And he is among the handful of confidants to whom Mr. Biden turns when hard decisions get made. As one top adviser put it, “Mike is the last person he talks to on message, strategy, advertising and polling. Steve is the person he talks to about everything else.” When Beau was dying, Mr. Biden asked Mr. Ricchetti, then his chief of staff, to keep him overscheduled as a way to power through the pain and fear. This at times put Mr. Ricchetti at odds with Jill Biden, who worried that her husband was running himself into the ground. Often, “the two of them would conspire” to get the vice president “to ease off for a while,” Mr. Biden wrote in “Promise Me, Dad.”
Family has always played a central role in Mr. Biden’s life and political career. His sister, Valerie Biden Owens, managed all of his Senate races and his first two presidential runs. This time, she’s serving as a key surrogate and confidante.
So too is the nominee’s wife. Mr. Klain, who has known Jill Biden for more than three decades, says she has morphed from a reluctant political spouse into an enthusiastic participant, “particularly on issues of education.” (Dr. Biden is a longtime educator who, until recently, taught English at a community college in Northern Virginia.) “I think the White House experience really changed things for her,” he said, explaining that she came to appreciate the contributions she could make by engaging the public.
And, of course, in a pinch, Jill can double as security. One of the primary’s more charming episodes was on the night of Super Tuesday, when Dr. Biden body blocked an anti-dairy protester who stormed the stage during Mr. Biden’s victory speech. He later joked: “Whoa, you don’t screw around with a Philly girl, I’ll tell you what.”
Mr. Biden, age 77, knows that he is seen by many as a dinosaur. During the primary, he explicitly pitched himself as a “transition candidate” who aimed to serve as a “bridge” for a new generation of leaders. Though his team does not like to discuss it, the conventional wisdom is that Mr. Biden most likely would be a one-term president. This has fueled a greater-than-normal frenzy around the vice-presidential pick, which the campaign has said it plans to announce around Aug. 1.
Supercharging speculation, Mr. Biden vowed to put a woman on the ticket. But he provided few other hints as to what he is looking for, touching off a lobbying free-for-all by the hopefuls and their cheering sections.
Some progressive groups are pressing for Elizabeth Warren, even as some business interests have argued against her. Many people think that, since Black voters rescued Mr. Biden’s primary candidacy, he should put a Black woman on the ticket — a drum beat that has grown louder with the fresh focus on racial justice.