Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Friday that he had discussed the process of selecting a running mate with his chief rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, even as both men continue to compete in the Democratic primary.
It was the latest sign that Mr. Biden is hoping to bring the race to a swift close while also trying to be inclusive of a liberal opponent who commands a large following on the party’s left wing.
Mr. Biden maintains a significant delegate lead over Mr. Sanders, but the coronavirus crisis has effectively put the primary race on hold, though the Wisconsin primary, for now, will proceed as planned on Tuesday.
“One of the things I learned a long time ago, and I really mean this, a good leader has to be willing to have people that are smarter than them, know more than they know about a subject, bring in people who in fact have an expertise you don’t have,” Mr. Biden said at a virtual fund-raiser on Friday, according to a pool report. “And so I am in the process and I actually had this discussion with Bernie.”
“He’s a friend,” Mr. Biden continued. “We’re competitors. He’s a friend. I don’t want him to think I’m being presumptuous, but you have to start now deciding who you’re going to have background checks done on as potential vice-presidential candidates, and it takes time.”
Mr. Biden has said previously that his staff has been in touch with Mr. Sanders’s team, and in an interview with MSNBC’s Brian Williams on Tuesday said that “there ought to be a way we could accommodate his concerns on other matters in terms of everything from people being engaged, to his organization.”
In a statement earlier this week, the Biden campaign said that “both teams remain in touch as the candidates address the coronavirus crisis and its impacts on our economy.”
Mr. Sanders, for his part, has said that he sees a “narrow path” in the race, but that campaigns are also an “important way to maintain that fight and raise public consciousness” about key issues. The Vermont senator is popular among younger and more progressive voters who are skeptical of Mr. Biden, and Mr. Biden has sought to avoid appearing to pressure Mr. Sanders to exit the race, emphasizing that it is his decision.
But at the fund-raiser Friday, Mr. Biden made clear that he was looking ahead to a potential future administration, speaking in some of his clearest terms so far about what that team could look like should he win. He said that by “sometime in the middle of the month we’re going to announce a committee that’s going to be overseeing the vice-presidential selection process,” and said — as he has before — that he has discussed the search process with former President Barack Obama.
Mr. Biden also indicated that he was thinking about positions beyond the vice presidency.
“They’re serious people who I’ve had discussions with about whether or not — not a Cabinet position, because there’s nothing quid pro quo — but asking them, are they willing to come into a government if I get elected?” Mr. Biden said. “What are their circumstances? Who do they think I should be looking to?”
Mr. Biden said that he had been consulting with allies like Antony J. Blinken, a longtime adviser who led a question-and-answer session with him at the fund-raiser. He said they had discussed “individuals who we think might come in,” with an eye on building a younger “bench” of leaders. He mused aloud about filling positions like secretary of state, attorney general, White House counsel and chief of staff, though he noted, “I haven’t asked anybody — no discussion yet.”
“The people who will join my Cabinet — God willing, if I become the president, it’s almost presumptuous talking about it a little bit — will be people who represent the spectrum of our party and who look like the country,” he said.
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