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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

June 13: 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.


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