WASHINGTON — Stacey Abrams would be the strongest running mate for Joe Biden in the November election against President Donald Trump, according to an analysis by a progressive think tank.
Way to Win, a women-led network of deep-pocketed donors, commissioned Data for Progress to look into potential vice presidential picks after Super Tuesday, when Biden ran up an imposing delegate lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The think tank, whose polls of presidential primary contests this year have been highly regarded for their accuracy, conducted an online survey of 4,998 likely voters across the country on March 12 to gauge how potential Democratic tickets would fare against Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
The group tested five buzzed-about potential options: Abrams and Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey (Biden has since committed to picking a woman).
Data for Progress founder Sean McElwee wrote in a memo analyzing the findings that Abrams performed uniquely well across a range of demographic groups, including both independent voters and core Democratic constituencies whose lower-than-expected turnout in 2016 hurt Hillary Clinton.
"A Biden–Abrams ticket would beat a Trump-Pence ticket and perform competitively with other hypothetical tickets, while also overperforming with key groups that constitute the Democratic Party's base," McElwee wrote.
While a hypothetical Biden-Warren ticket performed slightly better among young voters, a Biden-Abrams pairing was not far behind and tied with a Biden-Klobuchar ticket among independent voters (a weaker spot for Warren). But most notably, a Biden-Abrams ticket was the strongest of the options among black voters and women of color.
Biden did well among black voters in the Democratic primaries, but 2016 showed that doesn't necessarily translate to November, said Tory Gavito, executive director of Way to Win.
"Primary voters are your regular voters. If it was church, those are people who show up every Sunday. We need to figure out how to get new people in the pews," Gavito said.
Abrams is the least well known of the potential candidates, but her favorability ratings improved more than those of some other potential candidates after survey respondents were given short bios of each, which included both positive and negative points.
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The memo also raised concerns about picking any senator, even from relatively blue states like Minnesota or Nevada (Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada has also been discussed as a potential option), because doing so might give Republicans a chance to win the seat or could, at a minimum, leave the seat vacant during the critical early days of a new administration, when every Democratic vote in the Senate might be crucial.
"Other hypothetical tickets raise significant concerns about control of the Senate," the memo states. "There are even risks for Biden picking Warren to run as his vice president. The governor of Massachusetts is Charlie Baker, a Republican, who will have the power to appoint a replacement for Warren until a special election takes place."
Gavito said that the choice of a running mate will be unusually important this year and that Biden needs not to repeat Clinton's mistake of choosing someone whose main role is to essentially do no harm (she chose Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia in 2016).
"Historically, folks will tell you the VP pick is less important. I think we are not in a typical historic moment," Gavito told NBC News. "When it comes to what it takes to win, we have to balance the ticket with gender, ideological, geographic, racial and generational diversity."