Biden’s Veep and Cabinet Choices

The former VP is focused on beating Bernie Sanders but his team is looking ahead.

Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen report that “Joe Biden confidants are privately discussing potential leaders and Cabinet members for his White House, including the need to name a woman or African American — perhaps both — as vice president.”

That’s not the least bit surprising. Nor is this: “Biden advisers describe a Return to Normal plan — a reversal of President Trump’s unorthodox, improvisational style. Biden wants known, trusted people around him — many from the Obama years.”

One imagines that’s exactly what most Biden supporters—myself included—wanted: a return to normalcy.

But, of course, such normalcy will annoy many in the progressive camp.

Several high-profile possibilities:

John Kerry would love to take a new Cabinet position devoted to climate change, or might even accept a curtain call to return as secretary of state.

Susan Rice, formerly President Obama’s national security adviser, is another option for State.

Mike Bloomberg, who swiftly endorsed Biden after the former mayor’s campaign collapsed, would be a top possibility to head the World Bank.

Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general under Obama who stood up to Trump and was fired, would be a leading contender for attorney general.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren as Treasury secretary could help unite the party.

Jamie Dimon — chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, and mentioned over the years as a potential presidential candidate — would also be considered for Treasury.

Anne Finucane, vice chairman of Bank of America, is another possibility for Treasury.

Biden advisers expect Pete Buttigieg to get a prominent slot after his swift endorsement of Biden — perhaps as ambassador to the UN, or as U.S. trade representative.

Both would help credential Buttigieg for a future national campaign.

None of these choices would shock anybody. Indeed, many OTB commenters have speculated about or wished for some of these choices.

But the dichotomies here also shine a light on the severe divides within the Democratic Party.

While Elizabeth Warren doesn’t come with Bernie Sanders’ “burn the house down” temperament, she fundamentally wants to radically transform our economic system, including breaking up the big banks. That she’s a candidate for the same job that Jamie Dimon and Anne Finucane are being considered for is almost laughable. They represent diametrically opposed theories of the job.

Similarly, having Warren at Treasury and Mike Bloomberg at the World Bank would seem to be self-negating.

The Veepstakes are less problematic in that regard but, again, familiar to OTB commenters:

Campaign officials say the name game isn’t where Biden’s head is — he knows he has major primary and general-election fights ahead.

Officials point out they don’t yet have a transition — and haven’t run a process that would surface new talent, like Dr. Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize physicist who was Obama’s first secretary of energy.

But it’s a sign of the sudden optimism around his candidacy that some in his circle of trust are starting to think down the road, starting with the V.P. pick:

Some Biden advisers hope he could overcome hard feelings from the Obama years and pick Warren for V.P. to excite party progressives.

Also high on the list of potential Biden picks for #2 are several African Americans: Sen. Kamala Harris (first on many lists) and Sen. Cory Booker, both of whom ended their nomination fights before the voting began … former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who ended his presidential campaign after New Hampshire … and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who electrifies crowds.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is in the mix, too. 

Others who could bring diversity and relative youth to the ticket include Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Rep. Val Demings of Florida, who got high marks as a House impeachment manager.

One adviser told us when we asked who the V.P. pick would be: “Whoever Jim Clyburn wants it to be.”

Indeed, Biden feels Clyburn — the South Carolinian who is the highest ranking African American in Congress — helped raise him from the dead with his endorsement. Black voters on Super Tuesday sealed Biden’s political salvation. 

I’m not sure outsourcing the pick to Clyburn makes any sense. There are plenty of other ways to repay the favor.

Of the VP possibilities, Demings is the only one I hadn’t seen mentioned before. She makes no sense at all. Nor, frankly, does Abrams. Biden is an old man. He needs someone who is ready to be President immediately if tragedy strikes, not a neophyte.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Climate Change, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I concur about Abrams. Naming her would create an excited buzz in some sectors of the party for a moment in time but she is not ready to be president.

    I can’t see Warren in the cabinet as it would lead, at least temporarily, to a Republican pick-up in the Senate (the Rep gov would get to appoint an interim until a special election).

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Agreed. And, honestly, I’m not sure why Warren would want to leave the Senate for Treasury. It made sense for a Lloyd Benson, who was approaching retirement. And I could see Klobuchar taking a top cabinet gig if she doesn’t get VP, since the Senate has carried her as far as it’s going to. But Warren could get signature legislation passed under a Biden presidency.

  3. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure why Warren would want to leave the Senate for Treasury

    I think it all depends on who is in control of the Senate. If the Republicans remain in control after 2020, then Warren can have a lot more guaranteed influence in a Cabinet position. If 2020 is a good down ticket year, then without a doubt its better for her to stay put (unless the Dems take control by a significant margin).

  4. Kit says:

    The idea of a return to normalcy by turning back the clock and installing Team Obama bis strikes me more as taking a vacation from history. Have we all suddenly forgotten just how dysfunctional those years were? And in case it’s escaped everyone’s notice, Republicans have, in the meantime, learned how to turn up the crazy past 11. The country faces serious problems and a recession is brewing that will demand attention. I fear that our planned vacation will not be worth the price once the bill is finally due.

  5. Teve says:

    A friend tells me that Mitch McConnell just said they’re going to attack Biden as a socialist. Are there enough complete idiots in this country for that to work?

  6. CSK says:

    Well, there are a fair number of people who seem to believe that Democrat = Communist.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: Yes. The lies about Benghazi and emails and foundations worked last time. The question is how many there are that weren’t going to vote for Trump anyway.

  8. Lounsbury says:

    @Kit: You can only achieve any different resolution if the Democrats have majorities in both Houses.

    Otherwise it is pure fantasy to expect any different challenges than in the Obama administration. As the Trump administration has shown, Government By Neophytes and Burn-it-Downers gets very little of your agenda successfully done.

    Now of course in the Trump case, that’s been a benefit.

    You presumably do not wish to have the same result from a Biden administration. Experienced Obama heavy people – who also have had the recent Obama era experience with obstruction mean experienced people who don’t have to relearn lessons on the bureaucratic-to-legislative nitty-gritty tactics and strategy that it takes to achieve real success is a representative democracy.

    Rhetoric, populist appeal doesn’t actually achieve much.

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    Given a choice between winning the White House and losing Congress, or winning Congress and losing the White House, I’ll take the latter. As @Lounsbury: points out above, we can do very little without Congress.

    With Congress, even with Trump in the WH, we can investigate, block his judges and cabinet choices, defund parts of government he’s misusing or that refuse to comply with the law, and watch Trump spiral ever downward into imbecility.

    That’s a better choice than four years of Biden hamstrung.

  10. Kit says:


    Rhetoric, populist appeal doesn’t actually achieve much.

    I don’t believe that I ever said that it ever would. My point is that the system is broken and that simply wishing to hold the line merely puts off the inevitable. Democrats are fooling themselves if they think that electing Biden means that the game is won and the world is now safe for normalcy. While I certainly hope that Biden can win and be the sort of transformational president that the country needs, I fear that he will prove to be a caretaker before we start a new lurch downwards. Republicans have had a vision for America these past 30+ years and they have worked tirelessly to see it realized. Democrats, as a party, are blind.

    As the Trump administration has shown, Government By Neophytes and Burn-it-Downers gets very little of your agenda successfully done.

    That’s certainly not my take away. Trump has achieved a great deal. If any President could build up the equivalent of what Trump has pulled down, we’d see another head on Mount Rushmore.

    @Michael Reynolds: I think that control of either branch could bring about enormous change, but only if the power is wielded ruthlessly and with a real plan. I just wish voters were demanding a plan and not simply a fanciful return to normalcy.

  11. Moosebreath says:

    I believe Biden would be wise to consider a Hispanic, in light of Bernie winning among them. Julian Castro was the only Hispanic who ran this cycle, but one can add his brother Joaquin, as well as Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto as possibilities

  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    Bernie never had a plan, he had a fantasy. He had 0% chance of passing his agenda, even if we had the Senate – something far less likely to occur with him heading the ticket. His entire rationale for how he’d win is dead. There was no rush of motivated young voters in IA, NH, NV, SC or Super Tuesday.

    It’s really time to start facing reality: Bernie was just another con man selling you a monorail by stroking progressive erogenous zones. And he’s done.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    I actually canvassed neighborhoods in Nevada for Cortez-Masto. I’d need to know the NV process for interim replacements first. We have no Senators to spare.

  14. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m with you on Abrams. She drives the GOP nuts in Georgia and now they’re engaged in throat-cutting over who gets to hold Johnny Isakson’s Senate seat for the next two years. If she were to be publicly considered for a high-visibility job, they might stop their feuding and concentrate their fire on her.

  15. Kit says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Bernie never had a plan, he had a fantasy.

    But I’ve never been a Bernie supporter. While I do think he would grab for the true levers of power in today’s government, 1) those levers cannot advance his agenda, and 2) I rather doubt he has the instincts and interests to accomplish much outside of his revolution.

    Before Bernie had his moment, I rated him a 2 out of 10. When people thought he was inevitable, I took a closer look and came to the conclusion that he wasn’t as bad as all that: 3/10. Apart from Bloomberg, he was always my least favorite.

    So much for Bernie. If Biden can guide Democrats to a strong 2024, I’ll be happy. If he can make real progress that will not simply be rolled back, then I’ll consider him one of the greats. But dreams of normalcy will be unlikely to outlast his honeymoon phase, at least without the Senate. D’s can’t agree where our problems lie, and that guarantees that they won’t be fixed.

  16. Scott F. says:

    If I were Elizabeth Warren, I’d now know the price I would extract before giving my endorsement to Biden. There would need to be a public renunciation of the very idea of putting a bankster such as Jamie Dimon or Anne Finucane in charge of Treasury.

  17. Scott F. says:

    @Scott F.:
    I’m not saying Secretary of Treasury need be or even should be Elizabeth Warren. I agree with others here that she would do the most remaining in the Senate.

    But a promise to put a bank executive in charge of Treasury would be such a massive signal of Biden’s tone-deafness to the moment to anyone even leaning progressive that he would lose to Trump. And he’d deserve it.

  18. Lounsbury says:
  19. Lounsbury says:

    @Kit: Trump has not achieved a great deal – the Republican Senate has achieved quite a lot (freed from Presidential veto) but Trump himself, no. You confuse the results.

    Ruthless power weilding is the erotic fantasy of the ideological revolutionary. In the American system not only is this a fansty, it would be very bad for the long-term health of the institutions.

  20. Kit says:

    @Lounsbury: I think we are talking past each other. To my mind, the damage that Trump has done has been immense. If you think that it takes ruthless power to destroy, I think you are mistaken. And if you believe that the US can simply ease its way out of the present situation, then all I can say is that I hope you are right.

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    Study military history, or the history of social movements, or the history of science, you’ll find that there are setbacks and retreats. Some of the worst setbacks come from blowing the charge when you don’t have the troops. Overreach can be fatal.

    In Trump we’re dealing with backlash against earlier progress on race, gender, #MeToo, etc… Now we’re hoping we’ve weathered the counterattack. Hoping. It’s far from certain.

    It came down to two approaches: Restoration or Revolution. Revolutions have a long history of failing to achieve their objectives: France, Haiti, Mexico, Bolivia et al, Cuba, Russia/USSR, China. . . In each case what came after was worse than what came before. Revolutionary change is a roll of the dice, and at the moment, I don’t like the odds. And in any case, the voters have spoke: the revolution will not be Tweeted.

    So we tighten our lines, and we move supplies forward, and we train the new recruits, and we get ready – when the opportunity exists – to make another push. And under Biden we’ll make some incremental advances, which beats hell out of being driven back in a rout.

  22. gVOR08 says:


    Democrats are fooling themselves if they think that electing Biden means that the game is won and the world is now safe for normalcy. While I certainly hope that Biden can win and be the sort of transformational president that the country needs, I fear that he will prove to be a caretaker before we start a new lurch downwards. Republicans have had a vision for America these past 30+ years and they have worked tirelessly to see it realized. Democrats, as a party, are blind.

    When Obama was elected I breathed a sigh of relief and said we’ll be able to preserve democracy for another four years. I had the same reaction when Obama was reelected. I’m not going to feel any more optimistic if we elect Biden (or any other D). We’re saving the country one presidential term at a time. It won’t work forever. The Republican Party has to be forced to die or to change.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott F.: Sounds like you shared my reaction. Jamie Dimon?! FFS. Foxes and hen houses.

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Restoration or Revolution.

    I agree, right now we must focus on restoring some form of normalcy. But then we need to start repairing and even making progress. Jamie Dimon, or anyone remotely like him, in any responsible position, would be a declaration of COUNTER-revolution. Republicans have done enough damage. Let’s not help them.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I’ll add my opinion against yet another bankster at Treasury, but I’m not a Democrat (0r should I be saying “a Democratic” to avoid being identified as yet another Republican troll?); y’all can do whatever you want.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    …but I’m not a Democrat (0r should I be saying “a Democratic” to avoid being identified as yet another Republican troll?)

    You simply need to know the difference between a noun and an adjective, that’s all…I realize how difficult that might be for some actual Republicans, considering who leads the GOP…

  27. CherylJosie says:

    Warren is not getting a cabinet post. As soon as she endorses Biden they will promptly forget about her, just like Trump and Christie. Biden doesn’t want banking reform. He wants a ‘return to normalcy’ i.e. business as usual.

    After Harris devastates Biden in the debate with his record on school segregation, suddenly she wants a post in his cabinet and is willing to endorse him? No. That endorsement looked like a hostage video with her donors aiming the gun at her head from outside of the frame. She was even backed up against a brick wall and looking uncomfortable.

    The sad truth here is that money is still calling the shots. Biden won’t change that.