WASHINGTON – Among the few longtime advisers Joe Biden relies on, one name is often overlooked: Jill Biden. And now that her husband is approaching one of the most important political decisions of his presidential campaign, there is no one closer to his thinking, both literally and figuratively.
Jill Biden’s low-key presence is due in part to the design of a reluctant and self-described political spouse who has become one of the former vice president’s most powerful replacements. But his role has been magnified in recent months in part by one simple fact: the coronavirus pandemic has meant that even Biden’s top campaign officials have spent much less time with him in person, while his wife has been a Almost constant presence as they both campaign seriously from their Delaware home.
“He has been deeply involved in this campaign, more than ever before,” Biden told donors recently, citing not only his role as a substitute chief but also as a confidant.
After proving herself to be one of Biden’s most effective advocates, earning herself the nickname “closest”, Jill Biden has recently stepped up an aggressive virtual campaign itinerary.
And now, few near Biden doubt that what we might call “Jill’s test” is their own kind of investigation for some of those on their list of vice presidents.
On Friday, Jill Biden will appear for the first time, virtually, at least, with the woman seen for now as the No. 2 betting favorite, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., For an event aimed at voters in Wisconsin on the Affordable Care Act.
Harris, more than any of the other women most viewed as contenders, has an important asset: a personal bond with the pre-campaign Biden family, one rooted in the friendship she formed with Biden Beau’s son when they served as prosecutors. of their respective states
Harris worked closely with Beau Biden, who died of cancer in 2015, after the financial collapse in 2008. In his book “Truths We Hold”, Harris described Biden as “an amazing friend and colleague” who had her back when he fought against big banks because of the foreclosure crisis.
“There were periods when I was hot when Beau and I talked every day, sometimes several times a day,” Harris wrote. “We supported each other.”
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Still, it was Harris who delivered perhaps the campaign’s first major direct attack on Biden in a debate scene a year ago this week, directly challenging his civil rights record in the clash of the first televised candidates.
And Jill Biden raised her eyebrows this spring when she remembered that moment.
“Our son Beau spoke highly of her and, you know, and how great she was. And it’s not that she isn’t. I’m not saying that. But it was like a punch in the stomach. It was a little unexpected,” she said in March. .
Jill Biden has been her husband’s fiercest protector in the campaign, sometimes literally, as she twice faced protesters who disrupted her campaign events. And in her 2019 book, “Where the Light Enters,” she noticed a contrast between her and her husband.
“Joe has an incredible ability to forgive, and he is incapable of holding a grudge. But that means I end up owning grudges,” he wrote. “I remember every slight thing committed against the people I love. I can forgive, sure, but I don’t believe in rewarding bad behavior.”
Sources close to Biden and Harris insist that all parties long ago walked away from the fireworks in Miami a year ago, the Bidens better than anyone understanding how former rivals can unite, as Biden did with Barack Obama in 2008.
Joe Biden has repeatedly praised Harris, and campaign officials say she has done everything she has been asked to do for them and more. Harris said her husband, Doug, also became friends with Jill Biden during the primaries. “There is a special bond between spouses,” she said this month.
Those familiar with the conversations say the stab in Biden a year ago, which was once viewed as negative, could now be an advantage, since one of the main roles of a running mate is to be an attack dog, both against President Donald Trump and in a vice presidential debate against Mike Pence.
Harris recently laughed at a question about whether his debate clash with Biden could hurt his chances. “It was a debate!” he said to “Late Show” presenter Stephen Colbert. “We all have family or friends with whom we disagree. That does not exceed or overshadow the common ground between us or the connections between us.”
Joe Biden, appearing with Harris this month for a virtual fundraiser, called her “a fighter and a leader of principle,” while again raising her bond through Beau Biden.
“You said, ‘I love you and I loved Beau.’ I won’t forget it,” Biden said, recalling a brief pre-campaign encounter between the two.
Jill Biden will also hold a separate event on Friday with another Democrat to be examined by the campaign: Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. Before the Florida March primaries, she campaigned in person with Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., Joining her for a church service in her hometown of Orlando. In May, she joined another potential veep candidate, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, for a virtual organizing event.
In a normal campaign, the Bidens would likely see much less of each other as they are deployed with largely independent schedules. But the duo now often go in and out of their Delaware home studio while virtually campaigning.
As the campaign has experimented with what it calls “virtual travel days” to battlefield states, it’s Jill Biden who has blacked out most states, hitting six in May. Advisers have emphasized that their agenda reflects what they would be doing if the pandemic never happened, holding small meetings with groups that matter to them personally, such as educators and military families, and encouraging new volunteers during virtual training sessions.
She often acknowledges that viewers tuning in to her events may not know much about her, and they take the first few minutes to introduce themselves by talking about how she got to know her husband, and the importance he attached to her desire to fulfill her career. as teacher.
More recently, she has become the primary substitute for the campaign for Latino voters, holding virtual conversations with community members in Colorado, Arizona and Pennsylvania. She has also made almost weekly calls to hear the concerns of the Hispanic Caucus in Congress and pass them on to the campaign and to Biden herself.
“What I have heard, especially in the last few months, is that our party has not always done enough to win the Latino vote. Sometimes we have taken it for granted, but you are important to this campaign. And more than that, I You matter, “Biden said during a” Chat With Biden “event with Latino leaders Dolores Huerta and Los Angeles County Commissioner Hilda Solis.
“And if I have the honor of being your first lady,” she promised, “I promise you this: I will dedicate myself to making sure you have a place at the table, next to me. Because we all know that women are the ones with balls!”