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I have been talking to a number of prominent Democrats about possible running mates for Joe Biden in the event that he wins the Democratic presidential nomination.
Biden’s vice-presidential selection would be critical, and not only for its effect on the campaign. If he were to win and only serve one term, the vice-presidential nominee would likely have the inside track for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024.
A number of suggestions were made to me, including Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Mark Warner (despite his age), Beto O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams.
By far, however, the best suggestion came from Jim McQueeny. That shouldn’t surprise anybody. Jim has a relationship with Joe Biden’s staff that nobody else in New Jersey has.
In fact, few Democrats in the nation have the relationship that Jim has with the Biden inner circle. It all goes back to the days when Jim was the lead player on the staff of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg.
In this campaign, Jim has maxed out financially to the Biden campaign. I have no doubt that Jim will be a key liaison between the Biden campaign and New Jersey major Democrat players – and with the transition team after the election.
So when I asked Jim the question about the best match for Joe Biden as a vice presidential running mate, he answered with alacrity: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
She has received national acclaim over the past 24 hours for her announcement that she will, by executive action, ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in Michigan. Vaping has become a national youth health crisis, severely affecting teen-agers, and Governor Whitmer will become the first governor in the nation to issue such a ban.
Her action displayed admirable decisiveness, and her statement in announcing the ban will resonate nationally: ““Companies selling vaping products are using candy flavors to hook children on nicotine and misleading claims to promote the belief that these products are safe, That ends today.”
There is something about Gretchen Whitmer that I find, at least on the surface, extremely endearing. She is married to her dentist, Marc Mallory, and the joke was that she wasn’t under anesthesia when she accepted his marriage proposal. It is the second marriage for both, and they strongly emphasize their blended family of her two daughters and his three sons.
McQueeny and I started our conversation with the obvious reason that Whitmer merits Biden’s consideration. Trump won the presidency by edging Hillary Clinton in the three states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. While Biden currently leads Trump in Michigan by a double-digit margin, the presence on the ticket of Whitmer, a popular first term governor would ensure a Biden victory in the Wolverine state.
But as McQueeny stated to me, she has something very much in common with Biden: A compelling personal narrative showing both determination and sensitivity.
As Jim put it, “her painful and personal revelations in the campaign about experiencing prior sexual abuse in her life struck a deep chord with women voters. And it is still resonating. Her focus in office on health care issues and cooperation with Republicans in the Legislature on other reform issues is the right healing post-Trump touch that is the companion narrative of Biden.”
The sexual assault story was first revealed by Gretchen Whitmer as a state senator in an emotional speech on the floor of the State Senate in 2013, when she opposed the so-called rape insurance bill, which banned insurance for abortion in private health plans unless women purchased a separate rider. The bill passed over her objections, but she established a bond with women voters in Michigan, which proved to be a major asset in her 2018 Michigan gubernatorial victory.
I served in the administration of Governor Christie Whitman in New Jersey, and I found amusing the similarity between the names “Whitman” and “Whitmer.” If I could find some old “Whitman” bumper stickers in my apartment, I could easily convert them to “Whitmer” just by changing the last two letters.
Whitmer is 48, and Biden will be 77 in November. A Biden- Whitmer ticket would be a perfect balance in terms of gender, age, and geography. And both are center-left in terms of ideology.
A Biden-Whitmer ticket would be a match made in heaven. And I think it may happen.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Gov Christie Todd Whitman.