Former Vice President Joe Biden said for the first time, during a debate with his rival Bernie Sanders, that he would choose a woman to be his running mate.
“I commit that I will, in fact, appoint a woman to be vice president,” Biden said. “There are a number of women qualified to be president tomorrow.”
Biden has previously expressed openness to naming a female running mate, but has resisted making specific commitments beyond saying that he would need to be philosophically “simpatico” with his possible vice president.
The 77-year-old Biden has spoken at length about his criteria for a running mate during appearances on the campaign trail, saying that he would select someone who is younger than he is, and indicating that he values experience in a possible vice president.
He has expressed openness to several of his former rivals, including Senators Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, as well as nodding to Democrats who did not run for president, from Stacey Abrams of Georgia to Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and others.
Biden had previously committed, during the debate in South Carolina last month, to name a black woman to the Supreme Court, but this is the first time he has explicitly said his running mate would be a woman.
When asked, Sanders did not fully commit to naming a woman to the Democratic ticket.
“In all likelihood, I will,” he said.
After Biden made some concessions to the liberal wing of the party in recent days, Sanders was unsatisfied and laced into Biden’s past record in the Senate — which was at odds with some of his new stances — and cast his own set of unbending principles a preferred model of “leadership.”
“I don’t have to rethink my position,” Sanders said sternly. “That’s what leadership is.”
In a furious few moments, Sanders ticked off a series of votes that he said Biden was on the wrong side of history, dating back decades.
“I voted against the bankruptcy bill, you voted for it. I voted against the war in Iraq, which was also a tough vote. You voted for it. I voted against the disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA, which cost this country over four million good-paying jobs. You voted for it. I voted against the Hyde amendment, which denies low income women the right to get an abortion. You have consistently voted for it. I don’t know what your position is today,” Sanders said.
With that exchange, the hope that many Democratic strategists had — after a conciliatory speech earlier this week from Sanders — vanished.
Biden hit back on Sanders guns.
“You can argue about the past,” Biden said. “This man voted against the Brady bill five times. Background checks. Five times. Number one. Number two, this man is the only one of the few Democrats I know who voted to exempt the gun industry from being able to be sued.”
But moments later, Biden paused and seemed almost taken aback by the aggression of Sanders.
“He’s making it hard for me right now. I was trying to give him credit for things and he won’t even take credit for things he wants to do,” Biden said.
Sanders and Biden also tangled in their sharpest exchange over Social Security, with Sanders suggesting that Biden was being misleading about his record on the issue.
“Why don’t you tell the truth,” Sanders said, repeatedly pressing him, courtroom-style, over past remarks he made about possible freezes to the program. “We all make mistakes.”
Biden said flatly that he had “never voted to cut Social Security.
“I voted to protect it,” he said.
For the first 40 minutes of the debate it was the most polite of the 2020 campaign.
Both Biden and Sanders appeared far more focused on addressing the coronavirus pandemic than each other.
They were not even going after President Trump, the man each of them aims to replace.