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The Importance Of Biden's Pick For Running Mate

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Joe Biden has made his biggest decision so far as his party's presumptive nominee. He has chosen his running mate - Sen. Kamala Harris of California. She was Biden's former competitor for the top of the ticket. Joining us now is NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Why was it important for Joe Biden to choose a Black woman as his running mate?

MONTANARO: Well, first, let's pause on the fact that this is a historic choice. I mean, the first Black woman on a major party presidential ticket one step from the presidency in a year that has seen protests over racism is a very big deal, you know. And Black voters, especially Black women, have been a key pillar of Democratic constituencies in politics. They were key to Biden winning the primary battle. And Biden, remember, said that he was spurred to run for president in the first place because of the racist violence in Charlottesville. And a key part of what he's been running on and what a lot of people are upset with President Trump about is dividing people over race. But most of all, given Biden's age, he needed to pick someone qualified. You know, he'd be the oldest president ever elected in his first term if he wins. He needed to pick someone who could be seen ready to be president from day one. And Harris is vetted. She's experienced. And she's disciplined.

SHAPIRO: Well, let's talk about what those qualifications are. Sen. Harris won her Senate seat in 2016. Before that, she was a prosecutor. What are the elements of her biography that you expect to be prominent in this campaign, whether in a positive or negative way?

MONTANARO: You know, she's gotten a lot of attention because in the Senate, she's a sharp questioner. You know, if you watch those hearings, she really knows how to make her point, and that comes from the fact that she was a prosecutor. You know, a lot of prosecutors are very good when they come into Congress at being able to ask questions and be incisive. She got some criticism during the Democratic primary because she didn't really have a strong, clear, effective message. But as the vice presidential pick, she doesn't need to have her own message. She can just sharply channel what the top of the ticket message is. And there certainly is one against President Trump that Democrats have been refining and Joe Biden is using.

SHAPIRO: How important is a vice presidential pick? Does this make the difference in whether a ticket makes it to the White House or not?

MONTANARO: You know, very few people vote for the vice president. You know, this is - the vice president rarely makes a change as far as getting people out. You know, maybe at the margins you could see that. The last person, you know, people can talk about really bringing a state along was Lyndon Johnson in 1968 being a Southern Democrat, but that was a time when politics were really changing. And you really haven't seen that happen much now in the modern era. It really is about the top of the ticket. And for Biden, what his campaign says and has been telling people is that this was a governing pick. He needed to pick someone he was comfortable with and someone who he felt he could make decisions with. Remember, when President Obama made Joe Biden vice president, he said that he wanted to be the last person in the room when Barack Obama made decisions. And you can expect that that's the same relationship he's looking for here with Sen. Harris.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Domenico Montanaro on Sen. Kamala Harris being chosen to be Joe Biden's running mate.

Thanks, Domenico.

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