President Biden will ignore Democratic scuttlebutt about replacing Kamala Harris as his 2024 running mate, say party strategists who argue dumping her would alienate key voters and risk creating an image of instability in the administration.
Democrats have been wringing their hands over Ms. Harris in recent months, questioning whether she should remain on the ticket in 2024 if Mr. Biden runs for a second term. The criticism, much of it from anonymous Democratic insiders, centers on her lackluster performance handling key assignments and her frequent stumbles as a party messenger.
Biden, 80, faces questions about his ability to serve a second term, elevating Ms. Harris’s importance on the ticket.
However, replacing her as Mr. Biden’s 2024 running mate could prove disastrous for Democrats’ quest to the White House, and Mr. Biden knows it.
“I think there is zero chance she will be replaced,” Dan Newman, a California Democratic strategist, said. Speculation about a new running mate to perk up a Biden 2024 campaign, Mr. Newman said, “is mostly a bunch of hullabaloo about nothing.”
Ms. Harris, 58, is unpopular with general election voters overall, according to polls, but she commands the overwhelming support of Democratic voters and in particular Black voters, who make up a critical part of the Democratic base.
Democratic strategists willing to go on the record say it’s fantasy to suggest Mr. Biden is shopping around for a new running mate.
“If Biden is running for re-election, then she remains,” New York Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.
They question who could replace her on the ticket without Mr. Biden angering the base.
A Suffolk University poll of voters taken in December found Ms. Harris with a 36% favorable rating and a 52% unfavorable rating among all voters. Among Democrats, however, Ms. Harris’s favorable rating shot up to 70% among Blacks and 71% among Democrats overall.
Any benefit of replacing Ms. Harris on the ticket would be outweighed by the threat of upsetting the base, said Suffolk Poll Director David Paleologos.
“You run a risk of upsetting some Democrats, and maybe even more so, African Americans, who see a White male, with mostly White consultants, dumping a female on the ticket, in this case, a Black female, to advance the White man’s career,” Mr. Paleologos said.
Democrats fret that Ms. Harris has not appeared competent in the role of vice president. Her job as “border czar” was largely panned as thousands of illegal immigrants came across the southern border and overwhelmed cities, including New York, that have taken in busloads of migrants. She also has been ridiculed for delivering awkward or downright odd speeches.
Her description of a rocket launch at a Congressional Space Medal of Honor ceremony this week came across as patronizing and became the latest viral video used to mock her.
“They strapped into their seats and waited as the tanks beneath them filled with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. And then they launched! Yeah, they did,” Ms. Harris said with a laugh at the White House ceremony.
The remarks drew widespread criticism, including from Steve Guest, a spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, who said: “It’s like a 5-year-old wrote this.”
Talks of replacing Ms. Harris ramped up further after Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a former Democratic presidential contender who has campaigned for Ms. Harris in the past, suggested the vice president may not be a shoo-in for the 2024 ticket.
“I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team,” Ms. Warren said. “We go way back. But they have to be a team. My sense is that they are.”
According to some Democratic insiders, Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden have had difficulty establishing a good relationship in the White House, and that tension resulted in some of Ms. Harris’ struggles to find her footing as vice president, which evolved into concerns about her weakness as a vice presidential candidate.
“It’s never really been good between her office and the Biden folks,” one Democrat who requested anonymity, said. “I think the reason for the rumblings is because there’s just no love lost between the two offices, and also, if he doesn’t run, then how strong a candidate would she be for the top job? And people are very skeptical that she would be a presumptive nominee.”
Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy, said stripping Ms. Harris from the presidential ticket could be particularly disastrous among Black women voters, who make up at least 60% of the Black vote.
Mr. Biden couldn’t risk alienating that key group of voters, Mr. Coker said.
The main concern with a Biden-Harris ticket is Biden’s age. Democrats worry about voters questioning whether Ms. Harris is qualified to be first in line to replace him.
“If Biden wants to run, it’s going to be hard for Democrats to deny him,” Mr. Coker said. “But they don’t feel safe with the insurance policy.”
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