It isn’t a presidential race anymore. It’s the 2020 vice presidential race.

The Democrats have winnowed their field down to two old men. On Inauguration Day 2021, cardiac patient Bernie Sanders at 79 will be a year past the average lifespan of an American male of 78.69 years. Joe Biden, whose “gaffes” have become so regular that people are openly discussing whether they are signs of mental diminishment, will be 78 and within months of hitting that average.

They make Trump look young and vital by comparison, and he’ll be 74 on Inauguration Day.

Those simple, brutal actuarial facts make the selection of vice presidential candidates critical. The choice that once balanced a ticket or put a bow on it — satisfying one political or regional or gender or racial faction or another — will quickly emerge in the minds of voters as a fundamental factor.

It already is. Biden’s and Sanders’ ages has been one of the top Google searches on them for months. The punditry talks about the subject endlessly. And when voters go to the polls in November, it’s hard to imagine any will be unaware they are voting for the veep as someone who very well may end up finishing the term of whichever of these candidates ends up in the Oval Office. (Props to Biden, btw, for going straight at the issue with his “I’m not dead” campaign slogan.)

There has been speculation about whether Sanders will veer hard left and draft Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s young — and would be the kiss of death for the aging socialist’s electability with moderate voters — but don’t worry, at 30, she’s constitutionally, not to mention politically, immature.

Kamala Harris would bring gender, race and youth to either ticket. The voters already rejected her, as they did Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, all younger candidates with various appealing qualities. Buttigieg and Klobuchar have the advantage of bringing a modicum of moderation as well as Midwestern appeal, which could be critical for winning swing states.

Former Clinton adviser Peter Begala on CNN this week predicted that Trump is moving to replace Vice President Mike Pence, 60, with former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, 48. Sharp as a tack, highly accomplished, Southern, young and a woman. Good choice.

“This is not a prediction — it’s a certainty,” Begala said. “On July 16 — that’s the day the Democrat gives her or his acceptance address — on that day, to interrupt that narrative, Trump is going to call a press conference at Mar-a-Lago. He’s going to dump Mike Pence and put Nikki Haley on the ticket to try to get those suburban moms. You watch — guaranteed. … Trump put Pence in charge of coronavirus to throw him under the bus.”

That sounds a lot like Bill or Hillary Clinton talking. But it seems more likely that if true, then Pence, Trump’s most loyal lieutenant, is in on that. He knows what Trump needs to secure a win. And while coronavirus is a daunting, possibly unwinnable fight, Pence has won accolades for his no-nonsense management so far. It is the fight of one’s life. Trump may have done Pence and us all a favor by putting him in charge.

No one is talking seriously about Elizabeth Warren’s veep potential. She herself noted Thursday that she hasn’t been approached by either the Biden or Sanders camps. She isn’t endorsing yet, which means, in the case of such a blatant career opportunist, that she is keeping her options open.

It is noteworthy, in the age of coronavirus, that the United States government’s health agencies have identified the elderly as the most vulnerable group and are advising that population to limit their social interactions. Neither Sanders, Biden nor Trump have shown any sign they intend to stop glad-handing. No wonder Warren only suspended her campaign Thursday, instead of ending it. She may see an opening.

But it is too early to talk about the COVID-19 candidacy. For now, it’s a veep race.


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