Kamala Harris, Booed in Iowa, Might Be Sagging in the Polls but It Would Be Hard for Biden To Drop Her

‘So now he has a problem,’ a famed Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, says.

AP/Rebecca Blackwell
Vice President Harris speaks at the Aspen Ideas: Climate conference, March 8, 2023, at Miami Beach, Florida. AP/Rebecca Blackwell

The spectacle of Vice President Harris being booed at a March Madness game in Iowa on Thursday underscored the awkwardness of the beleaguered Ms. Harris being “a heartbeat away from the presidency” with President Biden at 80 years old.

Yet few observers predict the president will drop her from the ticket in his expected run for re-election. The situation is far too delicate. Ms. Harris’s approval numbers are low, dipping to 29 percent in 2021 over her handling of the border crisis and now hovering in the low 40s.

The frosty reception Ms. Harris received on Thursday at the basketball game between her alma mater, Howard University, and the University of Kansas is case in point. When Ms. Harris appeared on the JumboTron, the crowd loudly jeered.

Democrats say it would be difficult for Mr. Biden to drop the first Black, female vice president from the ticket — no matter her shortcomings. “Symbols in American politics matter greatly,” a Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, tells the Sun. “It’d be very hard for Joe Biden to dump a Black woman from the ticket.”

Mr. Sheinkopf says Mr. Biden needs strong African American turnout to win, as he did in 2020. Dropping Ms. Harris could compromise that. He thinks Mr. Biden should have nominated Ms. Harris for the Supreme Court, killing two birds with one stone: fulfilling his promise to pick a black woman for the job and shedding the Kamala liability.

“So now he has a problem,” Mr. Sheinkopf says. “He can’t get rid of her without alienating African Americans or Black voters generally. And, on the other side, he doesn’t have a foil from the age issue, because she’s not competent carrying the argument.”

Mr. Biden’s age elevates the importance of his choice in a running mate. If he wins re-election, Mr. Biden will be 86 at the end of his second term. He is already the oldest president to serve, and concerns about possible mental decline plague him. Nearly 70 percent of registered voters say he is “too old for another term,” according to a February Yahoo News/YouGov poll.  

Speculation that Mr. Biden could — or, perhaps, should — dump Ms. Harris gained momentum when Senator Warren declined to endorse Ms. Harris for the 2024 ticket. When asked in January on Boston Public Radio if Mr. Biden should keep Ms. Harris as his running mate, particularly given his age, Ms. Warren deflected: “I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team.”  

After the interview, Ms. Warren quickly backtracked, releasing a statement saying, “I fully support the President’s and Vice President’s re-election together, and never intended to imply otherwise.”

The damage, though, was already done. Reports are that Ms. Harris was so offended she refused to pick up Ms. Warren’s phone calls. The two women reportedly mended fences at a dinner Ms. Harris hosted on Tuesday night.

Ms. Warren is not the first to articulate reservations about Ms. Harris. The vice president has struggled to define her role in the White House and to seize on an issue that can give her a win. Early in the term, the president tasked Ms. Harris with handling the crisis on the southern border — a no-win situation, given the politics.

Republicans attacked Ms. Harris for initially failing to visit the border and, as the crisis worsened, succeeded in defining her in the media as inept. Clips of the vice president giving speeches and interviews in which she stumbles with inarticulate statements that contain so many words with so little meaning haven’t helped, either.

Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” — a left-leaning program by all measures — aired a video compilation of Ms. Harris’s speeches cut with the fictional, inarticulate vice president on HBO’s political satire show, “Veep,” to drive home this point. The similarities are cringeworthy.

“When we talk about the children of the community, they are the children of the community,” Ms. Harris says in one sound bite. In another, she says, “The significance of the passage of time. So, when you think about it, there is great significance in the passage of time.”

“It’s the border issue plus her inability to articulate,” Mr. Sheinkopf says, though adds: “Being a vice president is very difficult because the tasks are not clear.”

On “The View” this week, co-host Sunny Hostin tried to defend Ms. Harris but struggled to list any of her accomplishments in office. “I’m surprised there’s concern. I think it has a lot to do with she’s a Black woman,” Ms. Hostin said.

If Mr. Biden were to drop Ms. Harris from the ticket, he would likely need to pick another Black woman to avoid criticism on the race issue. A former national security advisor, Susan Rice, or a twice-failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, are two names floated.

“I think there’s about as much chance of that happening as me winning the New York Marathon,” the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Raymond Buckley, tells the Sun.


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