Kamala Harris's shadow campaign for VP

In public, Harris has repeatedly insisted that she’s not talking about or thinking about her prospects of being picked. But judging from my conversations with people around Harris, she and her team use her prospects to book events and television hits that aim to show she’s neither overeager nor overambitious. She and her team are avoiding situations that could create stumbles. They’re hoping that her résumé, her background, and the force of her personality propel her. They’re picking specific moments for her to grab attention on the Senate floor or send a calibrated tweet. They’re tuning out political reporters who are stuck on their couches, looking to drum up content during the pandemic. They’re trying to ease concerns in Biden’s orbit that if she’s picked and they win, she’ll start running for president the morning after the inauguration. They want her on the ticket, and positioned to be the Democratic nominee in 2024.

“She’s literally the antidote,” says Stockton, California, Mayor Michael Tubbs, who endorsed Michael Bloomberg in the presidential race a few weeks after Harris dropped out. “She’s the opposite of Trump. She’s someone who believes in the rule of law; she’s not afraid to confront bullies. She’s not afraid to speak to where we need to be.”…

But Harris is leaving questions unanswered about what she’d actually aim to do as vice president or why she wants the job. This is typical. With those who know her, she can be thoughtful, funny, engaging, and pragmatic, with little patience for grand theories of governance. She’s focused on what will make a real difference in people’s lives. But the version of Harris the public knows often comes off scripted and indirect, appearing mostly in sound bites and viral videos. Her instinct to parry rather than expound helps her avoid awkward questions, such as during a segment on The View earlier this month, when Meghan McCain asked her if she was in favor of defunding the police. Instead of answering directly, Harris asked what McCain meant, and McCain eventually admitted that she didn’t know herself. Harris successfully avoided taking a potentially controversial position. But she also reinforced her preexisting reputation for evasiveness: I heard from several high-level Democratic operatives that the exchange reminded them of Harris’s habit of dodging critical questions during her presidential campaign.