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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

Harrop: Raimondo worth thinking about

By Froma Harrop
Published: September 25, 2023, 6:01am

As Joe Biden runs for a second term, we’ll be hearing more questions about his age-related cognitive abilities.

So far, he’s doing just fine. And never mind that his likely Republican opponent, Donald Trump, recently gave speeches confusing the current president with Barack Obama and babbling fearfully about Biden leading us into “World War II.” For the historically impaired, World War II ended 78 years ago, in our favor, by the way.

Democrats can allay their own concerns by pairing Biden with a very strong running mate, in effect creating a co-presidency. That would require replacing Vice President Kamala Harris. The process could be messy, but it’s necessary. Harris is most unpopular.

Several names have come up with one an obvious winner. That would be Gina Raimondo, Biden’s super-empowered secretary of Commerce.

Before going on, let’s dispose of the irritating notion Biden must replace a female VP with another female VP. Gender is not, and never should be, a qualification. Making that argument in Raimondo’s case is especially unfair to Raimondo. She is a dynamo who already stands toe-to-toe with the world’s political and economic leaders, male and female alike.

Because she’s been doing serious wonk work, Raimondo, age 52, hasn’t been getting the bright-lights attention of female pols who do the easy stuff, like talking about abortion rights.

A former governor of Rhode Island, Raimondo is leading the $100 billion campaign to make America the leading chipmaking power and expand broadband access. She likes to call the CHIPS Act “rocket fuel for our global competitiveness.”

Our tech future, including artificial intelligence and supercomputing, shouldn’t be relying on the good graces of China, which is close to dominating the world’s supply of semiconductors. She will also oversee controls on exports of advanced semiconductors and equipment to China.

Founder of a venture capital fund, Raimondo gets along famously well with business leaders. But she’s still a Democrat. Raimondo has imposed some discipline on executive pay by restricting stock options at companies getting government subsidies. As governor, she started free community college and all-day kindergarten in Rhode Island.

Inspiring backstory

For those who want their candidates to offer inspiring backstories, Raimondo has one. She grew up in a “close-knit” Italian American family. When she was in the sixth grade, her father lost his job at a Bulova watch factory after working there 28 years. Raimondo knows the economic and psychic toll of factories closing down.

Harris has marketed herself as a “person of color” who has suffered the hardships that implies, but her father was an economics professor at Stanford and her mother a medical researcher. Raimondo has a much stronger claim to being a child of the working class.

Some on the Democratic left flank think Raimondo is too friendly to business, but those suspicions could be an asset in a general election. She has won a good number of Republican fans and could peel off votes of conservatives sickened by the former grifter-in-chief’s reign of chaos.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal ran a profile of Raimondo as glowing as this one. It was titled “Everyone Wants to Talk to Gina Raimondo — Even China.”

Raimondo’s qualifications dwarf those of all the talked-about running mates for Donald Trump. They dwarf Trump’s qualifications as well. A comparison of cognitive abilities would also not be to Trump’s advantage.

The proudly pro-business Raimondo could better sell the successes of Bidenomics to the public than Biden has. She would talk economy; he, labor. They could both do foreign policy.

Raimondo playing co-pilot with Biden would offer Democrats a truly powerful ticket in 2024. She belongs at the front of the line of potential new running mates.

Democrats should be asking themselves: “What about Gina Raimondo?”