WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris was featured prominently in a video President Biden used Tuesday to announce his 2024 campaign, a strong signal that she will be a part of his re-election bid core part.
Somehow, both her harshest critics and her staunchest allies see it as a good thing.
To her supporters, Ms. Harris, 58, represents a broad swath of the American electorate that Mr. Biden does not: She is a woman, she is of mixed race, and she is decades younger than the 80-year-old president, who Will be 86 years old at the end of the second term. She is seen as the government’s most visible advocate on issues including voting rights, abortion rights and the fight against climate change.
But her critics — both Republicans and Democrats — say she is unprepared for the scrutiny she will surely receive as she positions herself as a potential heir to the Biden presidency. Some think the issues in her portfolio won’t appeal to the independent and moderate voters who tend to decide the presidential election.
“Swing voters wake up and say, ‘Boy, is Kamala Harris going to impress me?'” said Mike Murphy, a political strategist who was a longtime adviser to Republican senator and presidential candidate John McCain.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are still betting that the case they are making to the United States — that their government represents the protection of civil liberties and a return to stable governance — will have broad appeal. Hours after Biden announced his re-election bid on Tuesday, Ms. Harris attended events designed to showcase her image as an emissary for the president while also showing their different roles on the campaign trail.
She appeared Tuesday afternoon at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who is in Washington this week for a state visit. There, the two pushed for a joint project between the South Korean and U.S. governments and said they would work together to monitor the threat of climate change.
Later in the evening, the vice president previewed his fiery and polished campaign style as he attended an event promoting abortion rights, an issue that is likely to define the 2024 race and around which Republicans are struggling to build a unified platform.
Her first night on the road visited Howard University, a historically black university and her alma mater, for a rally co-hosted by Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Howard’s students chanted “four more years” and gave Ms Harris a standing ovation as she took the stage.
“I do believe that we are living in a moment where our hard-won freedoms are under attack,” Ms Harris said. “This is our moment to stand up and fight.”
She criticized the Supreme Court for stripping “American women” of their constitutional rights and blasted “extremist” Republicans across the country for passing restrictive abortion laws, including those banning abortion in cases of rape and incest — “Obviously, the Great Most of them they don’t even know how a woman’s body works,” she once commented.
“It’s immoral, outrageous that people who have the audacity to walk around expecting you to respect them and elect them would do these things to other people, taking away their right to dignity and autonomy,” Ms Harris said.
The increase in Ms. Harris’ appearances means more opportunities for conservative outlets such as Fox News to scrutinize everything from the substance of her remarks to her body language, a practice that allies of the vice president say are rooted in sexism and race doctrine.
Some conservative critics have sought to make the case that a vote for Mr. Biden is, in effect, a vote for President Harris. A campaign ad released by the Republican National Committee on Tuesday juxtaposed images of the president and vice president with artificially generated doomsday scenarios.
“Republicans are definitely going to focus on her as much as they can because they see her as more vulnerable and less popular,” said Tim Miller, a political strategist and communications director for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. (Tim Miller) said in an interview. But like Mr. Biden, Ms. Harris has low approval ratings: A recent poll found that 36 percent of Americans think she is doing a good job.
“I think she’s going to play a bigger role in another situation than another vice president,” Mr. Miller added.
Ms. Harris entered the Biden administration with an uncertain portfolio and stepped into one of the trickiest roles in American politics. For the past two years, she has struggled to build her legacy amid frequent staff turnover and difficult tasks, including addressing the root causes of immigration to the United States from Central America. In the first months of his presidency, Mr. Biden called her “a work in progress,” according to Chris Whipple, who wrote a book on Biden’s presidency.
Several current and former aides said she began to find her footing when she asked to be the leader on voting rights in the administration — but remains a leader on the issue as legislative efforts to expand voting rights fizzled in Congress. public figure.
In recent months, she has become an advocate for police reform and a standard-bearer for the administration of abortion rights since Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion and was overturned by the Supreme Court last summer.
Ms. Harris has also traveled in recent weeks to help push Mr. Biden’s call for stricter gun control measures amid a spate of mass shootings. In early April, she traveled to Nashville at the last minute to meet with state representatives Justin J. Pearson and Justin Jones, two Democrats who were arrested for protesting gun control in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Fired and later reinstated. She also met with the president this week in Washington with two black lawmakers.
“There’s an agenda at play,” Ms Harris said in Howard. “They even went so far that they had to turn off the microphones on two young elected leaders in Nashville because they couldn’t even stand it. They couldn’t even stand it. These people who wanted to call themselves leaders.”
Supporters of Ms. Harris say they see huge potential for the vice president to boost her reputation and further define her legacy as the campaign season approaches. California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, who visited Ms Harris in Washington last week, said the vice president had grown into her role. She added that Harris was able to demonstrate more skills on the campaign trail this time than in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
“Especially for the young climate activist leaders in the room, especially for people of color, she was an inspirational champion,” Ms. Kunalakis said. “Connecting with real people on the campaign trail came very naturally to her and is where she really thrived.”