Kamala Harris Faces Pressure Amid Biden’s Struggles

Vice President Kamala Harris is navigating a complex political situation. As the second in command behind the country’s oldest leader, whose recent debate performance sparked concerns about his ability to win re-election, her political future is intertwined with President Biden’s success.

Harris has been strategically balancing her support for Biden while acknowledging his shortcomings. Following the debate, she informed Biden’s advisors that she would deviate from prepared talking points during a CNN interview. She acknowledged Biden’s slow start, then focused on the dangers of re-electing Donald Trump, highlighting his threat to democracy and labeling him a liar.

This balancing act continued at a Los Angeles fundraiser, where Harris addressed concerns from donors frustrated with Biden’s lackluster messaging. While admitting that the debate was not Biden’s best performance, she launched into a strong attack on Trump’s threat to democracy.

 “You see how much hasn’t changed?” Harris continued. “So, let’s deal with what we’ve got, right? Let’s deal with what we’ve got.” 

Her statement, though a lukewarm endorsement of Biden, reflects the current reality as Democrats grapple with ensuring Biden’s victory over Trump. 

“Harris has been strong post-debate,” says Jim Margolis, a Democratic consultant who has worked with Harris in the past. “She hasn’t tried to bullshit people pretending that what they saw didn’t happen.”

While some within the party question Biden’s suitability as nominee, discussions have centered around Harris’ potential as a replacement. Biden’s advisors have countered this argument by emphasizing his past success against Trump and suggesting that Harris might not fare as well. This perspective has been met with criticism from some party insiders, who see it as ungracious towards Harris and potentially misleading. 

There are signs that Harris’ appeal to voters might be changing following the debate.

A recent CNN/SSRS poll, conducted after the debate, revealed that a majority of voters believe the Democratic Party would have a better chance of winning with a different nominee. This same poll suggests Harris could outperform Biden against Trump in a hypothetical matchup. 

While few Democrats have publicly called for Biden to step aside, former Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan became one of the first to advocate for Harris as the nominee. Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett followed suit, becoming the first sitting member of Congress to call for Biden’s withdrawal. 

James Clyburn, a key Biden ally and co-chair of the Biden-Harris campaign, indicated that he would support Harris if Biden were to withdraw.

Biden remains on track to be the official Democratic nominee, but the possibility of Harris taking over the nomination is likely to continue fueling discussions within the party.