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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

If Biden Somehow “Stands Aside,” Harris Will Stand Up

I have no authority to shut down idle pundit speculation about something weird happening at the Democratic National Convention in August (or even later in the election cycle), but would prefer a little deference to reality, as I noted at New York:

One of the more tedious phenomena of this election year has been the chronic pundit talk of Joe Biden “stepping aside” as presidential nominee and Democrats replacing him with Gretchen Whitmer or Gavin Newsom or some other sort of fantasy candidate. One of many reasons this scenario made little sense is that should something happen to convince the president to abruptly end his reelection campaign, he’s already chosen a stand-in who is very close by: his vice-president, Kamala Harris.

Obviously, anyone willing to overlook Biden’s clear determination to stick it out this year can imagine Harris “stepping aside” — or being shoved aside — as well. But there’s really no evidence that the Democrats who would make this decision (the Biden-Harris loyalists who serve as convention delegates or on the Democratic National Committee) feel this way at all. And now there’s evidence that rank-and-file Democrats have the veep’s back.

While a new Politico–Morning Consult poll with data about Harris shows that she shares her boss’s general election vulnerability, Democrats remain bullish on her. Seventy-four percent think she’d make a good president. By a 59 percent to 31 percent margin, they think she could win a 2024 general election. She’s stronger than Biden among the Black and Latino voters that have been stressing Democrats in recent years. And in terms of early 2028 preferences among Democrats, she’s far ahead of the competition (Harris is at 41 percent; Pete Buttigieg is at 15 percent; Newsom is at 14 percent; Whitmer is at 5 percent). Harris is already the principal voice of her administration and her party on the GOP threat to abortion rights, which will very likely become a more prominent issue as November approaches. She’s not going anywhere.

None of this means that Democrats would want Harris to replace Biden, or that they might not harbor fears about Harris facing Trump. Bigots would definitely be mobilized by the prospect of a half-Black, half–Asian American woman (and one with a Jewish husband!) in the White House. But the idea that Democrats are ready to abandon her or Biden simply has no basis in verifiable fact.

If, for some unforeseeable reason, Biden is incapacitated or decides to pack it in before November, Kamala Harris, for better or for worse, will be the Democratic candidate, period, full stop. Barring any clear evidence to the contrary, it’s time to forget about the fantasy tickets.


3 comments on “If Biden Somehow “Stands Aside,” Harris Will Stand Up

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Senator Harris failed as a Presidential candidate in 2020. She dropped out even before the Iowa caucus. She failed spectacularly as Biden’s “border czar.” Then, she bizarrely claimed that “The border is secure” when it obviously was not. Her public speeches are famous for her incoherent, word-salad comments. Where a majority of Democrats agree that she would win as a Presidential nominee, the independents think, by a 2-1 majority, that she would lose. Yet, the Democrats have no choice but to keep her on the ticket or even nominate her for President if Biden is unable or chooses not to serve. To replace her either as a Vice-Presidential nominee or Presidential would be an admission that she was a poor choice in the first place. It would inevitably attract accusations of racial prejudice, however bogus. The Democrats are stuck with her, for good or ill.

    • Victor on

      The problem with Harris is not that she can’t be replaced. Barack and Bernie showed that a good candidate with good messaging can thwart a coronation.

      The problem is identity politics inside the Democratic party has become so strong (in part due to Hillary using it against Bernie) that the vast majority of Democratic establishment politicians (which are like 90% of Democratic politicians, if not more) will close ranks with Harris unless a really exceptional candidate comes up.

      Most good candidates to replace Harris don’t have Barack or Bernie’s guts.

      • Martin Lawford on

        Victor, there is ample evidence that Hillary Clinton used identity politics against Sen. Sanders. It helped her win the 2016 nomination. Yet, her identity politics attack on Trump’s supporters, her inflammatory “basket of deplorables–racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic…irredeemable…not American…” remarks were an embarrassing moment in her campaign. Even Barack Obama, the most successful identity politician in decades, regretted his “bitter clingers” description of small town Pennsylvania voters. Now our nominee is a white politician who tells black voters that their racial authenticity depends on whether or not they vote for him. Identity politics may be necessary to advance in the Democratic Party but it can tempt a pol into making a frightful gaffe.


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