WASHINGTON • Presidential candidate Joe Biden has entered the final stage of his deliberations about choosing a running mate as he prepares to talk one-on-one with the finalists, while Democratic leaders lobby him furiously to elevate their allies and sink their enemies.
Mr Biden’s campaign has conducted extensive polling and focus groups with voters on a collection of candidates and weighed various factors, such as the impact of the pick in battleground states and whether to choose a black woman.
Aides said the announcement will come the week before the Democratic convention later this month.
Two candidates who received scant attention early in the process are now among the leading contenders: Representative Karen Bass of California and former national security adviser Susan Rice, according to Democratic officials briefed on the selection process.
Ms Bass has moved rapidly towards the top of Mr Biden’s list amid an intensive lobbying drive by her fellow House Democrats and has impressed the former vice-president’s search committee.
Mr Biden is said to be focused on finding a running mate he regards as capable of advancing his priorities in governing and who can be counted on not to stray from the urgent challenges facing the nation to pursue her own political priorities, according to people familiar with his thinking.
His advisers would also prefer a running mate who would not present a rich political target for President Donald Trump, given that the incumbent is lagging badly in the polls and has so far struggled to deliver credible negative attacks against Mr Biden.
In conversations with Mr Biden and his vetting committee, lawmakers have recommended Ms Bass as a consensus candidate who is well liked across partisan and factional lines and would be a loyal lieutenant to him in government.
Ms Bass has reinforced that message by assuring Democratic officials she has no interest in seeking the presidency herself, said a party insider. Such commitment could assuage concerns in the Biden camp that he might be overshadowed by a running mate positioning herself to succeed him.
Ms Bass has also waged a previously undisclosed campaign to woo influential liberal leaders, phoning union presidents to seek their counsel and support.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is close to Ms Bass, whom she named to oversee the recent policing reform Bill, and has made her admiration clear in private conversations, including with former president Barack Obama, although her aides said she has not conveyed support for any candidate.
Two prominent Democrats, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, along with a handful of other women, remain as possibilities; both lawmakers have the statewide political experience and large national followings that Ms Bass and Ms Rice lack.
Ms Warren has become something of an informal adviser to Mr Biden on economic issues and has won support from her party’s progressive wing. Ms Harris is regarded as a muscular fundraiser with the backing of important people in the Democratic Party’s donor class.
Mr Biden’s decision has become both enormously consequential and highly delicate because of the unresolved question of whether, should he win in November, he would seek re-election in four years, when he would be nearly 82 years old.
Some of his top advisers, however, are warning against tapping somebody who would immediately begin eyeing the next Democratic primary.
“There’s going to be an awful lot to do starting on Day 1, so I think it’s important to have somebody who can be focused on that task and not running for president as soon as we finish the inauguration,” said Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, one of Mr Biden’s campaign chairs.
Mr Biden is also facing the most intense lobbying to choose a black running mate.
A small group of strategists and activists who have been pressing for a black woman recently spoke about the shifting political environment – in the wake of the death of Mr George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis – in a meeting with members of the search committee, according to party insiders.
Many of them indicated their support for Ms Harris and Ms Rice.
But the meeting was held before it was evident how seriously Ms Bass was being considered. Representative Ro Khanna of California said: “She’d be a pick that every part of the Democratic coalition would respect and be excited about.”