The Illinois senator and Purple Heart recipient has landed squarely in the conversation after a high-profile clash with Tucker Carlson last week andher advocacy against politicization of the military in the weeks prior.
The attention hasn’t escaped Biden’s vetting team. It has stepped up information-gathering on Duckworth recently, scrutinizing her legislative record and talking to her colleagues, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
A contingent of Duckworth-for-VP backers, including high-dollar donors and a politically active veterans group, has intensified efforts on her behalf in the past two weeks, pushing her as the best choice for Biden’s running mate.
“I’ve been working my rear end off, trying to get Joe to look at her favorably,” Joe Cotchett, a longtime friend of Biden’s and prominent West Coast Biden bundler, told POLITICO. Cotchett said Duckworth’s no-nonsense response to Carlson has further elevated her prospects.
“If you put Tammy Duckworth on the ballot, a lot of veterans are saying to me, ‘Boy, she represents not only the Midwest but she represents what our party is all about,’” Cotchett said. “Having no legs, to me, is an attribute in this insane election year. It brings to the table a veteran who has been severely wounded that’s speaking out for women and veterans and showing that she’s someone who can take on ‘Cadet Bone Spurs.’”
The tit-for-tat with Carlson last week started when the Fox News host called Duckworth — an Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs fighting in Iraq — “a coward” and “a fraud” who hates America. He was reacting to Duckworth saying she welcomed a “national dialogue” on removing statues of George Washington and other Founding Fathers who owned slaves. Duckworth later clarified that she personally opposes taking down statues of Washington but supports an open discussion.
Duckworth, who uses prosthetics, shot back by challenging Carlson to “walk a mile in my legs.”
Though Duckworth is Thai-American, Biden is under pressure to choose an African American woman, both to reward a constituency that powered his victory in the primary and as recognition of the reckoning on race the country is going through. Progressive groups, meantime, have backed Warren, arguing she would help excite the left flank of the party.
Biden has said he expects to announce his VP pick next month, and Duckworth is among several contenders who’s had a moment in the spotlight. Others being vetted include Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Karen Bass of California and former national security adviser Susan Rice.