Joe Concha has an op-ed over at The Hill this week where he seeks to answer a question that Karen Townsend asks here on a regular basis. Where’s Kamala? You still see the occasional video clip of her fending off reporters or being dispatched on some presumably important business to Central America or Asia, with the occasional, uncomfortable moment where she laughs at serious questions. But aside from that, we just don’t see much of her. Concha makes the argument that none of this is happening by accident.
He first reminds us of how Harris was supposed to be a new sort of Vice President. She would be an equal partner with Joe Biden and get big things done as the nation’s historic first female Veep. Biden’s people even sent out a directive saying that the press should refer to the current White House as “the Biden-Harris administration.” The author then runs down a list of Harris’ poor past performances, such as her failure to attract any support in the presidential primary. Her record of accomplishments is “thin” (to put it charitably) but you’d think she would be showing up as the face of the Biden administration far more frequently than she is. And yet she’s pretty much been kept off the stage. According to Concha, don’t expect that to change any time soon.
All of this helps explain why Harris has been taken off the field almost completely. Last week Harris was sent to Vietnam and Singapore amid the chaos in Afghanistan. When that trip was over, she stopped off in Hawaii to visit Pearl Harbor. Any Americans who wanted to hear why Harris supported the decision to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan last spring would have to wait, because the press was blocked from the event…
Since Harris took office, she has yet to hold even one formal press conference. Not one.
It’s also been weeks since Harris sat down for a one-on-one interview. There’s a reason for that: Her handlers seem to know there’s very little upside in having her say anything unscripted on the crisis at the U.S. southern border, where the migrant numbers are at 20-year highs amid a pandemic.
If the White House thinks its strategy of keeping Harris out-of-sight, out-of-mind is working, they should think again. Because we haven’t seen vice presidential approval numbers this low so early in an administration since Dan Quayle under George H.W. Bush.
The bits of business supposedly assigned to the Veep have either been catastrophic (Border Czar) or off of everyone’s radar. (What was she doing in Vietnam while Afghanistan was going up in flames?)
The rumor mill inside the Beltway suggests that Kamala Harris’ handlers are intentionally keeping her out of the limelight. Any “unscripted moments” she has with the press could cause the Biden administration far more damage than the potential help she might deliver. And most of the time she doesn’t seem to come off as very compassionate or likable. Perhaps that’s why the press was blocked off from her when she recently stopped in Hawaii to tour Pearl Harbor. Why risk having someone try to ask her about Afghanistan when she might actually try to answer?
The most recent polling numbers we have on Kamala Harris show her significantly underwater in her approval rating at 35/54. Not to put too fine of a point on this, but Donald Trump had better numbers than that for most of his presidency, though not by a lot in some cases. But still, it’s kind of amazing to see Harris racking up numbers that poor when she’s barely been visible since the day she was sworn in.
This leaves the Democrats in a tough spot, doesn’t it? Biden’s numbers have similarly been tanking of late and there is even talk of impeachment or attempting to force a resignation. But whether he leaves early or announces that he’s only planning to finish one term, the Vice President would usually be expected to be the default nominee to replace him. But with Harris’ approval numbers and general lack of visibility, she seems unlikely to be the nominee at this point, at least in Concha’s opinion.
The Invisible Veep may turn out to be more of a problem for the Democrats in 2022 and 2024 than anyone is imagining yet at this point. And this strategy of keeping her out of the public eye doesn’t seem to be helping as much as the team thinks it is.