The uncertainty raised questions about Vice President Kamala Harris. Since, typically, the vice president is viewed as a successor to the president, observers wondered whether Harris was a viable replacement for Biden in the event he chose not to run.
Now, however, as Biden appears all but sure to run for reelection, the uncertainty around Kamala Harris has shifted; the question now is not whether she is a viable replacement to Biden – but whether Harris will be a liability on the ticket with Biden.
Biden’s age makes VP pick important
In any election, whoever is on the ticket, the premise is floated that the VP may have to one day assume the responsibilities of the presidency. The question is often asked: is this VP up to the task? Well, that question is especially relevant in the 2024 election.
Why? Biden is 80 years old – already the oldest person to ever serve as president. If Biden wins reelection, his second term will take him through his 86th birthday.
Since the U.S. life expectancy for males is around 77 years old, one can reasonably wonder whether Biden will live through a second term. And when you’ve got a president who has already exceeded the U.S. life expectancy, your vice-presidential pick becomes more relevant than ever.
So, are voters comfortable with the idea of Harris serving beneath an octogenarian, always a heartbeat away from becoming president herself? Mostly no. And reservations about Harris may become a political liability for Democrats.
Republicans will target Kamala Harris
If Harris is on the 2024 ticket, she could indeed be a political liability for Biden.
“Republicans would most likely make Ms. Harris, who is 58, a prime attack line, arguing that a vote for Mr. Biden may in fact be a vote to put her in the Oval Office,” The New York Times reported.
“That will be in my opinion one of the most hard-hitting arguments against Biden,” John Morgan, an important Democratic fundraiser, said. “It doesn’t take a genius to say, ‘Look, with his age, we have to really think about this’… I can’t think of one thing she’s done except stay out of the way and stand beside him at certain ceremonies.”
Why is Harris such a liability? Because she is deeply unpopular. Harris’s approval rating is stuck around 39 percent – lower even than Biden’s, who has been enjoying a 42 percent approval rating. It’s not a fluke either; Harris’s unpopularity is nothing new.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Harris’s campaign was stuck in single digits. Harris actually bowed out of the race quite early, in December 2019, once fundraising dried up. Harris left the race before lower-tier candidates like Marriane Williamson and Julian Castro – despite Harris entering the race with so much buzz. Ultimately, Harris just ran a bad campaign, suggesting that Harris is bad at politics – a suggestion that has been reinforced during Harris’s time in the vice presidency.
Can Biden replace Harris?
Replacing Harris would be extremely dicey. Defenders of Harris are in the habit of framing criticisms against Harris as misogyny and/or racism. So, if Harris were removed from the ticket, the Biden administration would have to fend off charges of misogyny and/or racism from within its own party – that could be a political liability, too.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.