Weighing Gov. Whitmer’s Odds of Becoming Joe Biden’s Running Mate

Whitmer for Veep? Here are the pros and cons.
whitmer vice president
Gov. Whitmer photograph courtesy of Gov. Whitmer // Photo illustration by Allison Kahler

As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s national profile rose in March and April amid high job approval for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — and amid barbs from President Trump — presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden himself stoked speculation by telling MSNBC she’d been on his short list of VP picks for months. A ton of strategy goes into such a decision, although we do know the field is narrowed to women because Biden promised as much. Still, here are some pros and cons to chew on until he makes his announcement, probably sometime in August.

Pro: Whitmer could give Biden a big boost in the Midwest. Her approval ratings have been reported at or above 60% since the pandemic hit, and her presence on the ticket would likely secure a flip of the Wolverine State after Trump’s narrow win here in 2016. Her Midwest bona fides could help flip Wisconsin, too.

Con: Trump’s approval numbers in Michigan are already awful, and Whitmer will campaign hard for Biden either way (she’s a national Biden co-chair), so he probably doesn’t need this boost.

Pro: Whitmer could win over moderate, suburban, educated white female voters across the country — who could flip states such as Florida and Pennsylvania — because, well, she is one.

Con: If Biden wants to reassemble the Obama coalition of 2008 and 2012 and win over Bernie Sanders’ supporters, he needs a woman of color with more liberal positions than his own. That bodes better for California Sen. Kamala Harris, who supports something closer to Medicare for All than Biden, and for former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who could electrify black voters.

Pro: Whitmer was riding high in polls as a governor whose surefooted leadership may well have turned the tide of COVID-19 in Michigan after its early onslaught. Her command of her office helps voters imagine her as whatever passes for “presidential” these days.

Con: Michigan will be digging out of the economic and medical catastrophe of this pandemic for a very long time. Whitmer bouncing to seek higher office would mean dividing her attention when her state needs her most. It also would inevitably draw comparisons to 2008 GOP running mate Sarah Palin, another half-term governor who left her capitol to join the circus and was never quite the same.