That is changing in 2020, though, which is an especially notable shift, given that Mr. Biden has pledged to name a woman as his running mate, and voters have traditionally expected women to be more circumspect about their ambitions.
In the case of Ms. Abrams, candor about her ambition is part of a larger political imperative. Not only is she not interested in being coy, she said she had an obligation to do the opposite. “As a young black girl growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if I didn’t speak up for myself, no one else would,” Ms. Abrams said on “Meet the Press.” “My mission is to say out loud if I am asked the question — ‘Yes.’”
In addition to Ms. Abrams, other potential Biden running mates have been open about wanting the job. “I would certainly say yes,” the former national security adviser Susan Rice said last week when asked by PBS’s Margaret Hoover what she would tell Mr. Biden if he asked.
“Yes,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, after MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked her the same question last month. Ms. Warren’s firm and unqualified response appeared at first to stun Ms. Maddow, who eventually became delighted. “I’m so happy you just gave me a concise answer to that,” Ms. Maddow said, before going to a commercial.
Several factors might explain this recent erosion of political reluctance. Social media has fostered an ethic that rewards getting noticed. “We’re in a much more aggressive celebrity and self-promotional culture in 2020,” said Beth Myers, a longtime top aide to Mitt Romney who oversaw the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee’s running mate vetting process in 2012. “Everybody has their own mini-celebrity personality to maintain.”
The incumbent president has basically been saying and tweeting the quiet part out loud for the last four years. And he has been rewarded for it, at least by his supporters. Whatever you think of Donald Trump, no one will ever accuse him of being bashful.
Mr. Trump’s own running mate selection in 2016 followed a reality show format in which three presumed finalists (Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Speaker Newt Gingrich) engaged in public tryouts before being winnowed in a final elimination round — with Mr. Trump serving as judge, jury and M.C.