By JOHN VERHOVEK and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign formally announced the committee that will vet potential running mates on Thursday, beginning a search that will culminate in one of the campaign’s key moments ahead of the Democrat’s general election battle with President Donald Trump.
Former U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd; Delaware Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Cynthia C. Hogan, former White House and Senate counsel to Biden, will serve as the four co-chairs of the candidate’s vice presidential selection committee, the campaign announced Thursday morning.
“Selecting a vice presidential candidate is one of the most important decisions in a presidential campaign and no one knows this more than Joe Biden,” Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, said in a statement announcing the committee.
“These four co-chairs reflect the strength and diversity of our party, and will provide tremendous insight and expertise to what will be a rigorous selection and vetting process. We are grateful for their service to the campaign and for their leadership,” she said.
“The Co-Chairs of his selection process will conduct conversations across the party as well as work with a network of vetting teams led by former White House Counsel Bob Bauer, campaign General Counsel Dana Remus and former Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco, to provide Vice President Biden with the background and information he needs to make his decision,” according to a release from the Biden campaign.
The committee is tasked with the exhaustive process of interviewing, researching and compiling information on any and all names under consideration to round out this cycle’s Democratic presidential ticket.
Dodd, a longtime friend of Biden who ran against him for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, served alongside the former Delaware senator for 20 years, and campaigned on behalf of the former vice president throughout the Democratic primary.
In 2016, Blunt Rochester became the first African American and first woman elected to the U.S. Congress from the state of Delaware, and grew close with Biden following the unexpected loss of her husband in 2014 after complications from a surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon. She was named a co-chair of Biden’s campaign in early March.
Garcetti, a rising star in Democratic politics who was elected mayor of the nation’s second largest city in 2013, was speculated about as a potential presidential contender this cycle, but ultimately passed on a bid, endorsing the former vice president and becoming a co-chair of his campaign in early January.
Hogan is a longtime aide to Biden, and served as deputy assistant to the president and counsel to the vice president from 2009 to 2013, leading the Obama administration’s successful effort to confirm Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court during his first term in office.
Biden has already committed to picking a female running mate, and when his running mate is announced, it will mark the third time in U.S. history a woman has served in the role. New York Democratic Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro and Alaska’s Republican Gov. Sarah Palin were selected as vice presidential nominees in 1984 and 2008, respectively.
Biden previously said he expected to announce who would handle the vetting of his possible running mate by May 1, starting what the former vice president has suggested will be a process that lasts several months.
While the committee’s announcement marks the formal beginning of the vice presidential vetting, Biden has been vocal about the search for the woman to join him at the top of the ticket for a job he is intimately familiar with, often discussing the topic on the campaign trail prior to becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee, and with curious donors at recent fundraisers.
“I’m looking for someone who will be a partner in this progress. Someone who is simpatico, and someone who’s ready to be president on a moment’s notice,” Biden said at a virtual fundraiser earlier this month.
Biden, who served as vice president to President Barack Obama for eight years, has already sought advice from the former president on his choice, who encouraged Biden to look for a partner who will help make up for his shortcomings.
“I’m going to need a woman vice president who has the capacity, has strengths where I have weaknesses,” Biden said earlier this month.
The former vice president said in a recent interview that he believes it will take until July to narrow down a list that he told ABC’s The View last month stood at roughly 11 names.
“My guess is it’s gonna take until sometime in July to narrow it down and background checks just to who’s the one, two, three people are that may be in the hunt,” Biden told late-night host James Corden last week.
The list of potential names has largely been molded by Biden’s frequent and candid public comments, and has already been subject to lobbying from prominent backers of the former vice president.
Those mentioned as possible picks range from former top 2020 contenders like Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, high-profile governors leading their states through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis like Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, to other prominent African American female leaders like former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Florida Congresswoman Val Demings and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
“She made the list in my mind two months ago,” Biden said of Whitmer in a recent interview.
“I think … we can make a great deal of difference, and the biggest thing we can do is make Donald Trump a one-term president. So I’m coming for you, kid,” Biden told Harris at a fundraiser earlier this month.
Both Whitmer and Klobuchar have been guests on Biden’s “Here’s the Deal” podcast, a rare window into his relationship with the two women and a potential preview on what a professional partnership between them would look like.
A number of the women thought to be on the shortlist have been asked about the potential of serving as Biden’s running mate, most saying they would be honored to serve in the role but declining to discuss the speculation further.
Abrams, however, has been actively advocating on behalf of herself, recently telling Elle Magazine, “I would be an excellent running mate.”
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