Why Kamala Harris can’t be overlooked if Biden doesn’t run in 2024

As Democrats despair over President Biden’s unpopularity and look for an alternative, many overlook the clear favorite to succeed him as party leader:

Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden, of course, has said that he fully plans to run for re-election in 2024, with Harris as his running mate.

But that hasn’t stopped rampant speculation about the leadership and leadership of the post-Biden Democratic Party and how soon it will take shape.

Some Democrats have gone from contemplation to open rebellion, urging the 70-year-old president to step aside for the supposed good of his party, as well as the country, and make way for someone younger and more energetic.

Some of them may be ageism. (Although at 79, Biden is clearly a few steps off.) Much of the chatter stems from panic among Democrats fearing a terrible November and worrying that it could be worse if Biden tops the list again in 2024.

Hence the shortness of breath around conditional Gavin Newsom runs for president and buzz around other possible Biden replacements: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sep. Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and others.

It is clear that if Biden had opted out, the 2024 nomination would not have belonged to Harris, let alone her role as the president’s understudy. She is not an heiress.

Which, despite Harris’s many problems of his own, shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a personal take on the vice president.

“Of course she won’t be given that,” said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster who has made it clear that he believes Biden should and will seek reelection. “Never”.

Harris’ 2020 presidential bid has ended in a pile of smoke and ash, and since then she has been working on her political rehabilitation.

The results were clearly mixed.

She has proven herself well as Biden’s running mate, doing her duty by attacking President Trump and stand up in a debate with Vice President Mike Pence. However, her time in the office was far more challenging.

Some of it has nothing to do with Harris, but everything to do with the vice presidency. The job is inherently subservient, which tends to belittle those who hold the position − even such a historical figure as Harris. If anything, her role as the first woman and the first woman of color to hold this position widened the gap between reality and expectations.

But many of Harris’s difficulties were her fault. including stumbling television interviews, constant staff turnover and a tendency to verbal distress when they speak out of script. (The clips tagged “Kamala Harris’ Word Salad” have been viewed nearly 27 million times on TikTok.)

As a result dismal approval rating it almost matches Biden’s bad record and the desire of some Democrats to write off both Harris and the president and start over in 2024.

However, such thinking reduces her political prospects and ignores the advantages that Harris has over other possible rivals.

The position of vice president can reduce the number of its inhabitants in the eyes of the public. But behind the scenes, it offers a powerful platform for building a national campaign. (In recent decades, Biden, Al Gore, George W. Bush, and Walter Mondale have held office before winning their party’s nomination.)

Harris, who publicly avoids overt political activism, nonetheless took steps that could stand her in good stead by speaking at a major early voting Democratic dinner in South Carolina and, as the administration’s spokeswoman for abortion rights, meeting with state legislators and democrats around the world. country.

She was in Pennsylvania last weekend speaking on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro and rallying activists in a major state on the battlefield.

It also helps a lot that Harris is a trailblazing black woman in a party whose most loyal voters are black voters. Their support for Harris remains strong.

In a Fox News poll released last month, the vice president’s overall approval rating was 41%. Among black respondents, it was 73%.

In a recent nationwide survey of black women, Belcher put the question differently, asking how warmly they feel about Harris. She rated quite well 71 on a scale out of 100.

“Until Gavin, Pete, Kirsten and Liz demonstrate that they can bring in black voters, Kamala Harris will lead the way,” said Bakary Sellers, a former South Carolina MP who co-chaired Harris’s presidential campaign and remains a friend and confidant. “It’s just pure objective analysis.”

South Carolina has played a pivotal role in deciding the Democratic nomination since moving forward in 2008.

The state’s most influential Democrat, member of the House of Representatives. James E. Clyburnwas vital to Biden’s success in 2020, saved his failed campaign with a timely endorsement, and he has declared his preference for 2024.

“Now I am for Biden, and secondly, for Harris,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

“So I don’t care who goes to New Hampshire or Iowa,” Clyburn said of two other early voting states. “I’m for Biden, and then I’m for Harris – either together or in that order.”

All political hurdles will become moot if Biden runs again.

If he doesn’t, and Harris claims to take his place, she’ll have to run a better and smarter campaign than the previous one, which got bogged down in a morass of mixed messages and internal brawls. Her ability to do so is in no way determined.

But any Democrat who thinks the vice president isn’t a factor, or will be a breeze in the nomination fight, risks the same kind of defeat that Harris did in 2020.

Today’s face-to-face polls are meaningless. In Biden’s succession struggle, his vice president remains the one to win.