Prediction time: Kamala Harris will be Joe Biden’s running mate, Florida Insiders say

But don't sleep on Val Demings.
In this July 31, 2019 photo, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.
In this July 31, 2019 photo, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. [ PAUL SANCYA | AP ]
Published June 28, 2020|Updated June 29, 2020

Joe Biden will choose a running mate during unprecedented circumstances — an evolving public health emergency, historic unemployment and nationwide civil unrest. He’s also 77 years old and would be the oldest first-term president in history if elected. And he has vowed to pick a woman.

How will all these factors shape who he chooses to join him on the ticket?

To find out, the Tampa Bay Times surveyed 220 of Florida’s political operatives, campaign workers, activists, money raisers, former elected officials and other plugged-in experts. And these Florida Insiders predict Biden will pick (drum roll, please):

Kamala Harris.

The California Senator was the choice of 53 percent of respondents, more than double anyone else.

It’s a safe selection at the moment. Multiple news outlets have reported that she’s the front-runner. Even the betting markets give her the best odds to get the nod.

“I am not sure any of the candidates would make much difference. They seldom have,” said one Insider who isn’t registered to either major party. “I do think a black female, especially a younger black female, would balance out the age factor... In addition, (Hillary) Clinton lost in 2016, in part, because blacks did not turn out at the same high rates that they did for (Barack) Obama. A black candidate could stimulate black turnout in at least a half-dozen marginal states that may provide the margin of difference for Biden.”

Florida Insiders were allowed to weigh-in anonymously to encourage honesty from people closely involved in the political process.

What about Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren? Wouldn’t her progressive economic platform get a second look given the looming financial crisis facing the country? Or why not Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose handling of the coronavirus in her home state has set the tone for the Democratic response?

Neither cracked 5 percent in the poll.

Instead, the Insiders think U.S. Rep. Val Demings is the contender not to sleep on. The Orlando congresswoman finished second at a distant 22 percent. Unlike Harris, a front-runner as soon as she dropped out the Democratic primary, Demings wasn’t in the mix until recently. She entered the veepstakes after her performance as an impeachment manager and has risen sharply because of her unique background for this moment: She’s a black woman and former police chief from a swing state.

Could Demings help Biden win Florida? The Insiders were split almost 50-50.

Historically, there’s not much of a home-state bump for a running mate. Mitt Romney lost Wisconsin with Paul Ryan on the ballot.

“Val isn’t known outside the Interstate-4 corridor,” one Republican said. “As we know, Florida has many individual media markets, so choosing her over a known national figure like Harris is an error I hope Democrats make.”

Another Republican disagreed: “She would help pick up support in Florida, and her law enforcement background, while potentially causing problems with the ultra far left, will help to pick up votes in the middle.”

At 8 percent, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms finished third among the choices offered. But 1 in 10 of the Florida Insiders said Biden will anoint someone who isn’t getting much buzz right now.

This month, 220 people responded to the poll, including 100 Republicans, 99 Democrats and 21 people who said they are registered no party affiliation or with another party. They included:

Erin Aebel, Tom Alte, Jason Altmire, Fernand Amandi, Fernand Amandi, Gayle Andrews, Peter Antonacci, Scott Arceneaux, Donna Arduin, Donna Arduin, Dave Aronberg, Brad Ashwell, Brad Ashwell, Brad Ashwell, Jon M. Ausman, Roger Austin, Ryan Banfill, Christina Barker, Scott Barnhart, Rodney Barreto, Patrick Baskette, Ashley Bauman, Geoffrey Becker, Allan Bense, Wayne Bertsch, Taylor Biehl, Ron Bilbao, Barney Bishop III, Greg Blair, Katie Bohnett, Paul Bradshaw, Bob Buckhorn, Alex Burgos, Dominic M. Calabro, Kristy Campbell, Dean Cannon, Tim Canova, Chip Case, Gabriela Castillo, Kevin Cate, Mitch Ceasar, Johanna Cervone, Jean Clements , Brad Coker, Gus Corbella, Brian Crowley, Husein Cumber, Carlos Curbelo, Justin Day, Ingrid Delgado, Richard DeNapoli, Pablo Diaz, Victor DiMaio, Tony DiMatteo, Doc Dockery, Paula Dockery, John Dowless, Bob Doyle, Peter Dunbar, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, Mike Fasano, Peter Feaman, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Mark Foley, Kirk Fordham, Pamela Burch Fort, Brian Franklin, Towson Fraser, Keith Frederick, Ellen Freidin, John French, Jack Furnari, Wayne Garcia, Stephen Gaskill, Steve Geller, Richard Gentry, Julia Gill Woodward, Brian Goff, Alma Gonzalez, Ron Greenstein, Thomas Grigsby, Joe Gruters, Ralph Haben, Mike Hamby, Marion Hammer, Chris Hand, Mike Hanna, Abel Harding, James Harris, Jack Hebert, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Cynthia Henderson, Laura Hernandez, Don Hinkle, Jim Horne, Yolanda Jackson, Jeff Johnson, Eric Johnson, David Johnson, Christina Johnson, Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Fred Karlinsky, Joshua Karp, Henry Kelley, Chris Kise, John Konkus, Chris Korge, Jeff Kottkamp, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Zach Learner, Jackie Lee, Bill Lee, Matt Lettelleir, Alan Levine, Jack Levine, McKinley Lewis, Beth Leytham, Shannon Love, Javier Manjarres, William March, Beth Matuga, Brian May, Stephanie McClung, Kim McDougal, Nancy McGowan, Clarence McKee, Kathy Mears, David Mica, Jamie Miller, Jon Mills, Paul Mitchell, Travis Moore, Lucy Morgan, John Morgan, Meredith O’Rourke, Stephanie Owens, Maurizio Passariello, Alex Patton, Darryl Paulson, Jorge Pedraza, Scott Peelen, Juan Penalosa, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Joe Perry, Sean Phillippi, Ron Pierce, Van Poole, Van Poole, David Ramba, Ryan Ray, Nan Rich, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Franco Ripple, Terrie Rizzo, Monica Rodriguez, Jason Rosenberg, Sarah Rumpf, Ron Sachs, Steve Schale, Tom Scherberger, Jack Seiler, Kathleen Shanahan, Stephen Shiver, Bud Shorstein, Kyle Simon, Alex Sink, Patrick Slevin, Stephanie Smith, Daniel Smith, Adam Smith, Susan Smith, Eleanor Sobel, John Stemberger, Alan Stonecipher, Nancy Texeira, Cory Tilley, Frank Tsamoutales, Ryan Tyson, Christian Ulvert, Jason Unger, Karen Unger, Ashley Walker, Robert Watkins, Nancy Watkins, Screven Watson, Jonathan Webber, Andrew Weinstein, Susie Wiles, Marley Wilkes, Mike Williams, Gregory Wilson, Jamie Wilson, Rick Wilson, Leslie Wimes, Jon Woodard , Zachariah Zachariah, Christian Ziegler and Mark Zubaly.