NYT: Even Democrat allies have given up on Kamala

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Alternate headline: Real-life version of Veep has run out of steam — even among its producers. When the New York Times reports that even Democrats have “lost hope” in Kamala Harris, the bottom has truly fallen out of the party’s progressive-succession strategy.


Or as Harris herself might put it: They are confident that confidence in Joe Biden’s most confident decision to put his confidence in Harris as his political confidante turned out to be a confidence game.

And now “a quiet panic” has settled into the party if, God forbid, Biden has to bow out in 2024:

But the painful reality for Ms. Harris is that in private conversations over the last few months, dozens of Democrats in the White House, on Capitol Hill and around the nation — including some who helped put her on the party’s 2020 ticket — said she had not risen to the challenge of proving herself as a future leader of the party, much less the country. Even some Democrats whom her own advisers referred reporters to for supportive quotes confided privately that they had lost hope in her.

Through much of the fall, a quiet panic set in among key Democrats about what would happen if President Biden opted not to run for a second term. Most Democrats interviewed, who insisted on anonymity to avoid alienating the White House, said flatly that they did not think Ms. Harris could win the presidency in 2024. Some said the party’s biggest challenge would be finding a way to sideline her without inflaming key Democratic constituencies that would take offense.

Even if Biden does run again, however, party leaders now worry about the drag on the ticket that Harris and her word-salad fumbling could create:

Now with Mr. Biden appearing all but certain to run again, the concern over Ms. Harris has shifted to whether she will be a political liability for the ticket. Given that Mr. Biden at 80 is already the oldest president in American history, Republicans would most likely make Ms. Harris, who is 58, a prime attack line, arguing that a vote for Mr. Biden may in fact be a vote to put her in the Oval Office.


Well … yeah. This came up in the 2020 cycle too, and for good reason. At 78, Biden was frail enough, and the last two years have given people no good reason to trust he’ll make it through one term, let alone two. The choice of running mate always matters in the one-heartbeat-away sense, but it’s even more important when nominating an 82-year-old who’s only barely more coherent than Harris.

That isn’t a case of “Republicans pounce!®” It’s a legit question of potential succession for a president who would be in office from the ages of 82-86 and whose mental acuity may already be fading.

So what does this NYT report mean? It’s clear that some Democrats want her off the ticket badly enough to tell the NYT about it, even if they’re not brave enough yet to go on the record. That in itself is a warning shot, and the Times isn’t terribly kind in delivering it — although they bookend this with blather about Harris’ historic role, the difficulties of the job, etc etc etc. But how can they get her off of the 2024 ticket if Biden  runs? That sets up a number of problems in a cycle where Democrats will face headwinds already.

One: Biden chose Harris specifically for her “historic” value as a woman of color, largely to reward black women who rallied to his campaign in South Carolina and elsewhere, which saved his primary bid. If Biden runs again and wants to dump Harris, he’d have to find another woman of color to satisfy that constituency. Otherwise, they will be a lot less enthusiastic in turning out in 2024. And if Biden does that, the cynical nature of those checkbox choices will likely result in significantly less support anyway.


Two: The last incumbent president to make a VP switch in an election was FDR, who was forced to drop Henry Wallace for his fourth bid when Wallace turned out to be a Soviet sympathizer. Such a move is an inherent admission of failure in the first and most important decision a president has made. It also guarantees an internecine fight between the incumbent and his dumpee’s political support, dividing a party at just the time they need to come together. If Republicans run Donald Trump, that might be enough to gloss over such a rift, but if the GOP nominates anyone else, it’s almost certainly going to be fatal.

Three: Who would Biden pick in Harris’ place? The party will want someone who has a credible claim to the presidency, especially with a nominee that’s already 82 and fumbling. That leaves them with a fairly small class of candidates anyway, and even smaller when one considers who would want to be stuck with the stain of Biden as Republican investigations proceed. If Biden sticks with a woman of color, that leaves him with choices from the House, now and past — maybe Val Demings, whom he should have selected the first time, or Karen Bass, also on the 2020 short list. If they’re really looking at 2028, then the party will likely want someone from its gubernatorial ranks — Gavin Newsom clearly wants the job, or Kathy Hochul, Gretchen Whitmer, or maybe Laura Kelly from Nebraska, although she’s already 73. That will either produce a food fight of enormous proportions — see Question Two — or a widespread refusal to hitch wagons to Biden’s aphasiac star, which would create an even greater sense of desperation.


The best option for Democrats is the War Games option — not to play. If Biden retires, then Harris would have to compete for the nomination. As everyone except Joe Biden learned in 2019, Harris can’t survive long at all in any competitive environment. Open up the field, and Harris will fade quickly. The party can then hope to nominate a younger and more competent candidate and cross their fingers that the GOP puts Trump back on the ticket again.

First, though, they have to get Biden to retire. That might be the real problem — and the NYT may be dancing around it.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos