It didn’t start that way.
As Biden enters the final stages of choosing his running mate, his relationship with Obama is an enlightening – and complicating – search for him. Several of Biden’s friends say he is looking to replicate the Obama report, looking for a governing partner whose loyalty is undeniable.
But when their personal story began in 2008, when Obama invited Biden for a job interview during a secret meeting at a hotel in Minneapolis 1
“They were a long way off,” said David Axelrod, chief strategist for Obama’s campaign. “It wasn’t cold. It wasn’t hot. There was just no connection.”
Their relationship revolved around two things: a brief tenure in the Senate, where Biden had a chair as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and their brief rivalry in the Democratic First, where Obama easily defeated Biden and other more experienced contestants.
But looking back, Biden’s partnership with Obama – at the end of their time in the White House – offers one of the most instructive guides on how he makes that decision.
He is not particularly close to most of his women on the list, say people familiar with the search, so he spends a lot of time researching scrutiny, watching TV interviews and following his own guts in order to find someone in whose loyalty believes it can flourish in a true governing partnership.
“It was very tidy. Every one of the women I’ve talked to is qualified,” Biden said in an interview published Thursday. “And I narrowed it down.”
His campaign annoyed the decision, urging supporters to register to learn the news for themselves, along with joining the first fundraiser between Biden and his running partner, who is expected to be next week.
Since promising to choose a woman to join his ticket five months ago, 11 potential vice presidential candidates have gone through a check of financial records, personal background and medical history. The search is being conducted in secret, and even many high-level campaign helpers are not directly involved in what Biden thinks.
But talks with Democrats close to the process, along with party officials and donors who have also weighed in, suggest that California Sen. Kamala Harris, former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and the Michigan government’s Gretchen Whitmer are among those which he seriously considers as the end of his search approaches.
While Whitmer’s name receded from some of the list of prominent contenders over the summer, Biden has always impressed her, officials say, and he continues to build their relationship. Two Democrats familiar with the search told CNN on Thursday that it remained in serious conflict.
He is also thought to be considering California reporter Karen Bass, chairman of the Black Rubber Congress, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, say people familiar with the search.
Whitmer’s examination suggests that Biden has not yet decided whether to choose a woman of color, which many supporters and Black leaders have called on him to do after summer protests over police brutality and systemic racism.
With sharp challenges from the coronavirus to the economy awaiting the next president, Biden’s friends told CNN they intend to find a governing partner, not just a campaign.
Yet a moment in the campaign is still being heard loudly: when Harris sharply questioned his Senate records and opposed a mandate from federal authorities to desegregate schools during a debate last summer in Miami.
From the outside, the moment turned over the vice president’s selection process, fueling Harris’s criticism and praise, but Biden diverted it once again on Thursday.
“Now, I am not dissatisfied and I have made it clear that I am not dissatisfied,” Biden said in an interview held at a convention of Black and Hispanic journalists. “I think it was a debate. It’s that simple. And it’s too controversial.”
Not resenting is another lesson from his time with Obama, which in 2007 Biden once described as “articulate, bright and clean and nice.” Biden apologized and continued to serve alongside the nation’s first black president.
This time, of course, the dynamics are different. If he defeats Trump, he will be commander-in-chief, but his vice president will immediately become the figure in history himself, probably seen as the next leader of the Democratic Party.
However, Biden still suggests that he is looking for someone who can eventually build a relationship like the one he made with Obama.
During the Medal of Freedom ceremony, a few days before they left office in January 2017, Biden noted that both men were amazed at how quickly their relationship formed.
“After about six months, the president looks at me and says, ‘Do you know Joe, do you know what surprised me?’ That we became such good friends, “Biden said, recalling a personal conversation he had with Obama during one of their weekly lunches.
“I surprised you!” Biden said with a laugh, adding that he, too, was pleasantly surprised.