On air with Biden, Abrams gets an up-close tryout for VP

Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden.
Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden.

Stacey Abrams took her vice-presidential tryout to primetime on Thursday when she appeared on an MSNBC virtual town hall with Joe Biden.

The Georgia Democrat used the appearance to push for an expansion of vote-by-mail programs and demand changes to the criminal justice system after the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old unarmed black jogger who was gunned down in south Georgia.

“What we know is we have to not only rebuild America, but as Joe Biden said so eloquently, restore the soul of America,” Abrams said. “Rebuilding our democracy means making sure we restore our soul and that we treat every citizen as valid and equally deserving of justice.”

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, echoed her stance. He said the graphic video of Arbery’s killing has prompted a significant societal change: “The blinders have been taken off.”

“Good people who haven’t been focused on this before are all of a sudden saying, ‘My God I didn’t have any idea how deeply this institutional racism runs,” he said.

More: Abrams highlights foreign policy in pursuit of VP nomination

More: Ahmaud Arbery slaying shifts political debate in Georgia

In the days leading up to the town hall, Abrams formally endorsed Biden after long staying neutral in the race. In their first joint TV appearance, conducted on socially-distant split screens, she showered praise on Biden and touted his decades-long record in the U.S. Senate.

He responded in kind by promoting her Fair Fight Action voting rights initiative and lauding her as an “incredibly capable person.” And when she was asked by a viewer why she passed on a U.S. Senate race but is jockeying for vice president, Biden jumped in: “She’s capable of doing both.”

Abrams has engaged in an extraordinarily candid effort to persuade Biden to select her for the No. 2 spot, flipping the script of potential running mates who usually sidestep public talk of a promotion while working behind the scenes to do just that.

But the Georgia Democrat is also keeping one eye on another campaign against Gov. Brian Kemp, a rematch that's seen by her allies as a near certainty in 2022 if Biden passes her over this summer.