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Hakeem Jeffries Weighs In on the Kamala Harris Problem

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

It's no secret that Democrats have a problem with Vice President Kamala Harris. Despite her low approval ratings, President Joe Biden has still kept her on as his running mate for 2024, though there are questions about whether or not Biden will even remain on the ballot. Late last week, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was speaking with CNN's Anderson Cooper during which she was asked about Harris. Her answer did not inspire confidence, when she was asked about whether Harris is the best running mate. As Pelosi answered, Biden "thinks so" is "what matters."

On Sunday's edition of "This Week," it was House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries' (D-NY) turn. The question about Harris from host Jonathan Karl came at the end of the interview, after Jeffries had not only praised the Biden administration, but also lambasted House Republicans. This even included speaking about "a civil war" as the House to avoid a government shutdown.

"Let’s be clear, House Republicans are in the middle of a civil war. A civil war has the following attributes, chaos, dysfunction and extremism," Jeffries claimed. "The House Republican civil war is hurting hardworking American taxpayers and limiting our ability to be able to solve problems on their behalf. It’s unfortunate, but as House Democrats we’re going to continue to try to find common ground with the other side of the aisle, to work with Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans and President Biden."

As part of the concluding topic, the segment played a clip between Cooper and Pelosi, with Karl asking Jeffries "but why couldn’t she directly answer the question about whether or not Kamala Harris is the best running mate for Joe Biden?"

Jeffries stuck up for both the former speaker and the vice president. "Far be it for me to ever speak for Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi, the greatest speaker of all time. She’s very capable of answering that question on her own," he began with. "I will say that Vice President Harris has been a great vice president. She’ll be a great running mate. She’s been a tremendous partner in the things that President Biden has been able to accomplish, which has been phenomenal," he continued. He later went on to refer to her as "a tremendous partner" to Biden.

What followed was Jeffries singing the supposed successes of the administration, just as so many other supporters of this administration have done when confronted with uncomfortable truths. "Not just rescuing the economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fixing our crumbling infrastructure, clean water in every single community, bringing domestic manufacturing jobs back home to the United States of America through the Chips and Science Act, standing up for our veterans, gun safety legislation for the first time in 30 years, and, of course, capping the price of insulin at $35 per month for millions of Americans," he said about Harris.

His remarks also had the effect of highlighting all that Harris has been assigned to do. While Jeffries mentioned a myriad of issues, what went unmentioned was how Harris had been designated as the border czar in March of 2021.

The crisis at the border is certainly not an area where the Biden administration has succeeded. According to RealClearPolitcs (RCP), the president has just a 33.7 percent approval rating on the immigration issue, while 62.7 percent disapprove. Further, the amount of families crossing the border illegally reached an all time high in August. Harris was supposed to be examining the root cause, yet people still keep coming.

As mentioned above, the vice president is overall not faring well. RCP has her at a 40.8 percent approval rating, while 56.5 percent disapprove. Her  favorable ratings are even worse, with just 37 percent having a favorable view of her and 54.9 percent having an unfavorable view. 

A particularly heavy blow came in the form of a recent poll from The Economist/YouGov earlier this month. That poll, conducted September 10-12, showed her with a 39 percent favorable rating among registered voters, while 57 percent have an unfavorable view of the vice president. This includes a strong plurality, at 45 percent, who have a "very unfavorable" rating.

And the excuses aren't any better . When Harris had been confronted in late July about her historically low approval ratings, she countered that "there are polls that also say I have great approval ratings," even though we found this isn't actually the case. An NBC News poll from June showed that 49 percent of voters had a negative view of Harris, while just 32 percent had a positive view of her, making her the least popular vice president since NBC began polling people on that issue. 

When it comes to Jeffries remarks, it looks like he was trying to offer something to both Pelosi and Harris on this one. Even if Harris is the vice president, it's clear that Pelosi still is a figurehead within the party. Earlier this month, Pelosi announced she is actually running for reelection, despite currently being 83-years-old.

Pelosi had also made some telling points about the role of the vice president overall as well in her exchange with Cooper. When the host had again pressed her with "do you think she is the best running mate though," Pelosi elaborated with another less than flattering response.

"She is the vice president of the United States. Some people say to me, well, why isn't she doing this or that? I say, because she's the vice president. That's the job description," Pelosi said about Harris. "You don't do that much, you know. You're a source of strength, inspiration, intellectual resource, and the rest and you--and she--I think she's represented our country very well at home and abroad."

This highlights another predicament, for Harris especially. There isn't much for her to actually do, which is perhaps why she's tossed so many assignments, to make it look like she's at least doing something

But Harris isn't even the only issue with a Biden-Harris ticket for 2024. The chatter has really been picking up about whether or not Biden will run for reelection, given that multiple polls reveal even fellow Democrats have concerns with Biden's age and mental capabilities.

One of the more recent calls for Biden to not run earning considerable attention has come from The Washington Post's David Ignatius, as Matt highlighted.

Even if Biden were not to run, though, there's no guarantee that Harris would be the obvious replacement. Last week, The Hill's Niall Stanage put out "Five Democratic alternatives if President Biden exits the 2024 race. While Harris was mentioned as "the obvious heir apparent to Biden as an incumbent vice president more than two decades his junior," she wasn't the only one on the list. "It’s certainly possible Harris would become the Democratic nominee if Biden left the field, but it would not be an automatic coronation by any means," Stanage also wrote. 

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) has been perhaps the Democrat most vocal in calling for a primary challenge. He was asked about Harris last month during his appearance on "Face the Nation," but gave something of an all over the place response that involved speaking to the "competition" of a Democratic primary for 2024.

Just as there's been increased chatter that Biden won't actually run for reelection, so is there a conversation to be had about how Harris won't be the running mate. As Matt covered last week, POLITICO put out a piece highlighting how several columnists think Biden should pick someone else to improve his chances. Embarrassingly enough, the DNC had promoted a separate POLITICO profile piece of the vice president from last month highlighting concerns with Harris' image, though they shared some rather selective excerpts.

Others have tied Biden and Harris together. Last month, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) put out an op-ed in Fox News speculating that Biden wasn't running for reelection because we weren't seeing much of Harris. 


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