Picking Joe Biden as his running mate in August 2008 was among the more reactive things the well-run Obama did. As Biden announces a delay in selecting his own there are signs of jousting internally between four finalists. Eventually, we will have the opportunity to see whether he is leaning in, or playing it safe. It could even set the tempo for the rest of the campaign.

By August 2008, Barack Obama bested Hillary Clinton in a hard-fought primary and was charging forward with one of the best campaigns America has seen in a generation. John McCain’s was flailing.

Then the Russians invaded the tiny country of Georgia, just before Obama was to announce his vice-presidential nominee. Concern about who might stand up to a more aggressive Russia boosted McCain’s poll numbers for the first time, putting him within margin of error at a head-to-head with Obama. One can imagine Obama coolly ordering “get me our strongest guy on foreign policy.” The rest was history. Obama feared being outflanked by McCain on the one issue where the late Arizona senator had a clear advantage.

Today, Biden faces a similar choice. Among the five contenders, two — Rep. Karen Bass and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are the “lean-in” bellwethers of a more aggressive campaign while another three — Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Tammy Duckworth and former national security advisor Susan Rice — are ostensibly safer picks. But will playing it safe cost him swing voters who don’t have the same luxury in their day-to-day lives during this time of COVID-19?

Both Bass and Warren can speak to economic nationalism in a way that matters now, and Biden needs. Warren more wonkishly, though on the presidential campaign trail she did learn to connect more. Bass, as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, also has some nuts and bolts exposure to markets.

(On the downside, she praised Fidel Castro in her youth, but many of us did silly things when we were young). Wall Street may fear both women, but this could be a year when harnessing economic anger matters more than putting bankers at ease. Considering the second quarter sag in the economy, not having someone who could speak to economic concerns would be malpractice.

While the goal of a safe choice is to do no harm, only one of the three — Duckworth —meets this criterion. Both Harris and Rice have significant negatives: Harris comes off as overtly political and out for herself while Rice has not only never been elected, but Obama opted not to put her up for the Senate-confirmed position of Secretary of State precisely because of how polarizing she is.

Also, neither Harris nor Rice offers what Biden needs. Foreign policy? He chaired the foreign relations committee for years. Rule-of-law prosecutor? Biden chaired judiciary for years. Their skills then are not complementary but duplicative. Still, for reasons that are puzzling, these two top recent mentions of the likeliest contenders. Perhaps that’s because each enjoys powerful support from different factions of the Democrat establishment.

Duckworth, by contrast, has a powerful biography as a decorated helicopter pilot who lost two legs to enemy fire in Baghdad, and as first woman to give birth while serving in office. She also has few negatives. In a sense, this makes her the safest candidate of all.

On Wednesday in announcing that he will not attend the Milwaukee Democratic convention because of COVID-19, Biden again signaled he’s comfortable playing it safe. This past week the media even floated the idea of his skipping the debates, but that had all the trappings of a trial balloon. In a high stakes presidential election, there’s a limit to how safe one can play it without looking like they’re not trying hard enough, or are afraid.

With an average seven point lead in the polls, the only thing Biden has to fear is an enthusiasm gap leading up to election day brought on by over-confidence and, yes, playing it too safe at a time when that how few of us feel. He is a product of a play-it-safe selection back in 2008, now might be the moment Biden decides to test the limits of his own comfort zone. Or he doesn’t. Whomever he picks next week will tell us much about how he’ll run the rest of his campaign.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.