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Biden promises first female vice-president if he wins US election

Now Democratic front-runner battles for vital Latino support

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Contender: Stacey Abrams was described by Joe Biden as “the woman who should have been the governor of Georgia”.

Contender: Stacey Abrams was described by Joe Biden as “the woman who should have been the governor of Georgia”.

Contender: Stacey Abrams was described by Joe Biden as “the woman who should have been the governor of Georgia”.

Leading Democratic contender Joe Biden has committed to naming a woman as his running mate if he is the party's presidential nominee.

The announcement aims to woo voters who have watched a diverse candidate field dwindle down to two white men.

Mr Biden made the assertion during a debate with Senator Bernie Sanders in response to a video question from a voter about how he would handle women's health issues.

Asked the same question, Mr Sanders didn't definitively commit but said: "In all likelihood, I will."

Mr Biden has previously said he would seriously consider naming a woman or a person of colour as his running mate.

He also repeated a previous pledge to nominate a black woman to the US Supreme Court if given the chance to do so as president.

During last month's debate in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of that state's primary - where victory gave him the momentum which propelled him into Super Tuesday wins days later - Mr Biden said he was "looking forward" to making that a reality.

Throughout the lengthy primary campaign, Mr Biden has often eschewed running mate talk as presumptuous, though he has at times suggested several names. Asked by a voter at a campaign stop in Winterset, Iowa, in November, he described several prominent women he would consider if he won the nomination.

"I could start naming people, but the press will think that's who I picked," Mr Biden said, noting it was premature.

Nevertheless, he went on to suggest Stacey Abrams, who ran for Georgia governor in 2018, calling her "the woman who should have been the governor of Georgia."

Likewise, he suggested, without giving their names, that he would consider former deputy attorney general Sally Yates and the two senators from New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen.

In December, Mr Biden told voters in New Hampshire he would want to pick someone "simpatico" with him and his priorities, telling voters there were "a lot of qualified women" and "a lot of qualified African Americans".

Meanwhile, primaries taking place today in Arizona and Florida offer Mr Biden a vital chance to show he can make up ground with Latinos, a crucial group of voters he will need in his corner to defeat Donald Trump.

Mr Biden is playing catch-up when it comes to engaging Latino voters and is weighed down by anger over the high rate of deportations during the Obama administration - when he was vice-president - which left scars for many immigrants and their families.

"We need more. And we need commitments as we move into the general," said Regina Romero, a Democrat who recently became Tucson's first Latina mayor. Mr Biden can win over reluctant Latinos with a bold and progressive stance on immigration, she said.

"I hope he doesn't eat up the lie that he has to be more conservative on the immigration issue," said Ms Romero, who hasn't endorsed Mr Biden or Mr Sanders since her favoured candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, dropped out.

"We shouldn't be afraid of an issue that is so important for Latino voters, water it down and not have policies that Latinos can get excited about."

Arizona and Florida are both likely to be battlegrounds in November. In Arizona, one in three residents is Latino, while in Florida it is one in four.

Mr Sanders's strength with Latinos helped him to an overwhelming victory in the Nevada caucuses and contributed to his Super Tuesday wins in California and Colorado on a night when Mr Biden built a formidable lead in delegates.

Irish Independent