Kamala Harris is not very good at this. The Vice President has never won an election on her own outside of the greenhouse of California politics, and it shows.
On paper, she was a serious contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Once the campaign got underway, she flip-flopped on health issues and couldn’t take the hit from Tulsi Gabbard. Harris withdrew from the race before voting began. At the time, she was polling 3% nationally and 7% in the Golden State.
Candidate Joe Biden was encouraged to put her on the ticket even after she effectively called him a segregationist in a nationally televised debate. He had promised a running mate. Then, after the George Floyd riots, he came under public pressure to choose a black woman.
Amy Klobuchar has pulled out of veepstakes, saying a white woman shouldn’t take the job. There was only one black woman among Democratic senators and governors in the country. Guess who got the call?
Harris was hardly a major asset during the election campaign. His speech at the convention was overshadowed by Barack Obama’s speech the same evening. In her debate with Mike Pence, she spread distrust of COVID vaccines; it was barely visible otherwise.
Harris’ judgment is terrible. During Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings, she was one of the senators to push the gang-rape thread of Michael Avenatti and quickly discredited, which backfired on Dems.
Polls regularly show that more voters disapprove of Harris than they approve of him. Only Pence’s approval ratings were so bad at this point among modern vice presidents, but Pence was more popular than President Donald Trump at the time. He was probably trained by his boss.
Harris is voting badly at a time when President Biden is still enjoying a more traditional honeymoon period with voters. It all depends on her. Poll timeliness only gets worse when you look at how badly she votes with independent voters, or track how many people have strongly unfavorable opinions about her.
Besides being bad at politics, she is bad at governing. In California, she pushed for a policy to force nonprofit groups to turn over their donor lists to the state. She handled it so badly that the Supreme Court ruled against her after a wide range of her own political allies filed briefs saying her policies violated their First Amendment rights. Even the Biden administration’s legal record threw her under the bus.
Everything Harris touched in the vice-presidency has been a fiasco. She was quick to back down when Biden made her the face of the administration’s border politics, trapping her for weeks of embarrassing efforts to respond when she made it to the border. His lame excuse to NBC’s Lester Holt: “I haven’t been to Europe” either.
On a trip to Central America, she tried to speak harshly about immigration – “Don’t come,” she said, in terms she would have denounced as heartless and worse from Trump – while the President of Guatemala reminded him that people were coming because of messages from his administration.
Harris has faced a barrage of bad press, even from media like CNN which generally lavish praise on Democrats. These reports often spur on sources within the administration who clearly hate and scorn Harris. CNN reported that his team had been in a “panic” about the border mission. A Politico report based on interviews with 22 current and former staff members detailed the dysfunctional and unhealthy atmosphere of Harris staff.
A former Harris staff member reportedly passed this report on to the staff member’s therapist, commenting, “We are rarely publicly justified in life.” The White House was forced to go into damage control mode to defend it to the press.
The last I heard was that a group of high-profile democratic women, led by a prominent public relations specialist, gathered over dinner to strategize on how to rehabilitate the vice president’s public image. This is usually not a sign that things are going well.
Democrats in 2024 might have a problem with Joe Biden. Biden is already visibly slowed down and will be 82 by then. But they might prefer that to a Kamala Harris issue on top of the ticket. We should all be hoping for Biden’s good health in the meantime.
Dan McLaughlin is editor at National Review.