A Warren Vice Presidential Nomination Is Gaining Plausibility, With One Very Big Catch

Warren gestures while speaking from her lectern as Biden watches with his arms folded, standing behind the lectern next to hers.
Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden at the Democratic primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 14. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Veepstakes developments!

• A Data for Progress poll published by Vox found that Democratic voters, by a 13-point margin, would prefer that Joe Biden choose Elizabeth Warren over other potential vice presidential nominees. Warren was identified as the potential VP candidate who’s most ready to be president by an even wider margin of 27 percent.

• A CBS poll also found that Democratic voters, this time by a 17-point margin, would prefer that Biden choose Warren over other potential vice presidential nominees. Warren was the top choice of subgroups consisting of black Democratic voters and self-identified moderate Democratic voters as well, though by much narrower margins.

• Biden and Warren co-published an op-ed in the McClatchy newspaper chain condemning the Trump administration for steering coronavirus recovery and stimulus funds toward large corporations and wealthy individuals. (The papers McClatchy publishes include high-circulation dailies in the swing states of Florida and North Carolina.)

For the last year-plus, Biden and Warren have highlighted the contrasts between their political personas. Their op-ed, though, foreshadows how their “brands” might work together in a general election campaign. As the Vox and CBS polls illustrate, the current crisis has highlighted the importance of having a presidential administration that is competent and detail-oriented; clarity and detail are not Biden’s strong suit, but even Democratic voters who did not support Warren in the primary tend to think of her as being qualified and well-informed. A focus on corruption and favoritism plays to her strengths as the scourge of corrupt executives, and Biden’s role in the non-corrupt implementation of the 2008 economic stimulus is an important part of his record that she can highlight without sounding like she’s compromising her values. The subject of the coronavirus response also connects Warren’s longtime goals regarding financial regulations and lobbying—subjects that can lack a “kitchen-table” relevance to the everyday concerns of voters—to the very tangible problems that “normal” people are having actually accessing the relief they’re supposed to be getting.

There’s another pressing news subject that Warren has not addressed, though: former Senate staffer Tara Reade’s allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993. A number of female Democratic politicians, including other potential vice presidential nominees and senators who’d previously made sexual assault awareness a major part of their personal brands, have made dismissive and/or misleading statements about Reade’s allegations in order to show support for Biden. If Warren makes such a statement, she forfeits some part of her reputation for integrity; if she doesn’t, she is a potential vice presidential nominee who possibly thinks the presidential nominee is lying about whether he sexually assaulted someone, which would be a difficult intraticket dynamic.

Warren, like essentially everyone else in the Democratic Party who has not completely buried the possibility that Biden is guilty of what he’s accused of into their subconscious, is effectively hoping the situation resolves itself, perhaps through the release of a decades-old human resources complaint that might not still exist, and perhaps through an independent investigation, though it’s not clear who would have the incentive to finance or conduct one.

Or, possibly, Wall Street executives will sabotage her potential nomination behind the scenes, as they’ve reportedly been trying to do, and her stance on Reade won’t ever be relevant, except insofar as it remains an existential problem for Biden’s candidacy and thus for every Democrat and American.

For more on the allegation against Biden, listen to What Next.