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Biden commits to female running mate if he is Democratic nominee

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Both Democratic White House hopefuls also detail coronavirus and healthcare plans in televised debate

WASHINGTON: White House hopeful Joe Biden on Sunday committed to picking a woman as his vice-presidential candidate should he win the Democratic nomination, a race he currently leads against Mr Bernie Sanders.

"If I'm elected president, my Cabinet, my administration, will look like the country, and I commit that I will in fact appoint a woman to be vice-president," Mr Biden, himself a former vice-president, said during a debate against his leftist rival Sanders.

"There are a number of women who are qualified to be vice-president tomorrow," Mr Biden, a moderate, added.

Mr Sanders responded by saying that "in all likelihood" he would do the same.

"To me, it's not just nominating a woman. It is making sure that we have a progressive woman and there are progressive women out there."

Two women have been chosen as running mates for major party nominees. Democrat Walter Mondale put Ms Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket in 1984, while Ms Sarah Palin was Republican John McCain's pick in 2008. Both lost their elections.

It has been no secret that both Mr Biden and Mr Sanders were seriously considering naming a female vice-presidential candidate.

Among Mr Biden's possible choices are Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Amy Klobuchar, both former competitors in the battle for this year's Democratic Party nomination - or even the progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was briefly a front-runner in the race.

Prior to her position in the US Senate, Ms Harris served as the attorney general of California, while Ms Klobuchar is a moderate from Minnesota.

Both candidates used the debate, perhaps the last in the Democratic White House race, as an opportunity to project leadership and a sense of stability in the coronavirus crisis. The debate was held in Washington DC without any audience.

Mr Biden, 77, recounted his experience as vice-president in the Obama administration in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in 2014. He laid out a coronavirus plan to make testing free and widely available, establish mobile sites and drive-through facilities in each state and provide more help for small businesses hurt by the resulting economic slowdown.

He said he was willing to call out the military to help local officials build hospitals and take other necessary relief steps. "This is like a war, and in a war you do whatever needs to be done to take care of your people," Mr Biden said.

Mr Sanders, 78, suggested the first step would be "to shut this president (Mr Donald Trump) up right now" because he was undermining the response of public health officials.

"We have got to learn that you cannot lie to the American people," Mr Sanders said, adding the crisis showed the need for his signature Medicare for All healthcare proposal, which would replace private health insurance with a government-run system.

Mr Biden has opposed the Medicare for All plan, saying it is too costly and he prefers to build on the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, by adding a public option for those who want it. - AFP, REUTERS