The primaries are still several months away, but candidates for the Democratic nomination have already settled in the polls in many ways. The frontrunners have been holding steady in national polls for a couple of months now, so its pretty safe to say that the election is likely going to be a four way race between Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, and Warren. From there, it will come down to who gains the edge in early primary states. Overall, Biden seems to be the most likely nominee, owing to his consistent placing as the top candidate in most national polls since he entered the race. He also leads in several key states, including South Carolina by a large margin.
There has been doubt as to whether the former Vice President would be able to beat Donald Trump in a head to head matchup in the general election. He is not the most exciting or inspiring candidate in the field, but he has a ton of experience and nationwide name recognition. Let's face it: Biden is old, white, fairly moderate, and the epitome of the Democratic establishment. That makes it difficult for him to appeal to progressive voters. Clearly, this is a big concern for the Democratic Party.
If he wins the nomination, how does Biden overcome this obstacle? He has to take a multi-pronged approach with a lot of voter outreach, but the single biggest decision that he has to make is his choice of running mate. He needs someone who can add to the ticket and help him in key states. Several names have already been floated for potential picks, including Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, and Kamala Harris. Let's consider each one of these potential running mates and see what they could add to the ticket in 2020.
First, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He is more progressive than Joe Biden, but not overly so. His "Medicare for all that want it" is more in line with Biden's plan than that of Warren or Sanders, as an example. Being the youngest candidate on the debate stage helps his appeal to a new generation of voters, and would balance the ticket on the age question. As a Hoosier, Mayor Pete would likely put many Midwestern states in play. Notably, Ohio and Indiana. His presence on the campaign trail would likely be enough to win Michigan and Wisconsin, which would definitely tip the scales of the electoral college. Unfortunately, Buttigieg has very low appeal among minority voters, so he wouldn't be much help in potential swing states like Arizona, Florida, and even Texas. The fact that he is openly gay may help among LGBTQ+ and progressive voters, but is unlikely to make a substantial difference in the electoral map. Overall, Pete Buttigieg could help add 23 electoral votes to the Democrats' 2016 numbers, while putting an additional 29 in play.
Second, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Booker is more progressive than Buttigieg, but does not have as large of a following around the country. Much of Booker's appeal is toward voters who typically vote Democratic anyway, especially urban and northeastern voters. He probably won't add anything in the northeast, but he could spend a lot of time in neighboring Pennsylvania, which would give a Biden-Booker ticket a reasonable edge there. Booker would also help with minority voter turnout, which will be key in Florida and Arizona. His progressive stances and his young age would balance the ticket and help drive urban turnout, another thing that would increase the likelihood of a win in Pennsylvania. As a black man, Booker could capitalize on the wave of African American turnout in the 2018 election in Georgia, which would put the state in play for 2020. With Biden's lack of appeal toward the progressive wing of the party, Booker might be a good choice to ensure that progressives come out to vote. With Trump on the Republican ticket, there's not much doubt that progressives will be voting blue regardless of the Democratic nominee. In summation, Booker could likely add 60 electoral votes in 2020, and put 16 more in play.
Third, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro. He worked with Biden in the Obama administration, so there is a history between the two that could help when coordinating their campaign efforts. He's been struggling in the polls and is likely to exit the race fairly soon, but he does have the ability to appeal to minority voters and drive Hispanic and Latinx voter turnout in key southern states. His presence on the ticket would likely secure Arizona and Florida by appealing to these groups of voters. As a Hispanic man from the Lone Star State, he would definitely put Texas in play, which may be too much for the Democratic Party to pass up. Castro does not really add much in the Midwest and probably won't make a dent in Pennsylvania, but he would still be a decent pick for running mate. Overall, Castro could add 40 electoral votes to the tally in 2020, and put 38 more in play.
Lastly, California Senator Kamala Harris. We just saw the first term Senator end her presidential bid amidst turmoil within the campaign. If added to the ticket, she'll have to take cues from Biden's leadership team to prevent that from happening again. She's a fairly liberal candidate that has sparred with Joe Biden in multiple debates and she carries an appeal toward minority voters. As a former prosecutor, she was accused of not being progressive enough for the party. Even still, as a black woman, she would likely be able to increase minority turnout around the country. Her presence on the ticket would secure Arizona, but may hurt the turnout in Florida, where 1.4 million previously convicted felons were recently reenfranchised. However, she might be able to put Georgia in play by driving black voter turnout in 2020, which would be a huge plus for the Democratic ticket. To summarize, Harris would likely add 11 electoral votes and put another 16 in play.
Regardless of who he chooses for his running mate, Joe Biden has a lot of options that can help him win the electoral college. If he considers which states that he needs to win in order to return to the White House, he can select a potential VP that will help him secure those states. Right now, it looks like Booker or Castro would be the best choice for Biden's running mate.