ROBERT COSTA: Welcome to the Washington Week Extra. I’m Robert Costa.
Let’s pick up that conversation about the 2020 campaign. The contest has now narrowed to former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, but the eventual nominee will have to unite a fractured party, possibly with the vice presidential pick.
Joining me now is Abby Phillip, political correspondent for CNN; and Jonathan Martin, national political correspondent for The New York Times. Jonathan, Abby, thanks for sticking around for the Extra.
Look, it’s a – it’s a long way away, the VP pick. We don’t even know who the nominee’s going to be. But if it’s Biden, who do you think?
ABBY PHILLIP: Definitely someone younger. I mean, I do think that he really has to reassure people about the fact that he is older and needs someone who is – who is vibrant, who has a bright future ahead of them. I’m not so sure – you know, VP picks, I think, are a little bit overblown, but I think he wants to signal toward the future of the Democratic Party. So you know, I think, you know, an African American woman – Kamala Harris, Val Demings, both options that I think people have brought up in the past. But he doesn’t – you know, I don’t necessarily think that he needs a sort of, you know, younger white man. I mean, I think a lot of people might have thought that a Pete Buttigieg would be a natural sort of complement to him, but Biden doesn’t need to double down on Biden. I think he needs someone who complements him in different ways and can kind of energize the younger portion of the Democratic Party that’s just looking for the next generation of leaders.
MR. COSTA: Has the Biden campaign, Jonathan, started to think through it even informally a little bit?
JONATHAN MARTIN: I am sure it’s in the back of their minds and I’m sure Biden’s thought about it as he talks to some of these people. But, Bob, they are so busy trying to scale up for this primary and trying to sort of catch their breath after the last few days, I’m not sure that there’s any serious planning. But I think Biden’s got to decide how he wants to approach this. I mean, obviously, a governing pick is important, someone that you can work with who can take over the country if need be obviously is central. But also, does he want to, you know, try to placate the left if he does defeat Bernie Sanders? And obviously, that could be a challenge. Would he want to reward and honor African American voters, which are both the most loyal base in the party and the folks that basically saved his candidacy in South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday? Or does he want to try to help with voters that he has not done as well with – Hispanic voters, that Sanders has done better with?
MR. COSTA: Well, who could be someone for Biden who’s Hispanic?
MR. MARTIN: So there are a couple names that I have heard. Catherine Cortez Masto, the senator from Nevada, was floated to me a few months ago by Congressman Filemon Vela from Texas. She’s a first-term senator and somebody that could be looked at from Nevada. Michelle Lujan Grisham is the governor of New Mexico, was in the House before she became governor, is I think somebody that could also be looked at. Those two states, Bob – Nevada, New Mexico, sort of the interior West – this is the Democratic future out there. These are states that have become bluer, and I think places that Biden would want to look to to try to energize those kind of voters.
MR. COSTA: What about – you mentioned Val Demings, the lawmaker from Florida, part of the impeachment team in the House. She seems to have a rising profile?
MS. PHILLIP: She does, and I think that people have been paying attention to her. She comes from a law enforcement background. She is a good presenter. She’s an African American woman. I think a lot of people are taking a second look at her. I mean, she’s less known, but so are a lot of these people that we are talking about here. This is going to be – need to be someone who can pretty quickly jump into a national profile and perform. She seemed to prove that with her performance in the impeachment hearings. I think also her toughness is going to be really important with a kind of second-tier Democratic message, which is going to be about the issue of corruption with President Trump. They’re going to need – so I think it would be beneficial to Biden to have someone who can – who can prosecute that case. And that could be a Val Demings. It could also be a Kamala Harris.
MR. MARTIN: That’s a good point. By the way, when she was in the Senate prosecuting the impeachment case, she caught the eye of one Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who was telling people as recently as last week that he thinks that she could be a good pick for Biden. So I think that’s vast. And look –
MR. COSTA: What about Senator Warren? She’s sitting out there –
MR. MARTIN: I was going to say, you know, traditionally those who were the kind of runners up in campaigns often get a long look. And I think this is going to be no different. I think Kamala Harris will get a look. I think Klobuchar will get a look. And I think Warren’s going to get a real look.
MR. COSTA: OK, what about for Senator Sanders? If he’s the nominee does he go left-left or does he move to the center with his pick?
MS. PHILLIP: I think he’s got to move to the center. He’s got to find someone who can help him. And, in fact, in some ways I do think a Warren VP would actually be an OK option for Bernie Sanders because, again, Warren is viewed as a progressive but her base of supporters – these are Hillary voters, they’re Biden voters, they’re Buttigieg. They’re people whose second choice in Iowa and New Hampshire were Buttigieg and Klobuchar.
MR. COSTA: But he’s struggled with African American voters. Maybe Val Demings, or Stacey Abrams, or Senator Harris?
MS. PHILLIP: Yeah, exactly. I mean, if any of them would do it. One of the challenges though is that some of the people view Bernie Sanders as just not being ideologically similar enough. It’s about the tone. I’ve heard this from Kamala Harris – friends of Kamala Harris, that she, you know, respects Bernie Sanders, but they do not necessarily see eye to eye in approach to politics. That’s going to be a real problem.
MR. COSTA: Wouldn’t you be surprised, though, if someone turned down the VP offer?
MS. PHILLIP: It would be surprising. But, I mean, everybody has – you know, you never know what people are going to do until it’s offered to them. And I think people tend to say yes.
MR. COSTA: What about a unity ticket – Sanders/Biden, Biden/Sanders? I mean, that’s what happened in 1980, Reagan brought on George H.W. Bush.
MR. MARTIN: I think you’d be doubling down on the geriatric base there, Bob. (Laughs.) I’m not sure the country is ready for 79 and 78 by 2021, which is what they would be. I think it’s a long shot.
MS. PHILLIP: Yeah. One big question I have, though, as we go into these Midwestern, industrial Midwestern states is, does Biden actually perform with white working-class voters, white working-class men? That’s been his calling card for a long time. And it hasn’t been tested yet. If he does perform well, he’s probably in good shape, and he can double down on some other parts of the Democratic coalition. But if he does not, that’s when I think maybe we start looking at a – someone from the Midwest who can –
MR. COSTA: Gretchen Whitmer.
MS. PHILLIP: Exactly, like Michigan’s governor.
MR. MARTIN: So, literally this afternoon I was speaking to a state senator from Detroit. And he told me, preemptively by the way – preemptively he said: You guys are missing the story. He said, I’m telling you right now, Gretchen Whitmer makes perfect sense to be Biden’s running mate because not only is she Michigan, a key state, but she is the kind of – the kind of Democrat that suburban, moderate women flocked to in her campaign in 2018. And she could help Biden with that crucial demographic in 2020. It would cement those voters and give Biden the White House. So that’s definitely a possibility.
MS. PHILLIP: I mean, it could be a twofer, because it would be the suburban women and also the sort of Midwestern vote which is – you know, for Biden could be very important. But it really does depend on whether on his own Biden has enough juice to kind of get through it. Because if he does, then they really ought to work on turnout in the Democratic base – progressives, minority voters, and the like.
MR. MARTIN: And Whitmer, lastly, was smart to get her endorsement in of Biden before the primary, by the way.
MS. PHILLIP: Yes, exactly. (Laughs.) Just under the radar. (Laughter.)
MR. COSTA: I know it’s far away, but there’s nothing better sometimes than vice presidential speculation – the veepstakes.
MR. MARTIN: Yeah. Totally irresponsible, but it’s still fun.
MR. COSTA: It’s fun. It’s fun. That’s it for this edition of the Washington Week Extra. You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or watch on our website. While you’re there check out our weekly quiz, the Washington Week-ly News Quiz. I’m Robert Costa. Thanks for joining us. See you next time.