Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
At a virtual town hall on Wednesday, just hours after Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, Joe Biden assumed the mantle of his party's presumptive nominee — and, at a separate virtual fundraiser, the former vice president suggested that one-time rival Kamala Harris may play a big role in his campaign going forward.
Streaming live to some 1,621 viewers on YouTube, Biden praised Sanders during the town hall for being a persistent and "passionate voice for progress," and also lauded the Vermont senator for "energizing millions of supporters."
"Earlier today my good friend Bernie Sanders announced he was suspending his campaign," Biden, whose comments were sometimes muddled, said at one point. "He didn't just run a political campaign. He created a movement."
"I’m coming for you, kid.”
— Joe Biden to Kamala Harris
Biden also said that coronavirus had "magnified some of our worst systemic inequities," and that black and Hispanic communities are suffering higher infection and death rates than white communities.
"That's unconscionable," he said. "We need more data on how Latinos and other communities of color are impacted, so we know exactly what has to be done." Biden said that infection rates in black communities were "three times" that of white communities, with death rates "nearly six times higher."
According to the New York State Health Department, Hispanics account for 34 percent of New York City's deaths from coronavirus and blacks account for 28 percent. Whites, meanwhile, account for 27 percent of deaths, and Asians 7 percent.
New York City is roughly 29 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black, 32 percent white and 14 percent Asian, according to state data.
“It’s sick, it’s troubling, it’s wrong — and we’re going to fight back with everything we’ve got," Biden promised.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
At the virtual fundraiser earlier in the day, Harris appeared on video from Washington, blasting President Trump as a “complete failure” and, in an effusive introduction, asserting that Biden would be the right president at a time when people “need to have hope … need to have faith.”
The former vice president responded in kind, praising Harris for running a “helluva race” and reminding attendees that “we go back a long way,” a reference to Harris’ friendship with Biden’s late son, Beau. Harris was California’s attorney general at the same time that Beau Biden held the post in Delaware.
Seemingly teasing the running mate chatter, Biden added: “I’m so lucky to have you be a part of this partnership going forward. Working together, we can make a great deal of progress. … I’m coming for you, kid.”
Biden briefly talked about his vice president selection process explicitly and mentioned reaching out to former President Barack Obama for advice, saying that in the "coming weeks" his team is going to "start looking at candidates," adding that he is "looking for someone who will be a partner in this progress."
Sources within the Democratic Party say that Biden’s team has a list of nine potential running mates they are considering, with the two top contenders for the nod being Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Harris. Of the up-and-coming stars of the Democratic Party who Biden could choose, arguably no one is getting more national media attention right now than Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Sen. Bernie Sanders seeks to ‘exert significant influence’ over the Democratic Party platform; reaction and analysis on ‘The Five.’
Separately, Harris, who dropped out of the White House race in December, set up a joint fundraising operation with the Democratic National Committee, an arrangement that is typically reserved for nominees trying to attract large donations from the party’s biggest boosters. Harris, 55, will host her own virtual fundraiser Thursday. The deal allows contributors to give a maximum of $357,800, with $2,800 going to retire Harris’ presidential campaign debts and the rest going to the national party.
At his fundraiser, Biden also briefly touched on his recent phone conversation with President Trump, saying he urged Trump to “use his full authority under the Defense Production Act, not only [to] surge the production of ventilators but for protective gear, for tests, more of everything that we need and step up and do what he did with the ventilators and General Motors.”
He also suggested that Trump appoint a “supply commander” to oversee the distribution; Trump suggested, according to Biden, that a rear admiral is taking up that responsibility to some degree. But Biden said he does not think that is enough.
Meanwhile, at the coronavirus task force briefing Wednesday at the White House, Trump noted that former President Obama still hasn't endorsed Biden.
"There's something he feels is wrong," Trump remarked. "He knows something that you don't know, that I think I know."
Fox News' Brooke Singman and Andrew O'Reilly, as well as The Associated Press, contributed to this report.