growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if I didn’t speak up for myself, no one else would,” she said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “My mission is to say out loud if I’m asked the question, ‘Yes, I would be willing to serve.'”
This approach hasn’t come without its critics, however. Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat, recently slammed her approach on the St. Louis-based Tanzango podcast, saying it was “offensive” to be “marketing yourself as a VP candidate.”
“You can’t show up at the winner’s window with loser’s tickets and demand anything,” he said.
Some Democrats have urged Biden to choose a woman of colour as his VP, and Abrams has emphasised that argument
Abrams might also be working to remind the Biden campaign of its obligation to the Democratic base, which consists of young and diverse voters, said Nadia Brown, a political science professor at Purdue University. Black voters, and particularly black women, are increasingly recognised as the party’s most loyal voters, and these Democrats delivered South Carolina to Biden and revived his path to the nomination.
“The Democratic Party understands that they have make these concessions to putting black women’s issues in their policies…but also put their bodies in leadership positions,” Brown told Insider. “The problem is the follow through in meaningful ways.”
On a Sunday appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Abrams emphasised a larger point about representation. “It’s not about attention for being the running mate,” she said. “It is about making sure that my qualifications aren’t in question, because they’re not just speaking to me. They’re speaking to young black women, young women of colour, young people of colour, who wonder if they too can be seen.”
Biden has pledged to choose a woman as his vice presidential pick, but some of his backers in the party want him to go further and chose a woman of colour as his running mate.
“The political scientist in me thinks that [Biden] might not go as far in nominating a woman of colour,” said Brown, even though she believed it would make sense for him to choose a popular candidate like Abrams.
“I think the problem is there’s this large pragmatic side of the Democratic Party” who would likely select someone like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Brown said. That way, Democrats would be “checking the box of having a woman, but you’re not having someone whose radically progressive.”
Whether or not Abrams ultimately becomes Biden’s running mate, she is still moving the needle symbolically
While some rumoured vice presidential hopefuls tend to play coy about the speculation, Abrams has not shied away from expressing her ambition.
Men tend to be viewed more favourably for expression ambition than women, according to Carter, who can be seen as usurping gender norms.
Voters will make allowances for female politicians, who must express a strong desire for office if they want to run, but “when you add in longstanding tropes of race it backfires for black women,” Brown said. She added that these candidates can face stereotypes of being domineering, or face backlash challenging norms.
Yet Abrams has not relented on her very public campaign for the vice presidency. And neither have her reported competitors. Klobuchar and her Senate colleagues Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have all said they would say yes to the vice presidency, should Biden offer it.
“Women are changing these standards, are saying, ‘Yes, I want this,'” said Brown. “I think its a welcome change, and I’m here for it.”