• Wednesday, July 24, 2024


Kamala Harris engages in ‘balancing act’ as Biden struggles

Harris herself has not publicly voiced any desire to replace Biden

Kamala Harris delivers remarks on reproductive rights at Ritchie Coliseum on the campus of the University of Maryland on June 24, 2024 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

US VICE PRESIDENT Kamala Harris is engaged in a delicate balancing act, playing cheerleader for president Joe Biden while standing by as a leading contender to replace him if he ends his re-election bid.

Biden’s dismal performance in last week’s debate with Donald Trump has triggered panic in much of the Democratic party as people question whether Biden is physically and mentally able to beat Trump and serve another four years.

Former congressman Tim Ryan, while professing his admiration for Biden, wrote in a piece for Newsweek that “the Democratic nominee in 2024 should be Kamala Harris.”

Jim Clyburn, a senior House Democrat and black leader, told MSNBC: “We should do everything we can to bolster her — whether it’s in second place or at the top of the ticket.”

Harris herself has not publicly voiced any desire to replace Biden.

“Look, Joe Biden is our nominee,” she said in an interview on Tuesday (2) with CBS News. “We beat Trump once, and we’re going to beat him again, period.”

She said she was proud to be on the current ticket with the president.

Shortly after the debate, Harris rushed onto TV to defend Biden, admitting he had started off slowly in the clash with Trump, but saying he ultimately finished strong.

The official schedule for Biden on Wednesday (3) said he had lunch with Harris, which is not a regular event, though it was a weekly fixture for Biden when he was vice president under Barack Obama.

Harris, 59, is the first woman, the first Black person and the first person of Asian origin — her mother was from India — to hold the job that puts her a heartbeat from the presidency, as Americans like to say.

Harris would become president if Biden died in office or became incapacitated.

But she would not necessarily replace Biden if he were to end his candidacy, and Biden has insisted he has no plans to do so.

“For three and half years there has always been this drumbeat that someone other than the VP should be the Democratic candidate,” said Ange-Marie Hancock, professor of political science at The Ohio State University.

Hancock said it was possible an “undercurrent of racism and sexism” was at work against Harris.

For years Harris has been less popular among Americans than other Democrats seen as possible candidates, such as California governor Gavin Newsom or his Michigan counterpart Gretchen Whitmer.

US media have reported extensively on mistakes she made early in this administration, mainly on the diplomatic front, and on tension among her staffers.

But Hancock said things could turn in Harris’s favour, because she has spent time out visiting battleground states, in particular to promote abortion rights as it came under repeated fire from conservatives judges and governors.

Flickers of that turn could be seen on social media, where supportive Harris-related memes have begun going viral under the hashtag #KHive.

Harris is sometimes criticised as disappointing as an orator. But she got a warm welcome recently when she made a tour of universities that was focused on schools with high numbers of minority students.

She’ll make more stops in July to speak with African American audiences, particularly women, with three trips to Louisiana, Texas and Indiana.

A recent CNN poll had Harris doing better than Biden against Trump, although not beating him.

This poll gave Harris 45 per cent of voter intentions against 47 per cent for Trump, while Biden scored 43 per cent to 49 per cent for the Republican former president in a race between the two men.


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