Former vice president and current Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden told donors Friday night that he told Sen. Bernie Sanders — his last remaining rival for the nomination — that he is forging ahead with selecting a vice presidential running mate.
According to Fox News, Biden’s remarks came during a “virtual fundraiser” Biden held with prominent Democratic donors. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, virtually all of Biden’s in-person campaign activities have stopped, forcing Biden to attempt to conduct a campaign over the internet with a series of virtual town halls that have been widely panned and poorly attended.
Friday night, Biden continued to campaign as best he could, this time by glad-handing major donors without, well, the glad-handing. One of the donors asked about Biden’s plans to pick a running mate, to which Biden replied, “I am in the process and I actually had this discussion with Bernie. He’s a friend. We’re competitors. He’s a friend.”
Biden went on to address one of the concerns some have about his candidacy: his age. Whoever wins the 2020 election — whether it be Trump, Biden, or Sanders — will become the oldest person to ever win a presidential election, beating out Ronald Reagan, who was 73 when he won re-election in 1984. However, at 77, Biden is measurably and visibly older than the 73 year old Trump, and many Democrats have privately and publicly expressed unease at his performance at certain key debates and events.
Seeking perhaps to assuage these concerns, Biden told donors, “One of the ways to deal with age is to build a bench – to build a bench of younger, really qualified people who haven’t had the exposure that others have had but are fully capable of being the leaders of the next 4, 8, 12, 16 years to run the country.” Biden also indicated that he had consulted with former President Barack Obama about the vice presidential selection process.
Biden currently holds a lead of about 300 delegates on Sanders, which means that Sanders is all but mathematically eliminated from clinching the nomination outright; however, it is still possible for Sanders to deny Biden the majority he would need to win on the first vote outright, especially since the remainder of the Democratic primary calendar has been thrown into chaos by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic Party officials are scrambling to either cancel or reschedule primaries, or to hold them in unusual circumstances, and there have been rumors that party officials are considering suspending the convention entirely.
In light of these uncertainties, Sanders has resisted calls to drop out of the race, insisting that he has a “narrow path” to victory. Biden explained that he was attempting to be careful about stepping on Sanders’ toes, saying, “I don’t want him to think I’m being presumptuous but you have to start now deciding who you’re going to have background checks done on as potential vice presidential candidates and it takes time[.]”
Consolidating support from Bernie’s backers is a top priority for Biden, especially given the Democratic conventional wisdom that hard feelings from the bitter 2016 Democratic primary contributed to Hillary Clinton’s eventual loss in November.