Want to see a media narrative hatch in an incubator and emerge cute and cuddly under the lamps? Look no further than this ludicrous take about Kamala Harris after the announcement that Joe Biden selected her as his running mate. Politico’s Holly Otterbein argued that Harris has the right stuff to take on Mike Pence in the single VP debate on the schedule, having proven her mettle in her attack on Joe Biden in the first Democratic primary debate.
Er … who picked whom today?
How does everyone think Harris will do in a VP debate against Pence? @hollyotterbein notes that Harris had one of the most memorable primary debate moments…attacking Biden. “She’s shown she can be incredibly effective in a debate.”
More live analysis: https://t.co/0C4YmbNvBV
— POLITICO (@politico) August 11, 2020
For the record, here’s the attack that Otterbein recalls for its incredible effectiveness. Harris suggested that Biden is racist over his past work with segregationists in the Senate as well as his opposition to busing. “I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris begins, but then accuses Biden of appeasing racists and standing in the way of little girls like herself:
We’ll get back to Harris’ strategy and its “effectiveness” in a moment. Joe Biden fought back vigorously after Harris’ attack, one of the few moments in which Biden demonstrated a pulse on stage, and coherently rebutted Harris — convincingly or not. This touched off a fight between Biden and Harris that lasted all the way to the next debate, in which time it emerged that Harris backtracked on the necessity for federally mandated busing, ending up at Biden’s position within a week.
During that period, presidential also-ran Tulsi Gabbard released an attack ad aimed at Harris, which should have put Biden’s now-running mate on alert before the second debate. Instead, Harris got caught in nearly a full Dan Quayle mode when Gabbard shredded Harris for her attack on Biden. Watch Harris’ reaction, especially after Gabbard’s redirect:
How badly did that hurt Harris? Not long after that debate, the bottom started falling out of her polling; three weeks later, Harris had gone from top tier to nearly statistical noise, never having once threatened Joe Biden’s formidable lead in the race.
Four months later, Harris tried attacking Gabbard to reverse the damage, and ended up flopping all over again. Again, wait for Harris’ response after Gabbard blasts back, when all she could offer is “Kamala Harris for the people”:
How “incredibly effective” was that attack on Gabbard? Two weeks later, Harris withdrew from the race, polling at 3.5% to Joe Biden’s 28.7%. Gabbard stuck around three more months, only dropping out in mid-March while contending in primaries.
And what was the purpose of Harris’ attack on Biden? Harris wanted to peel black voters away from him, voters that many people would line up behind Harris at some point. How “incredibly effective” was Harris at that strategy? It utterly flopped; Harris had peaked in March before the debate at 12.3% in the RCP aggregate average, and bounced up to 15% briefly after the June debate. Biden dropped to a low of 26%, not far off of his normal polling band for the cycle (except for a big peak in April when Biden officially entered the race). Polls in that period showed Biden remaining strong with black voters:
- Economist/YouGov: Biden 46% among black voters, Harris 9%
- Quinnipiac: Biden 53%, Harris 7%
- The Hill/Harris: Biden 38%, Harris 11%
And that was when Harris was peaking in the race after the first debate. If Harris was truly “incredibly effective” as a debater, it would be Harris making a running-mate decision, not waiting by the phone pining away for a call from Biden. To suggest otherwise isn’t just in contradiction to the facts — it’s clearly an attempt to rewrite the history of the campaign to falsely boost perceptions of Harris. It’s almost literally fake news.
Does that mean Mike Pence will wipe the floor with Harris? Not necessarily, but Harris flopped against both Joe Biden and Tulsi Gabbard. I doubt the Vice President will lose any sleep tonight about facing off against Harris.