The late trailblazer Geraldine Ferraro would be shocked and inspired.
People from the deserts of New Mexico to the Loop in Chicago to Martha’s Vineyard will spend the next month debating which woman Joe Biden should choose as his running mate.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, says he expects to make his selection by Aug. 1. He committed more than three months ago to putting a woman on the ticket.
Everything was different in 1984 for Ferraro, then a little-known congresswoman from Queens in New York City.
Rumors swirled that Democrat Walter Mondale might select her as his running mate, a first for a major-party presidential candidate.
Reporters asked Ferraro if the country was ready for a woman vice president.
“I don’t think the country will ever be ready,” she said. “You just have to do it, and then the country will accept it.”
Born in 1935, Ferraro had spent her lifetime watching white men fill the tickets for president and vice president. She died in 2011, five years before Hillary Clinton became the Democratic presidential nominee.
Clinton failed in most of the swing states and lost in an upset to Republican Donald Trump.
Now Biden is Trump’s opponent. And Biden’s pick for vice president will be the first time in months he will face more media scrutiny than Trump, who’s under siege because of the shattered economy and alarming spikes in novel coronavirus cases.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham keeps showing up on national lists of potential vice presidential choices. But neither she nor any other governor looks like a contender to me.
Most decisions on blunting the coronavirus fell to governors. Lujan Grisham and her counterparts made enemies by issuing emergency health orders that closed or restricted businesses.
An even bigger consideration for Biden would be whether Lujan Grisham would be ready to run the country.
If Biden wins in November, he would take office at age 78. That would make him the oldest sitting president.
Lujan Grisham’s main strength on the presidential ticket would be building support for Biden with Hispanics. That demographic is one of his weak areas.
Still, Biden should win New Mexico and its five electoral votes no matter who he has as a running mate. Republicans are on a losing streak in the state.
If a governor is a long shot for the Democratic ticket, a woman in Congress should rise to the top of the only list that matters — Biden’s.
He has plenty of good choices from the congressional pool, all of whom were a few steps removed from on-the-ground decision-making during the pandemic.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California ran for president and is a favorite of the cable networks for her ratings potential.
But the best-known moment of Harris’ presidential campaign was when she attacked Biden during a televised debate, calling him a friend of segregationist lawmakers when he served in the Senate.
The clip of Harris railing against Biden would make a fine TV ad for Trump. The president will go negative, having run out of positives in March. Harris would make that easier to do.
To oust Trump, Biden needs to win Florida and at least a few of the Midwestern swing states that Clinton lost. Biden’s vice president probably will be a congresswoman or senator from one of those battlegrounds.
Whoever Biden chooses is assured of one thing only: the media coverage will be rough and relentless, just as it was for Ferraro.
She had a fine career as a prosecutor, taking on the most difficult rape and domestic violence cases. Her record was free of scandal, but that didn’t scotch negative coverage.
After Ferraro’s nomination for vice president, the Wall Street Journal ran a weak story trying to link her late father-in-law to the mob. Ferraro hadn’t even married into the family when her future father-in-law provided a reference for someone supposedly tied to organized crime.
A far bigger problem for Ferraro was that she teamed with a wobbling candidate. Mondale lost 49 states to Republican President Ronald Reagan.
Unlike Reagan, Trump is vulnerable. Biden, though, can’t afford to stumble with his choice for vice president. Never in my lifetime has there been a sense that the No. 2 spot on the ticket mattered this much.
Biden’s choice will face questions about personal conduct, the pandemic, a sinking economy and America’s racial divide.
It sounds awful. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for someone.
If she can handle three months in the pressure cooker of a campaign, Biden’s running mate might find all things are possible.