On August 11, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced his choice for vice president: California Senator Kamala Harris. KSMU asked a political expert to weigh in on that decision.
Dr. Dan Ponder, professor of political science at Drury University, told KSMU an important consideration past presidential candidates have faced was picking someone that complements their experience or makes up for a perceived weakness.
Ponder pointed to Harris’ reputation as a prosecutor and attorney general for California, saying it’s possible Joe Biden thought choosing her would help win suburban voters worried about crime.
“She’s strong on law and order, he’s strong on national security, defense, foreign policy, and so it sort of balances the ticket that way,” Ponder said.
Biden chose Harris even though the two were rivals for the Democratic nomination and after Harris clashed with him in debates last year over policies he supported as senator.
But Ponder points out primary clashes between eventual presidential and vice presidential nominees isn’t anything new. He points to Ronald Reagan choosing George H.W. Bush for the Republican ticket in 1980 despite Bush’s criticism of the governor when both were candidates.
Ponder said Harris’ status as the first woman of color on a major party’s ticket could energize the Democratic Party. But he says the vice-presidential nominee is usually not the deciding factor when a voter steps into the booth on Election Day.
“In the end, most of the research shows that people come out with the person at the top of the ticket foremost in their mind.”
He added a lot more than the VP pick will go into deciding who the next president is come January.