It is clear that Biden has no plans for now to remove Harris from the ticket, but would that change if his approval ratings drop low enough?
That is not likely at the moment — Democrats will probably coalesce around the president in the wake of his announcement, and that consolidation of support should bump up his approval ratings.
Biden has remained in the low 40s in approval ratings for months. He still sits at a 42% average, according to polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight, and his disapproval average of 52.8% puts Biden dangerously under water. However, if he can build support following his announcement and avoid his usual goofs and foibles during communication efforts with voters, he could bring some independents to his side.
They Are Liked Overseas for the Most Part
Both Biden and Harris recently returned from mostly successful overseas trips. Biden was greeted with enthusiastic crowds in Ireland, and his VP visited three African countries where people were happy to see her.
Kamala Harris has eased into a role that may fit her interests and talents. She is taking the lead on abortion and gun control. This was on display during a Los Angeles appearance on the Jennifer Hudson talk show where she lamented that conservatives were robbing women of their right to have an abortion. She also castigated gun owners for using assault weapons which she said should be for military use only.
Perhaps Harris can build on this type of focused communication and avoid her habits of repetitive, nonsensical rhetoric that ends up as “word salad” according to her critics.
She has of late only faced softball questions in front of friendly audiences. But Harris has struggled in previous sit-down interviews and panels that feature more pointed questions and complicated subject matter that is not in her comfort zone. The Biden administration thus believes that her talking points should now be focused on abortion and gun control. These are two issues that Democrats will pound Republicans on in the future, while the president harps on protecting Social Security and the need for expanded health care. Thus, the two can be a tag team on hot-button issues that they believe are winning priorities with Democrats and moderates.
Kamala Harris is safe for now, as the White House should be pleased with her latest performances. Biden also wants to lock in the votes of women and minorities, and his VP is Indian- and Jamaican-American. Removing her from the ticket would upset key voting blocs that must turn out in force for Biden to be re-elected.
Plus, there is no Democrat that would be able to quickly replace her without a learning curve. Pete Buttigieg has absorbed substantial criticism in the press for his perceived weak showings while leading the Department of Transportation. That leaves California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has repeatedly said he will not challenge Biden in the primary.
The announcement video ended with a Biden-Harris logo, so the campaign is featuring her as an important cog in the re-election machine. While the video had no footage of Biden and Harris holding their arms up high in triumph, it had several portrayals of the pair walking together, grinning and laughing enthusiastically. If Harris is going away, you wouldn’t know it from the video.
Kamala Harris has struggled and embarrassed herself at times, but Biden has no immediate plans to replace her. He is the ultimate decider, and the president appears satisfied with her latest performances. Whether it is speaking on the stump to people in Africa or fighting the culture wars on daytime and late night television, Biden hopes she will build on her latest performances. She won’t be replaced any time soon.
Author Expertise and Experience
Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.