He could have done worse, and his handlers told us so. In picking Kamala Harris as his running mate, Joe Biden made what I called in a column last week a “safe choice.”

Among the contenders, she had the least baggage. The brilliance was not in the pick itself, but the way in which it was packaged.

First, it looked sloppy, the announcement was delayed for more than a week leading the casual observer to sigh and suspect the Biden team didn’t have its act together. Were the competing factions like bulldogs fighting under the carpet? Was the Democratic establishment at war with itself?

Then there was the stalking horse in the form of Susan Rice. We kept hearing about her via impassioned op-eds, both pro and con. Dangerous though it may be to say in her adopted state of Maine, I was genuinely perplexed to see Rice talked about so seriously. My fellow Republicans were so busy foaming at the mouth at the prospect of this deeply polarizing figure being on the ticket, Harris seemed forgotten altogether.

There were more intriguing options as well. Before California Rep. Karen Bass, there was Florida Rep. Val Demings, my personal favorite, a former Orlando police chief. When I announced on Facebook she was, in my humble opinion, "the one," some of my Democrat friends told me what I could do with my opinion. I realized I was being a little like a Minnesotan telling a Texan what kind of barbecue sauce was the best. At least there was the possibility of real flavor.

Then, the eventual decision was met with relief. The uncertainty was over. Rather like Sen. Susan Collins, Biden took an awfully long time to make the choice many suspected he was going to make in the first place. It was also sort of like the nominating process itself. All those interminable debates…

As someone who was prosecuted in recent years, I was never wild about Harris. She even inspired me to hatch a theory that a prosecutor has never been elected president because the American people want to be defended, not charged. When Tulsi Gabbard unsheathed one of the greatest cut-downs in televised politics on Harris in a racier moment during those debates, I swooned. But now it is a honeymoon period, and a time for a softer-focused take.

We will be seeing and hearing more from Harris. She does not want for ambition, and that may come in handy with such a fluid job description. How much does the pick itself matter? The Bangor Daily News’ Matthew Gagnon argued the VP slot matters about as much as Harry Truman famously said the job itself did. Except, that is, for the times when it did matter.

Dick Cheney lay a foundation under George W. Bush. When he had his first heart attack in office, a senator told me, at the time, they were seriously worried. Sarah Palin cut much of the foundation out from under John McCain. It’s true that Tim Kaine, a senator of some substance, offered little to nothing to Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore was kind of a clone of Bill Clinton’s New Southern Democrat. It is also true that “balancing” may be an outdated notion in such unbalanced times.

But in a candidacy that has been as virtual and low-key as Biden’s to date, it can make a big difference. In Harris, Biden found someone who is equally political, but complementing in “identity.”

To some it seems just cosmetic, but its an unshakably recurring conversation on the Left. She likes to talk, is not afraid to be controversial and likes the sound of her own laugh, all of which make for good TV — something the Biden campaign has been desperately needing.

When the honeymoon ends and the gloves come off, we’ll see how Harris meets the hype. I suspect she’ll be generally impressive on the surface, but as vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy as your garden variety politician. It will matter how nimble she is, not — to her mentor Willie Brown’s relief — how loyal. Of his available options, Biden made the second best choice.

In unrolling the choice, Biden’s campaign showed a little artistry. For those who worried how quick on their feet they were, this will be reassuring.