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Kamala Harris Becomes Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And I'm Ari Shapiro with some breaking news. Vice President Joe Biden has chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. We are joined now by NPR's Asma Khalid, who has been covering the campaign.

Asma, good to have you with us.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: This is a historic choice. Kamala Harris has been in the news for much of the last year, but remind us who she is and why she is a significant pick.

KHALID: Sure. I mean, Ari, I should just begin with the fact that we have never had a Black woman in the No. 1 or No. 2 spot, right? There has never been a Black woman as a running mate. And Joe Biden had faced a lot of pressure from a number of leading African American activists to make sure that he put a Black person on the ticket in part, you know, because some of the racial justice issues we've seen in the country but also because there was a sense that Black women have consistently been some of the most loyal voters in the Democratic Party and that that this was due to them.

SHAPIRO: So demographically, historically, this choice is significant. What about Kamala Harris' own history and her biography? She herself ran for president in the primary.

KHALID: That's right. She did. You know, most recently, she has been and she continues to be the senator from California, one of the senators there in California. Prior to that, she was also attorney general in California. But, you know, every step that she has taken - when you look at sort of, again, the demographics of this, the country has not had a number of them. She is only the second Black woman who's served ever as senator in the United States. So, you know, that demographically has been significant.

You mentioned, though, Ari, her presidential run. And it was, I think, somewhat of a surprise to a lot of analysts. I think there were very high expectations. She had this massive opening rally in Oakland, Calif., and there were just thousands of people out there when she first announced her campaign. And then very quickly, it fizzled. It never really seemed to take off. Many people, many voters would often tell me that they really liked her candidacy. They liked her as a person, but she was never necessarily their top pick. And, you know, as a result, we saw that she was out of the race even before, officially, the Iowa caucuses.

SHAPIRO: When you look back at her biography, her role as a prosecutor stands out. How is that likely to play into this campaign moving forward?

KHALID: And I think that's a really interesting point, Ari. We did hear from some of the more progressive voices in the Democratic Party concerns about some of the prosecutorial decisions that she had made there in California and how some of them may have been seen, they thought, as not being, I think, sort of accepting enough to some of the more progressive racial justice activist voices we are now hearing from in the party.

But one thing, I think, that is interesting is, you know, the Trump campaign has tried to really blanket characterize Joe Biden as being soft on crime, accusing him of wanting to defund the police, which is not true. And having somebody who does have a prosecutorial record on the ticket with him does, I think, also kind of alleviate some concerns or criticism that the Republicans may try to paint him with that he has been soft on crime. It's just a harder thing to really criticize him with when you've got someone who has a prosecutorial record on the ticket with you.

SHAPIRO: Joe Biden has said throughout that the No. 1 quality he is looking for in a running mate is the ability to step into the job as president. After all, he is not a young man. Tell us how she does on that score.

KHALID: Well, she is significantly younger than him. And we talk about Biden's advanced age - I mean, he is 77 years old. He has himself referred to being a transitional candidate, which many folks interpret as being the fact that his running mate would potentially carry the mantle after four years, though he has never officially said that. Harris is 55 years old. And so whoever he chose as a ticket was likely to be seen as possibly a future leader of the Democratic Party.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Asma Khalid on the breaking news that Joe Biden has chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate on the 2020 presidential ticket for the Democratic Party.

Asma, thank you so much.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.