Slack Chat: Vet the House on the Dark Horse


T: With apologies to Meat Loaf  (the singer, not the artery-clogger), Joe Biden is going to announce his Vice President choice in the next week or so.

“So who’s it gonna be, boy?”

J: I’d say Kamala Harris has the inside track.

T: I watched the FiveThirtyEight podcast yesterday; they listed several candidates, but said only about three of them are seriously in the running. They agreed with you, calling Harris the favorite.

J: She just makes too much sense NOT to be the pick.

T: Who are the main candidates?

J: Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Val Demings, Susan Rice, Gretchen Whitmer and Tammy Duckworth.

T: No Stacy Abrams?

J: No. Whether it was her idea or not, Abrams doesn’t seem to be under serious consideration any more.

She was campaigning for it, and I think that may have rubbed Biden the wrong way. Biden’s old-scholl; to him, the office is supposed to seek the person. Not the other way around.

T: So we’ll assume that Abrams is scratched; let’s run through the rest of them.

Since she’s the heavy favorite, let’s start with Kamala Harris.

J: As I said before, she just makes too much sense NOT to be the pick. Former prosecutor Harris very much in the Obama mold – intelligent, charismatic and articulate – and ideologically fairly close to Biden on most issues.

T: The prosecutor angle is interesting; Trump is leaning heavily on law and order in his campaign, trying to make it look like the democrats are carpooling rioters to Portland.

J: It can’t hurt.

T: Does she have any negatives?

J: She was pretty hard on Biden during the primary campaign… I think Joe has forgiven her, but I don’t think Jill Biden has. That would count against her.

The GOP would run ads of her ripping Biden during the debates. She also was a pretty hardcore prosecutor; there would be some scrutiny of her record in that regard.

T: An outsized factor this time around is Biden’s advanced age. The VP candidate has to be somebody the nation will accept as its president if something happens to Biden. 

Does Harris pass that test?

J: I would say so. I think being a senator is better preparation for the Presidency than being a governor or a non-congressional office, because Senators have to have some familiarity with foreign policy. Pete Buttigieg was a great candidate, except that South Bend, Ind. didn’t have to worry too much about nuclear proliferation.

T: So where does that land Harris overall?

J: In horse racing terms, she’s the chalk pick. She’s not particularly risky, doesn’t have a lot of electoral upside – she’s not from a battleground state – but she won’t drag the ticket down, either. Being a former candidate helps her in the sense that she’s prepared to step in if needed and be accepted as the President. She’s a known quantity in political circles something democrats value more than republicans.

T: Let’s take another one: Elizabeth Warren.

J: Warren has some pretty distinct negatives; the main one is that she is extremely liberal, almost AOC liberal. Biden appears to be charting a path away from that wing of the party. She’s also nearly Biden’s age (71) so there’d be some chatter about the age of the democratic leadership: “Another old-timer? We need new blood … ” 

T: Also, she’s white; this time around, the undertow against choosing a white candidate would take down Abraham Lincoln. And Fox would play the Pocahontas thing on a dammed loop.

I’ll tell you what, though. Warren is going to have a huge role in Biden’s administration, assuming he wins the White House.

J: I don’t think the Pocahontas thing would be that big a deal; Trump’s done a thousand times worse during his Presidency.

T: The insulter doesn’t say, “she’s worse than me.” The insulter says, “she’s worse than you.”

J: The voters will know the difference, though.

T: Yeah, it probably wouldn’t matter to the vote. But it would be annoying to hear about it all the time from the same morons who would deny the holocaust during an Auschwitz visit.

J: Agreed. I also agree with you that being white is probably death to her chances.

I’d be very surprised if she was the VP pick, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her in the cabinet if Biden is elected.

T: What do you think is her most likely cabinet spot? She could be a lot of things and do them well, but I’d like to see her front and center in the Medicare-for-all push.

J: I think HHS secretary would be ideal for her; she could lead the Medicare-for-all push from there.

T: So what are her odds? At what odds would you bet on her?

J: I’d put her at maybe 10/1 to get the Veep nod, but better than even money to be in the Cabinet. She will have a voice in the Biden administration, if there is one.

T: She might be 10/1 in the polls, but I don’t think I’d take even 30-1 on VP, honestly; Warren ain’t getting VP.

But a Cabinet position … 2/5, maybe? She might turn one down, but I’d be shocked if she didn’t get an offer.

J: I was gonna say 3/5, so we can average it to 1/2.

T: She’ll be offered at least one; she might be offered her choice. She is the democrats’ best high-profile policy wonk.

Ok, next victim: Susan Rice.

J: Rice is an interesting pick. She’s got by far the best foreign-policy chops as a former UN ambassador, and as a former national-security advisor she certainly understands defense policy and alliances and whatnot. Her weakness is that she’s never held elective office; she’d be painted as a creature of the Swamp, rather than a candidate of the People.

She would make an excellent Secretary of State if she doesn’t get the Veep nod.

T: In the past, Rice has been prone to rash statements and judgments … I don’t want to compare her to Rudy Giuliani – she’s a very different person – but she shares some of his (cough) “unfiltered” characteristics. She may or may not survive the VP vetting process.

That said, I think she’ll be useful and valuable in whatever position she takes, including the VP. She is a dedicated, experience foreign policy wonk, and regardless of her reputation from Benghazi, history has largely exonerated her position.

J: History maybe; we’ll see about public opinion.

T: Yeah. But that’s kind of a partisan thing, isn’t it? I don’t think independent voters care about it.

J: Yeah, and it’s really old news.

T: If she’s the choice, we’z gonna hear ALL about it, though.

J: Oh yeah.

T: By the way, I don’t think Rice is as loony and nutso as Rudy G. She is a sober, serious administrator.

But you don’t need to own the crayons to be the canvas, and the GOP’s job is to paint pictures with whatever they can find. Rice might be vulnerable to that sort of attacking style.

J: Yeah, she’s said some, shall we say, problematic things in the past. I think she’d be an excellent SecOfState or VP, but I’d lean more towards SecOfState for her if I was Biden.

Also, there isn’t a lot of info out there about her position on issues; she’d largely be a blank slate, for good or ill.

T: The overriding factor for Rice and Abrams (if she was in the mix) is that they have not held national elected office. At what odds would you be willing to bet on Rice?

J: A little lower than Warren, but not much; maybe 8/1. But, like Warren, Rice is a mortal lock for either a cabinet position or as the National Security Advisor.

T: I think Rice is more likely than that, somewhere around 7/2 or 4/1. I think Biden is cooler on the idea of choosing Harris than the democratic party is. If Biden knew and trusted Harris as well as he knows and trusts Rice, I think he’d have announced Harris as his sidekick months ago and got her out campaigning.

I think if Rice had elected experience she’d be the favorite, because I think Biden wants Rice. But that lack of office experience and Biden’s advanced age means he is probably being counseled against choosing Rice.

But even against the wind, I think she’s either the second or third choice.

Next on the hit parade: Val Demings.

J: Who?

T: Just go to Wikipedia like I did.

J: We do that a lot, don’t we?

T: These slacks wind up being Wikipedia book reports half the time.

J: Only half?

T: So what does Val Demings’ wiki page say?

J: She’s a bit of a reach, I think; she was an impeachment manager and you KNOW that’d be all over Fox News. Also, she was a police chief, and given the current feelings towards law enforcement, she might be a problematic choice. Her positives are that she’s black and she’s from Florida; the combination would give the ticket a boost in a critical battleground state. 

T: I don’t think her profile is strong enough for this particular position; she has a few years in the House, which is enough in a normal year, but this ain’t a normal year. Biden’s advanced age means the VP has to be fully qualified to be the P; it’s a long way from the House to the Oval.

J: That’s a strong limiter this year; any Veep candidate has to be vetted like a POTUS, too.

T: I think her credential are interesting, though. Her career in law enforcement is a double-edged PR sword, but overall I think her record is a positive one. Most of the naysayers would be your typical trolls, addicted to booing, and there are more shy law and order types than you might think among the independent voters.

J: Yeah, the extended “protests” are not universally supported outside of the hard left at this point.

T: Not at all; most of the rank and file voters are getting protest-fatigue.

My guess is that Demings will be a strong candidate for a senatorial position when the next opening presents itself.

J: That sounds right.

T: What odds? I’d toss a fin or two on 100/1, but it’s just a wild stab. I don’t think her profile is high enough to qualify as the Biden-understudy.

J: I’d put her at about 20/1… she’s an up-and-comer, definitely, but her time is not yet. Maybe not even 2024, but by 2028 she’ll be ready for a national-profile position.

T: I should (gently) point out that she is 63 years old.

J: Well, Biden’s 78… in eight more years Demings would be Warren’s age.

T: Does it seem like the Democratic party is on the final fumes of the Clinton era now?

J: It does seem that way; it’s the last stand of the Democratic old guard. The young Turks are coming to take over.

T: Harris and Rice are 55.

J: That’s barely old enough to get a drink at the DNC these days.

T: Demings has an impressive visual bearing. She looks Presidential.

Well, she looks like she goes to the same hairdresser as Julia-Louise Dreyfuss did on “Veep,” anyway.

J: I didn’t know hair was a handicapping category.

T: It’s not; I just thought it was interesting that some people still buy hairspray from Costco.

J: Can we get back to the VP race?

T: Ok. Anything else on Demings?

J: Right now, Demings would  be a risky Veep pick because of her relative inexperience, and Biden’s not in a position where he has to make a risky pick. If this was a margin-of-error race, maybe he might gamble on a relative unknown with solid law and order credential. But with a pretty solid lead I would say no.

T: We agree, she’s a longshot. And I think we agree that she’d be a good choice, if chosen.

J: Oh, she’d be terrific. A retired police chief from Florida with solid liberal credentials? She could be useful in a bajillion ways.

T: Speaking of younger democratic candidates, what do you think of 48-year-old Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer?

J: Whitmer has been kind of a lightning rod for controversy with her handling of the pandemic, although she remains popular in Michigan. She might eventually run for Senate if she wants to cultivate a national profile; I don’t think she can do it from the governor’s mansion. I don’t know if she is term-limited, but I would look for her to make a move to the national stage in the next few years if she’s going to.

T: She has a pretty solid career arc going on, having served in the Michigan state House, Senate and now Governor’s mansion; if and when she decides to go national, I’m sure she’ll be a force.

That said, I don’t think much of her chances in the VP race. Much like Demings, she became a hot prospect during a particular news cycle that is no longer newsy. She’s white and has no national experience.

She made the shortlist after a splashy exchange with Trump, but that was months ago. I doubt Biden even remembers when she was on the list.

J: I looked it up; Whitmer was elected Governor in 2018 and can only be re-elected once, so she is term-limited to 2026.

T: The next Michigan Senate seat opening will be 2024, when democrat Debbie Stabenow will be 74 years old. Stabenow has been in the Senate since 2000.

The other senatorial election is this year; democrat Gary Peters is the incumbent. So there will be another one in 2026.

J: So maybe she’ll run for Peters’s seat.

T: That’s the most likely, I think. Stabenow will be 74, but she looks like she is in great shape and senators often serve well into their eighties.

Where to you see Whitmer’s VP odds? Does she have any?

J: She is under consideration, I guess, but her odds are probably fairly long… she’s white and would come under criticism for her heavy-handed management of the pandemic. Like Demings, she’d be a risky pick, and Biden doesn’t need to make a risky pick.

T: I’d say she’s maybe worth a coupla bucks at 500/1, but I’m worth a coupla bucks at 500/1. Ok, maybe not me.

Ok, we are down to our personal favorite candidate. What say you about Senator Tammy Duckworth?

J: As you know from past conversations, I think she would be absolute kryptonite for Trump.

None of his juvenile names would have any effect on her, and using them would probably cause him more blowback than anything else. She would be a terrific president if needed; she definitely has that look about her.

That being said though, looking at her objectively, her positions are really, really liberal, as much so as Warren. That would be a problem for a self-styled moderate like Biden.

T: I roared, cooled and settled into a nice middle ground on Duckworth as the nature of the presidential race itself roared, cooled and settled.

Duckworth clicks all the important boxes. She’s a respected administrator with hard-left credentials but also some good-sense fiscal credentials that will appeal to the moderate wing of the party. As a disabled war veteran she strikes a tough, commanding, inspiring figure. As a long-married mother of two small children she strikes a compassionate, nurturing, empathetic figure.

If the race was close, I’d be a lot less enthusiastic about Duckworth; the enthusiasm in the Black community could be a big deal in a close race, and Duckworth would not generate that sort of enthusiasm. When the race looked close, I was very cool on Duckworth as the choice.

But the race doesn’t appear to be close, and the candidates that have that enthusiasm don’t have answers for Duckworth’s other attributes.

If the race was Trump’s to lose, I’d be a LOT more enthusiastic about Duckworth. She can knock Trump on his ass and Trump can’t whine back like bullies always do when they get punched in the face. I thought she was the best option if Biden needed to make up ground. She is, like you said, kryptonite for Trump’s bullying tactics.

Harris will be the chalk, but my money is on Duckworth. I honestly don’t think Biden wants Harris if he can sell the party on someone else.

What odds would you give Duckworth?

J: I’d make her the second choice, maybe 3/1.

My odds, after kicking it around a little in my head:

  • Harris: 1/1 (and my pick)
  • Duckworth: 3/1
  • Rice: 6/1
  • Whitmer: 8/1
  • Demings: 10/1
  • Warren: 20/1
  • Abrams: Hell freezes over/1
  • Field: 15/1


T: My odds:

  • Harris 8/5
  • Duckworth 5/2 (and my pick)
  • Rice 4/1
  • Demings 50/1
  • Whitmer 500/1
  • Warren return bet, seek help

J: Oh, and field: 20/1. Not Sally Field.

T: The nature of these sorts of  campaign choices is that the field is still viable, and worth a flyer bet. The two largest factors this time around point in both directions, though:

  • Since the VP is more likely than usual to become the president, the field is limited to candidates who have presidential credibility.  
  • Since the nominee (Biden) is cool toward the chalk candidate (Harris), it’s likely that the campaign isn’t done casting its net.

The English betting pools, who mostly bet on names, like Michelle Obama. What would you set her odds at? What odds would tempt you?

J: As far as I know, Michelle Obama has absolutely no interest in politics and has steadfastly refused to entertain any offers to run for office.

That’s not to say she wouldn’t be an excellent candidate; she’s smart, articulate, and was married to the president for eight years, so she has some grasp of how the levers of power work. The only issue is that she has no interest in politics whatsoever. I’d say 1,000 to 1.

T: Yeah, the interest in her far outstrips her own interest; if she was interested we’d have heard by now.

J: I would think so.

T: If there was a dark horse … Hillary? Just kidding. Betty White? Mostly kidding. Is there someone completely off the grid who might pop up late? Give me one and sell me.

J: How about a recasting? I’ll go with Amy Klobuchar. She’s been through the vetting process as a presidential candidate, she’s a sitting senator so she has some foreign-policy chops, she’s from the battleground state of Minnesota, and she’s fairly moderate in her views, “simpatico” with Biden, to use his word.

T: Klobuchar has strong moderate credentials, but she herself said Biden should not pick a white VP, so I assume she is still on the “do not resuscitate” list.

Another name that has been mentioned a time or two is Karen Bass. I know nothing about her, pending the inevitable trip to Wikipedia.

J: They should sponsor our blog.

T: I just sent them 20 bucks last week.

J: We we are sponsoring them?

T: Us and about 400 million other people, hopefully. Bass?

J: Bass is a four-term congress member from California… she’s got a history of controversial statements; she called Castro “Comandante in jefe” (Commander in Chief), which was considered not just the thing.

T: Barring a late darkhorse, I think we have the field lined up. So who’s it gonna be, boy?

J: Lemme sleep on it.

T: Oh, very funny. Nobody reading this is going to remember the Meat Loaf joke.

J: But you had to know that was coming, right?

T: I didn’t remember the Meat Loaf joke and I WROTE it.

J: Well, two out of three aint –

T: Nope. Not having it.

J: Ok, I guess I’m done anyway; I only know about four Meat Loaf songs.

T: So … who’s it gonna BE, boy?

J: Well, my head says Harris, but my heart says Duckworth. If I can only put one bet down, I’ll go with Harris.

Either one would be an excellent choice, though.

T: That’s the difference between us as handicappers-slash-degenerate gamblers. I would actually ignore the chalky pick and put my money on Duckworth. Harris should be the chalk, she’s the public’s choice. But I can’t help thinking that the delay in choosing a candidate means Biden doesn’t want to choose her.

J: Well, as you know, I’m a conservative bettor, I lean to the chalk. I’d personally be delighted if Duckworth was the pick; she would absolutely neuter Trump.

And watching her debate Pence would be must-see TV.

T: The handicapping is fun, but the VP rarely has that much of an impact.

And it’s not like Biden is going to listen to a woman, anyway.

J: Oh, you’re a dead man walking when the girls on Bajolers see this.

T: Probably. But Biden is still a million-year-old white guy. Do YOU think he’ll listen to a female VP?

J: Point taken.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s