In the presidential debate on Sunday, March 15, former Vice President Joe Biden committed to choosing a woman as his running mate if he gets the nomination.
When Senator Bernie Sanders was asked in a follow-up if he would similarly commit to selecting a woman, he responded, “in all likelihood, I will.”
If the winner of the Democratic nomination for president does select a woman and wins the presidency in November, it would be the first time in American history that a woman has served as vice president.
Though numerous candidates have dropped out over the last few months, there was a time in which the Democratic field for president was the most diverse in history. With so many high-profile women currently in the Democratic Party, Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders would have the chance to reflect that diversity in their VP choice.
The role of the Vice President
While the vice president’s role is often thought of as playing second fiddle to the president, it comes with considerable responsibility.
In addition to working directly on issues to support the president’s agenda, the VP also has the title of President of the Senate. In the case of a tie in the 100-seat Senate, the vice president casts the tie breaking vote.
As the former vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden – the current Democratic frontrunner and likely eventual nominee – is well acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of the office. In fact, Biden was one of the more prolific men to fill the role, leading The Atlantic to ask in 2012 whether he was “the most influential vice president in history.”
Among the issues Biden addressed as VP were gun ownership in America, the transition of power in Iraq (following the Iraq War that had been started under the previous administration), the Obama administration’s banking policy and the bailout of the auto industry amid the financial crisis.
The relationship between Biden and Obama was said to be very close, so much so that their supposed “bromance” became a popular internet meme.
If Biden were to win, he would be only the fifteenth vice president to become president, following the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. The last vice president to become president was George H.W. Bush, who was VP under President Ronald Reagan.
Who might Biden select for VP?
With Biden’s commitment to choosing a female vice president, any number of high-profile women could be in the running. The question is, who would help his ticket the most in a head-to-head election against incumbent President Donald Trump?
Many women who had been in the running for president but have dropped out are likely under consideration. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is one such possible choice.
Warren was considered Sanders’ main challenger for the progressive wing of the party and might help persuade Sanders’ voters to back Biden in the general election.
Other former candidates from the 2020 race that Biden could choose are US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris.
Gillibrand, who is a senator for New York, says her top priority is “rebuild[ing] the American economy.”
Klobuchar, who once led the largest prosecutor’s office in the state, became the first female senator for Minnesota when elected in 2006.
Prior to being a senator for California, Harris was the first female attorney general in California’s history. She would be the first African American selected as a VP candidate for a major party if selected by Biden.
Despite having only won two delegates in the primaries so far, Hawaii’s Representative Tulsi Gabbard remains in the presidential race. She trails Biden, who has 890 delegates, and Sanders, who has 736. Gabbard could be a possible VP choice if she ultimately drops out of the race.
Looking beyond former presidential candidates, one name that often appears in lists of possible vice presidential nominees is Stacey Abrams. In 2018, Abrams fought in a highly contested race for governor of Georgia. She ultimately lost by less than 50,000 votes to Brian Kemp, but her near-victory in a largely Republican state raised her profile in the Democratic Party.
Like Harris, Abrams would make history as the first African American to be selected as a VP.
A woman on the ticket
Biden made the announcement that he would choose a female VP during Sunday night’s debate with Senator Bernie Sanders. While a woman has never served as a vice president in the US, it would not be the first time a woman has been on the presidential ticket of a major political party.
The first woman was Geraldine A. Ferraro who, in 1984, joined the Democratic ticket of Walter Mondale in his unsuccessful bid to unseat incumbent President Ronald Reagan.
Prior to making history as the first woman to run as VP on a major party ticket, Ferraro was an assistant attorney general and a member of the US House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985.
It took more than two decades for another woman to be selected as a VP candidate.
In 2008, Republican Senator John McCain selected the first female governor in Alaska’s history, Sarah Palin, to be his running mate. However, McCain and Palin ended up losing to Obama and Biden.
Prior to both Ferraro and Palin, Tonie Nathan earned the distinction of being the first woman in US history to receive an electoral vote in a presidential election. In 1972, Nathan was the vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, alongside presidential nominee John Hospers.
The election ended up being a landslide reelection victory for President Richard Nixon. However, an elector from Virginia named Roger L. MacBride chose to cast his vote for the Hospers/Nathan ticket instead of for Nixon or his Democratic rival, former Vice President Spiro Agnew.
In 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not only made history as the first female presidential nominee on a major party’s ticket, she became the first woman to win the popular vote.
However, she lost the electoral college vote – and election – to Donald Trump.
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters here!