Stacey Abrams rejects Biden veep talk; aide says pitch was "exploitative"

"You don't run for second place," Abrams tells "The View." Adviser tells BuzzFeed Biden wants her to "save his ass"

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published March 28, 2019 2:30PM (EDT)

Joe Biden; Stacey Abrams (Getty/Alexandra Beier/Emma McIntyre)
Joe Biden; Stacey Abrams (Getty/Alexandra Beier/Emma McIntyre)

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has rejected the rumors floated by Vice President Joe Biden’s camp that she may join his ticket as an early running mate.

Advisers to Biden floated the idea of choosing Abrams as an early running mate to Axios last week, in a proposed strategy meant to appeal to young voters and African-Americans, crucial parts of the Democratic coalition. Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia state house who narrowly lost the governor's race last year in an election marred by Republican voter suppression efforts, shot down that idea Wednesday on “The View.”

“I think you don’t run for second place,” Abrams said when asked about the report. “If I’m going to enter a primary, then I’m going to enter a primary. If I don’t enter a primary, my job is to make certain the best Democrat becomes the nominee and, whoever wins the primary, that we make certain that person gets elected in 2020.”

Abrams left open the door to her own presidential bid, perhaps with Biden as her running mate.

"I do not know if I'm running. I'm thinking about everything. Part of my opportunity right now is that I have a number of options I didn't know about before. The Senate race, running for governor again, possibly running for president," she said.

Abrams acknowledged to CBS News that she had met with Biden earlier this month adding, "We talked about a lot of things, but [the vice presidency] was not the core issue.

But BuzzFeed News reported that Biden’s team had in fact pitched Abrams on the idea, and that Abrams’ inner circle was riled by the suggestion.

“What makes it particularly exploitative is that Biden couldn’t be bothered to endorse Stacey in the gubernatorial primary,” an Abrams adviser told the outlet. “Now he wants her to save his ass. That’s some serious entitlement.”

A key point of contention among Abrams supporters and Democrats as a whole is Biden’s handling of the 1991 Anita Hill hearing, when Hill was grilled by the all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee -- which Biden chaired at the time -- after accusing then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

“I remember the Anita Hill hearings vividly, watching those men in power deny her humanity,” Abrams told Marie Claire during her gubernatorial campaign.

Biden has tried to address the criticism he has received for his role in the hearing.

“She was abused for the hearing. She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could have done something,” Biden said in a speech Tuesday.

His role in the Hill hearing is just one of many issues Biden will have to overcome as he seeks to lead a party that is very different than when he was first elected to the Senate in 1973.

Biden was the lead author of the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, which encouraged states to put more people in prison for longer periods of time. In 2001, Biden was the lead sponsor of a credit card industry-backed bill that would have made it harder for people to declare bankruptcy. He voted for it again once it was approved in 2005. He voted in support of the Iraq war in 2003, an issue that sank Hillary Clinton's 2008 primary campaign against Barack Obama.

Biden's overall track record has given many Democrats pause, especially those energized by the leftward turn of the party since the election of Donald Trump. 

“At a time when left-wing populism is increasingly accepted as the antidote to Trump and the GOP’s nativist and corporate-friendly pitch,” Branko Marcetic wrote in Jacobin, “Biden stands as a remnant of precisely the sort of left-averse, triangulating Democratic politics that Hillary Clinton was relentlessly criticized for personifying.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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