Who is Tammy Duckworth, the US senator from Illinois who is reportedly on the short list for the vice-presidential slot on the Democratic ticket?
Her name has come up frequently during high-level discussions about the vice-presidential slot for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. She has also become a target for Fox News‘s Tucker Carlson and other conservatives.
When she said recently on CNN that she was open-minded about the prospect of removing US monuments to US founders and slave holders, Mr Carlson questioned her patriotism.
Her challenge to Mr Carlson attracted national notice and drew people‘s attention both to her political acumen and to her military background. She was shot down in a helicopter during the Iraq war and lost her legs.
Many Democrats believe that her military record and her tenacity during fights with conservatives, as well as her background as an Asian-American, would strengthen Mr Biden’s candidacy. If he chose her as a running mate, say her supporters, she would help to shore up votes among veterans, minorities and women.
Yet many believe that Mr Biden should pick a black running mate instead – Senator Kamala Harris is frequently mentioned as a possibility. Besides that, Ms Duckworth’s home state is safely Democratic. Other contenders for the Democratic ticket, a group that includes New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, could help Mr Biden in states where he could use a boost.
The choice of a running mate has added importance for Democrats because of Mr Biden’s age and his own assessment of his role.
He is 77, and if he were elected he would be 82 by the end of his term. He sees himself as a “transition candidate”, and even his diehard supporters assume that if he were elected he would not seek a second term.
Ms Duckworth, who is 52, is best known for her work on veterans’ issues. In addition, she has worked on health-care policy and spoken frequently about national security. She fought in the Iraq war, but she believes that it was a mistake.
Ms Duckworth, who speaks Thai, lived with her parents in Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia because of her father’s UN job.
The family was in Cambodia, living in Phnom Penh during a period of violence shortly before the Khmer Rouge took power in the mid-1970s.
During an online fundraiser, he praised her bravery in battle and in politics. “I can’t think of anyone who has shown more courage,” he said. Addressing her directly, he said: “I’m grateful for you here with me in this fight.”
Who could be Joe Biden’s running mate?
Presidential candidate Joe Biden has pledged he would choose a woman as his running mate. Those on the rumoured shortlist include:
California Senator Kamala Harris
Former national security adviser Susan Rice
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer
Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema
After retiring from the military, Ms Duckworth worked on veterans’ issues at the state and national level and was elected to Congress in 2012. She won a senate seat in 2016, becoming the state’s junior senator and following in the footsteps of President Barack Obama. Her rise from state politics to national prominence has been fast.
Dick Simpson, the head of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says that she has moved up more rapidly than anyone in politics he has seen in half a century. Mr Obama, who also got his start in Illinois politics, rose higher than Ms Duckworth. But as Mr Simpson points out: “It took a little longer.”
“She naturally brings out the best in people even when there’s tension in the room,” he says, explaining that she is skilled at tuning “her language, her emphasis, to the person she‘s speaking to” in order to build consensus.
Her record in politics is far from perfect, however.
She has struggled to get legislation passed in Congress, and she has been criticised for her work on veterans’ issues. She said all the right things, according to her detractors in Illinois, but many of the veterans’ programmes that she spoke about never got off the ground.
A spokesman for Ms Duckworth disagreed with the negative assessment of her work as a lawmaker, saying that she has been effective as a senator and has, among other achievements, passed bipartisan legislation and blocked “efforts to repeal the Americans With Disabilities Act”.
The criticism has hardly slowed her down, and throughout her career she has shown an unusual resolve. While recovering from her war injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland in 2004, she was given “heavy-duty pain blocks”, she says, but they barely muffled the agony of losing her legs.
Yet during her recovery and in the years that followed, she has shown almost no self-pity: “For me, it just comes back to the fact that I’m so grateful to be alive. I know that sounds so corny,” she says. “But I think of what my buddies did to get me out and of the pilot who carried me to safety. I can’t mope around.”