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Supporters Say Warren Could Help Biden Win Over Younger Voters

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Joe Biden is set to announce his vice presidential pick by August. Many progressive voters want Elizabeth Warren to be the name on that ticket. They insist that she could help the former vice president win over more skeptical young voters. And they say Warren has the experience to govern the country. But she is a 71-year-old white woman from Massachusetts. And as NPR's Asma Khalid reports, there are growing demands on Biden to choose a Black woman.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: People who admire Elizabeth Warren say she's one of the sharpest policy minds the Democratic Party has, a progressive who also knows how to get stuff done. They often point to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

BARNEY FRANK: She was the one who put together this new agency under kind of great pressure. And it was what we call, you know, building the plane while you're flying it because she didn't have a year to set it up and then it went into effect. It went into effect immediately.

KHALID: That's former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank. The CFPB was created under the Dodd-Frank Act, a major piece of legislation he co-authored in the wake of the financial crisis. Warren, in his view, is more pragmatic than people realize. Sure, Warren and Biden had a very public spat about bankruptcy years ago. But, Frank says, look at more recent economic issues.

FRANK: And the fact is that when we did the Dodd-Frank bill, there was no difference between them.

KHALID: These days, Warren and Biden are known to speak regularly. And while some Democrats are nervous that Warren's progressive streak might scare off moderate voters, Frank says the ideological difference between Biden and Warren is irrelevant because of political constraints, especially if Republicans keep control of the Senate, which is why he thinks the issue over who to choose as a running mate is not exactly about ideology.

FRANK: The second biggest problem in America is this economic inequality. And she is best at dealing with it. On the other side, the first biggest problem in America is - it has been for 300 years - race and racism.

KHALID: And in that case, he didn't exactly finish his thought. But many Democrats feel Warren is probably not the best candidate to deal with structural racism. In late April, more than 200 Black female leaders in the Democratic Party signed an open letter to Biden urging him to select a Black woman as his running mate.

KAREN FINNEY: I believe it will energize Black voters in the numbers that we need. And we cannot take anything for granted in this election.

KHALID: Karen Finney is a Democratic strategist and one of the women who signed that letter. She and other Black women I spoke with are quick to point out they personally like Warren. They think she's smart and capable.

FINNEY: But it is also the lived experience of someone who has had to deal with these struggles and challenges and, you know, knows them personally. That's not to say if you're not Black, you can't empathize with what we're talking about. But I think, if you're Black, you've lived it. And there's a difference.

KHALID: For her, it's about representation.

MAURICE MITCHELL: Representation is important. But it can't only be about representation.

KHALID: That's Maurice Mitchell. He's the national director of the Working Families Party, a progressive group that endorsed Warren for president.

MITCHELL: Like, if you're a former law enforcement officer, if you're a former prosecutor, then we need to look at your record.

KHALID: Mitchell didn't name anyone. But it's clear he's referring to some of the Black women in the running, including California Senator Kamala Harris. Even though Warren is white, Mitchell feels she was ahead of other Democrats in embracing calls for racial justice. Here she was in 2015.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELIZABETH WARREN: Black Lives Matter. Black citizens matter. And Black families matter.

KHALID: Several Black activists acknowledge that Warren is the only non-Black candidate on Biden's short list who appeals to voters of color. Mitchell sees Warren as the candidate with the broadest appeal.

MITCHELL: When you're considering the enthusiasm gap that Joe Biden has to fill with progressives, with young people, with people of color, Elizabeth Warren as a VP pick has really, really strong positives with all of those groups of people.

KHALID: Her allies also point out she won't just bring in votes, she'll bring in money. Earlier this month, she hosted a fundraiser for Biden that raised a whopping $6 million in a single night.

Asma Khalid, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.