There has been little distance between Harris and Biden as they criss-cross the country campaigning for Democrats. But to some in its orbit, the seemingly minor distinction over semantics has come to represent something far greater for a veep determined to maintain its own voice and carve out a path for itself, even as it works in a backup role. defined by loyalty.
Harris’ growing comfort amid the steady pace of political activity marks a period of relative stability. There’s been a noticeable absence of negative noise hanging from his every move — to the point that the vice president’s allies don’t speak as much on the Beltway cover as they miss.
Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist who has attended events with Harris, said the vice president has proven helpful to Democrats “by talking about reproductive freedom and also urging candidates to build excitement and rally the Democratic base”. But Finney acknowledged, “Part of the nature of the VP job is that if you do a good job, we don’t hear much about you. That’s a challenge in itself, because then people don’t really know what you’re doing.
There is no modern playbook for the situation Democrats and Harris find themselves in as they prepare for likely pain on Tuesday. Biden’s political future is still uncertain, even within his own party, and questions about whether Harris can become the flag bearer have risen rather than dissipated during his tenure. This raised the stakes for her to perform on the track.
A Democratic strategist in close contact with the White House noted that there weren’t quite as many eyeballs and a true DC parlor game scoring mid-terms for Harris’ predecessors – all of whom arguably received less backing. interest than she has from almost every point of view.
Biden seemed aware of that focus when he followed Harris as he addressed a crowd of revelers Friday in Philadelphia. “She looks more like my girlfriend and my sister, but I trust her with my life,” he said. “I trust him completely.”
At the same time, Harris could not escape the poor environment of the Democrats. Like Biden, she has seen her job endorsement numbers plummet, forcing the pair to largely stay in bluer states and forcing the administration to be creative as they deploy to Senate battlegrounds. , the House and Governors – back when they actually did.
Harris was in deeply Democratic Massachusetts on Wednesday campaigning for the ticket, and she is expected to return to New York on Thursday for a voting event with Governor Kathy Hochul in Manhattan. She will then travel to Illinois on Sunday for an Asian American and Pacific Islander event before flying to California.
If Democrats lost control of the Senate, its historic turn as the deciding vote in that chamber would come to an end, bringing its own set of pros and cons. In her capacity as Vice President, she was attached to the national capital to help pass bills and confirm candidates. In her first two years, she has already achieved the accolade of third all-time with 26 ties broken, behind only America’s first vice president, John Adams and his seventh, John C. Calhoun. A GOP-led Senate would free her from Washington. It would also mean fewer historic votes she could head towards.
Earlier this year, Harris asked assistants to help him hit the road at least three days a week. After initial reluctance, she agreed to become the administration’s leading voice on abortion.
In strategizing what her mid-term role would look like, the vice president aimed to meet with smaller groups and create a network of key constituency groups – specifically to attract women, youth and voters of color, his aides said. She wanted to help them connect issues like abortion rights to the right to vote and same-sex marriage.
“She believes we need to give people their talking points. We have to say, “I want you to know what to say when people ask you that question.” Because one they will, and two they should,” a senior Harris official said.
Harris’ itch to be more widely involved was evident in these meetings. Participants say she would often withdraw from, for example, a discussion of abortion and link it to a broader set of privacy rights.
“She often references the fact that voters of color and young people turned out in historic numbers in 2020 and that’s what we were able to deliver to you,” another Harris aide said, pointing to the reduced costs of prescription drugs, canceling student loan debt, decriminalizing marijuana, and eliminating lead pipes. “We need the same level of commitment and enthusiasm that we had [in 2020] directed towards the mid-points.
It all adds up to something of a page turner for Harris. The hiccups are still there, amplified by the criticisms on Twitter, although they are less frequent. The struggles to gain popularity exist, but there is less chaos swirling around. People around her feel that she has been able to exercise more independence and has seriously started to emerge from the painful first months of uneven performance and personnel issues.
“In the first year, there was also a lot of talk about his portfolio and how his running mate compared to Biden,” said vice-presidential historian Joel K. Goldstein. Since then, the focus seems to have shifted to “how can it add value”.
Although doubts persist about his future, Harris’s last year has brought him some political advantages, mainly stronger ties to the party’s main constituencies. His roundtables and talks on abortion have brought him into contact with dozens of legislative leaders and state attorneys general working on the issue. But they also helped open the doors of several swing states to a pressing political concern. Since August, she has stopped in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida and Minnesota. She also visited a number of college campuses.
In recent days, Harris has called dozens of radio stations in key battlefields. During that time, she led more than a dozen fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee this year. In Texas, party organizers said his recent commencement speech for the state Democratic Party’s Johnson-Jordan dinner raised the most in its history.
Separately, aides and party officials said there had been a concerted effort to put her in front of more labor allies and other groups like the NAACP and Urban League, as well as in the blood of audiences. who don’t consume traditional news media – strategies that lately joined that of the president.
She also did more press, sitting down for late-night TV interviews and at least eight podcasts, including the climate-focused A matter of degrees, where she got flustered over her love of clean school buses. Her too discussed with Popsugar. And for all of that, Harris’s defenders still say she deserves more credit than she currently gets.
“The vice president did everything she was asked to do,” said Bakari Sellers, a fierce Harris ally who praised the White House for giving her more space and “letting her be great.” “. But, he added, the media coverage did not reflect that.