Joseph R. Biden announced his choice of Sen. Kamala D. Harris for his running mate Tuesday, making her the first Black woman to co-headline a presidential ticket and focusing the parameters of the race.
The selection of Ms. Harris, widely hailed as the safest pick, checked off several boxes for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and answered the party’s calls for youth and diversity in the matchup against President Trump.
“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Mr. Biden said on social media.
Democrats hope Ms. Harris will help energize and unite the party behind the 77-year-old’s campaign heading into the four-day national convention next week.
Mr. Biden said he was inspired by the work Ms. Harris did as attorney general of California with his son Beau, who served as attorney general of Delaware before his 2015 death from brain cancer at 46.
“I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse,” Mr. Biden said. “I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.”
Ms. Harris said she was “honored” to join the Biden ticket.
“@JoeBiden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals,” she said.
Former President Barack Obama slapped his old pal on the back, saying Mr. Biden “nailed this decision.”
“By choosing Sen. Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character,” Mr. Obama said.
“Reality shows us that these attributes are not optional in a president. They’re requirements of the job,” he said. “And now Joe has an ideal partner to help him tackle the very real challenges America faces right now and in the years ahead.”
A formal announcement is scheduled for Wednesday in Mr. Biden’s home state of Delaware.
The announcement brings an end to the rampant speculation over Mr. Biden’s pick and appeared to satisfy activists who were pressuring the former vice president to tap a Black woman.
“Today is a spark of hope and a watershed moment for Black women and women of color,” said Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, a liberal group that promotes women of color. “Kamala Harris — a woman of Jamaican American and Indian American descent — as vice president is nothing short of history.”
Mr. Biden flexed his muscle with Black voters in the Democratic primary, where he benefited from the deep well of trust he had developed with minority communities during the eight years he served as Mr. Obama’s loyal wingman.
But since becoming the presumptive nominee, he has sometimes struggled to navigate the racially charged politics brought on by the death of George Floyd, the spread of the coronavirus, and the outrage aimed at elected leaders that have led to protests, riots and calls to “defund” the police.
Mr. Biden said Black voters who support Mr. Trump “ain’t black,” and he had to walk back comments after suggesting that the Black community lacks the diversity of the Hispanic community.
He also has faced blowback over the voting record he compiled over nearly four decades in the Senate — in particular the chief role he played in passing the 1994 crime bill.
Taken together, they generated a sense of urgency among Black voters and activists, prompting some to say it was a requirement — no longer a suggestion — that Mr. Biden enlist a Black woman as his No. 2.
Shaunna Thomas, executive director of women’s advocacy group UltraViolet Action, said Ms. Harris “has been a trailblazer her entire career” and cast her as the perfect foil against the Trump White House.
“Electing a multiracial Black woman as vice president would register as a powerful repudiation of Trump and the toxic sexism pulsing through American society that he manifests,” she said.
Other activists said the history-making pick sends a positive message, including to children, but they added that they ultimately want to know the driving force of the Biden-Harris ticket.
“We still want to see a platform that reflects certain types of values no matter who is the VP,” said Solana Patterson-Ramos, a community organizer in Milwaukee. “What are you going to do in your administration to really help people?”
Mr. Biden’s selection process has garnered added attention because he is seeking to become the oldest president in the nation’s history.
That fact has not been lost on Mr. Trump and his reelection team, who have questioned Mr. Biden’s mental fitness.
Responding to the Harris pick, the Trump campaign released an attack ad urging voters to recognize that she is now a health scare away from becoming commander in chief.
“Biden calls himself a ‘transition candidate’; he is handing over the reins to Kamala while they joyfully embrace the radical left,” the Trump campaign said in an online video. “Slow Joe and phony Kamala — perfect together, wrong for America.”
The ad says Democratic voters showed they were smarter than Mr. Biden by rejecting Ms. Harris in the presidential primaries.
“Kamala Harris ran for president by rushing to the radical left, embracing [Sen. Bernard Sanders’] plan for socialized medicine, calling for trillions in new taxes, attacking Joe Biden for racist policies,” the narrator states. “Voters rejected Harris. They smartly spotted a phony, but not Joe Biden — he’s not that smart.”
The selection of Ms. Harris marks a dramatic turn of events from last summer, when she sought to play the role of giant killer early in the presidential primaries by attacking Mr. Biden over his opposition in the 1970s to federally mandated busing to integrate public schools.
The exchange proved to be the high point for Mrs. Harris’ bid, and she pulled the plug on her uneven campaign in December.
She endorsed Mr. Biden in March and has since served as a high-profile campaign surrogate.
“It’s the safe pick because there are few downsides,” said Thomas Mills, a Democratic strategist in North Carolina. “Biden is now more competitive in states like North Carolina and Florida, where energized African American voters can make the difference in closely contested races. Disputes in primaries rarely play out on presidential tickets, so I don’t think you’ll hear much about that.”
• Dave Boyer and S.A. Miller contributed to this report.
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