Earlier in January, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris crossed the halfway point in their first term leading the country without much fanfare to observe their administration's two-year mark. It also started the clock on the second half of their time in office leading into the 2024 elections — in which President Biden still hasn't announced whether he'll seek a second term. That situation puts Vice President Harris in a tricky position, waiting to find out whether she's going to be hitting the campaign trail for Biden or for herself as a presumptive candidate should Biden step aside.
Democrats aren't necessarily confident in the latter scenario, and they weren't shy about sharing their worries about a retread of Harris' 2020 campaign when asked about 2024 by The Washington Post, although some requested anonymity to speak more "candidly" about Harris's weaknesses.
WaPo's report explains that "concerns about Harris’s political strength were repeated often by more than a dozen Democratic leaders in key states interviewed for this story" because "Harris’s tenure has been underwhelming...marked by struggles as a communicator and at times near-invisibility" leaving "many rank-and-file Democrats unpersuaded that she has the force, charisma and skill to mount a winning presidential campaign." Oof. Not exactly a vote of confidence for the VP as she considers a potential 2024 or 2028 presidential campaign or faces another campaign test as Biden's VP candidate.
So, what did these Democrats across the country say about Harris that made WaPo decide to run a veiled opposition hit on the VP's abilities?
A Democrat strategist from South Carolina said that while "every fiber in my body wants her to be president," but isn't sure "that the people who have to make that happen feel that way right now" because it's unclear Harris "has what it takes to get over the hump in our present environment."
WaPo also noted a recent interview in which Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was cagey about whether Harris should be Biden's running mate in 2024. "I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team," Warren said before later needing to do clean up and claim she actually has no hesitation about Biden and Harris running again.
The former chair of the Charleston County Democrats, Brady Quirk-Garvan, told the Post that "Democrats have changed from a 2008 sentiment, or even the feeling in 2012 and 2016, which were about voting for aspiration" and now are focused primarily on "what's going to guarantee a win, what's a certainty, what feels safe."
If a safe bet is what Democrats are looking for, there's probably not much safety in Harris given her first presidential run saw her drop out of the primary before any votes were cast. And being the Vice President doesn't give her any more of an advantage in a general election matchup in 2024 or 2028. WaPo noted that every "sitting or former vice president who has sought the Democratic nomination since 1972 has gotten it" — suggesting Harris would do better in the primary than she did in 2020 — but "Biden is the only one of those who went on to capture the White House."
Other Democrats who spoke to the Post outlined other concerns they have about Harris' basic abilities at the presidential campaign level. "Harris's critics also question her basic political skills on the national stage," the Post concluded from its conversations. "In 2016, she won her Senate seat against weak opposition, they say. In 2019, her presidential run ended before a single ballot was cast, doomed by an uneven performance on the campaign trail, weak support, faltering resources and turmoil among her advisers," WaPo explained.
Well, even after Biden rescued Harris from 2020 also-ran status to be his VP, those issues have not really gone away. Staff turnover in Harris' office continues to look like a revolving door as senior aides have come and gone during the first two years. Nor have gaffes or botched interviews grown to be less of a problem for Harris.
WaPo noted that "Harris's low profile has also been a reflection of her team's calculus — and fears — following missteps and shaky public appearances" following "an exchange with Lester Holt of NBC News in which she awkwardly downplayed the urgency of visiting the U.S.-Mexico border."
For those who've forgotten, here's how that interview went:
VP Harris: “We’ve been to the border.”— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) June 8, 2021
Holt: “YOU haven’t been to the border.”
VP Harris: “And I haven’t been to Europe.” pic.twitter.com/lEBhZzfA0u
The Post adds that Harris' interview with Holt "sparked a debate among senior members of the vice president’s team about whether such interviews hurt more than they help, Harris’s advisers said privately," meaning "Harris treated such interviews warily, arguably depriving her of a wider audience and a bigger impact" for months.