Joseph Sohm /

Clinton Can Use Her VP Choice to Bridge Divide With Sanders

Fellow Democrats think she should use the No. 2 slot to reach out to the party’s liberal wing.

Pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ees pick run­ning mates for all kinds of reas­ons. Hil­lary Clin­ton, some of her fel­low Demo­crats say, should fo­cus on one goal in par­tic­u­lar: build­ing a bridge.

In­ter­views with a num­ber of lib­er­al Demo­crats on Cap­it­ol Hill re­veal a view that Clin­ton, if she be­comes the nom­in­ee, can use the choice of a No. 2 to ap­peal to sup­port­ers of pro­gress­ive firebrand Bernie Sanders.

Asked about the VP pick, Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic Whip Richard Durbin, who backs Clin­ton, em­phas­ized the Sanders factor.

“She is go­ing to have to be mind­ful that Bernie Sanders has a large fol­low­ing, and if he is not the nom­in­ee and she is, that she makes it clear that the mes­sage he was car­ry­ing that res­on­ated so well across Amer­ica, par­tic­u­larly among Demo­crats, is go­ing to be re­spec­ted in her pres­id­ency,” Durbin told re­port­ers in the Cap­it­ol on Wed­nes­day.

“How she would do that I can’t say—wheth­er it is Cab­in­et ap­point­ments or le­gis­la­tion or whatever,” he said. Or through her choice of run­ning mate? “Who knows? That has to be part of the cal­cu­la­tion if she is the nom­in­ee.”

There are cer­tainly bridges that need build­ing. In a re­cent Mc­Clatchy-Mar­ist poll, a quarter of Sanders’s sup­port­ers said they would not back Clin­ton in the gen­er­al elec­tion if she’s the nom­in­ee.

And the primary race has turned more bit­ter after its gen­teel early stages, with clashes over each oth­ers’ qual­i­fic­a­tionscli­mate change, and oth­er is­sues.

Even bey­ond the re­cent snip­ing, Sanders’s un­ex­pec­tedly pop­u­lar cam­paign has brought a surge of en­thu­si­asm among pro­gress­ives that law­makers say could be tapped with the right choice by Clin­ton—per­haps pro­gress­ive Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren, one Demo­crat sug­ges­ted.

“I think Eliza­beth War­ren would be great,” said Rep. Adam Smith, a Wash­ing­ton state Demo­crat who has en­dorsed Clin­ton.

“The biggest ad­vice I have is try and get someone who will keep the en­thu­si­asm that comes from the Bernie Sanders camp,” he said.

Oth­er names thrown around in­clude Hous­ing and Urb­an De­vel­op­ment Sec­ret­ary Ju­lián Castro, Sen. Sher­rod Brown, Sen. Tim Kaine (who would be a nod to­ward the cen­ter), and Labor Sec­ret­ary Thomas Perez.

“There are plenty of good names out there, in­clud­ing some of my col­leagues in the Sen­ate, who would be ex­cel­lent vice pres­id­en­tial choices,” Durbin said without men­tion­ing names.

For some law­makers who back Clin­ton, the whole dis­cus­sion is pre­ma­ture. “I think it’s im­port­ant we just fo­cus on this nom­in­a­tion ef­fort,” said Rep. Sander Lev­in.

“Wasted el­ev­at­or ride,” Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein told Na­tion­al Journ­al in an el­ev­at­or in the Cap­it­ol, after not­ing that she had not giv­en the is­sue any thought yet. And here’s Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­er-in-wait­ing Chuck Schu­mer when asked wheth­er he had thoughts on the mat­ter: “No.”

“I don’t think people should get ahead of them­selves,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “She has as broad a Ro­lo­dex as any­body in the West­ern Hemi­sphere and she knows lots of people, and we are still learn­ing in this polit­ic­al pro­cess.”

But an­oth­er Clin­ton sup­port­er, Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, said it’s im­port­ant to find someone who can ap­peal to the ex­cited sup­port­ers who have packed Sanders ral­lies in crowds of 15,000 to 25,000, and are at­trac­ted to his mes­sage about the in­flu­ence of money in the polit­ic­al sys­tem.

“You have got to have folk who I think the Bernie Sanders crowd feel com­fort­able with,” Cum­mings said, though he more broadly em­phas­ized the need for Clin­ton to send a mes­sage to di­verse con­stitu­en­cies.

Rep. Raul Gri­jalva, one of just nine Cap­it­ol Hill law­makers to en­dorseSanders thus far, agrees that Clin­ton’s choice will mat­ter on the Left if Sanders falls short.

“I think that it has to be someone that comes with … the mes­sage that Bernie is tak­ing through this whole race on eco­nom­ics, on re­struc­tur­ing, on wage dis­par­ity, and how we tax in this coun­try,” Gri­jalva said. “A can­did­ate who can ar­tic­u­late that, and take that on the road, would be very use­ful.”