Joe Biden’s confirmation of the biggest open secret in politics — that he would pick a woman as his running mate — was just the start of a thorny selection process that touches not only on gender but race, geography, experience and personal chemistry.

The array of choices in play, according to Biden advisers and allies, reflects the competing forces bearing down on Biden as he looks to the general election. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren are top names. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto are also in the mix.

There’s a powerful current of thought in Democratic circles that Biden needs to choose a black woman after African American electorate indisputably revived his campaign in South Carolina and the South. But it’s by no means a certainty.

“I think it’s necessary for it to be a woman and I prefer an African-American woman. That’s my preference,” Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told POLITICO in an interview. Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden before South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary was a transformative moment for the Biden campaign.

Clyburn said Biden’s pick for a running mate is one of the most important decisions he’ll make. Biden’s age — he’ll be 78 on InaugurationDay 2021, the oldest person to take the oath of office of the presidency if he wins — only heightens the importance. While Clyburn has publicly discussed possible running mates, he said he hasn’t made recommendations personally to Biden.

“Here’s the thing, when you choose a running mate, you have to choose based upon compatibility. You have to choose based upon what I would like to call competency. A lot of vetting is going to take place. A lot of polling is going to take place,” Clyburn said. “And I’m certain he will choose what he thinks is best to complement his candidacy for the presidency and capable of becoming president, if the situation called for it.”

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