Biden plans to pick a female running mate. Would it make a difference if she’s black?

With a pandemic raging, there’s not much in the way of traditional campaigning for Joe Biden to do right now. But he is managing to conduct the most public series of running mate auditions of any apparent Democratic nominee in decades.

On Thursday, Biden appeared on national television for a joint interview with Stacey Abrams, who has made clear her interest in the vice presidential slot. There have been similar sessions with other prospective ticket-mates, and with the Democratic convention still months away, this is likely just the beginning.

It’s a ploy that calls to mind the run-up to the party’s 1984 convention, when Walter Mondale received a parade of would-be running mates at his Minnesota home. It created a suspenseful narrative in the media while also adding to the pressure on Mondale from various activist groups, who would use their megaphones to try to sway him toward or away from each new visitor.

While Mondale did not formally commit himself to selecting a woman, he made clear from the start that a female running mate was a serious consideration, and three women — Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne Collins, San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein and New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro — were among the people who participated in the interview process. Ultimately, Mondale opted for Ferraro, who became the first-ever woman to run on a major party’s national ticket.

Biden, of course, has committed to adding a woman to his ticket. But his appearance with Abrams raises the question of whether he’ll also decide that, more specifically, he needs to select an African American woman.

Beyond Abrams, several other black women — including Sen. Kamala Harris of California, former national security adviser Susan Rice and Rep. Val Demings of Florida — have become prominent in the “veepstakes” mix.

There are plenty of arguments for why each person might be valuable to Biden as both a ticket-mate and vice president. But there are two main contentions for why selecting a black woman should be a strategic imperative for Biden.