Is Kamala Harris an asset or liability for Democrats in 2024?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

Kamala Harris
(Image credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are gearing up for a likely run for re-election in 2024. Harris has dismissed speculation about whether she or Biden might bow out, telling NBC News that "Joe Biden ... has said he intends to run for re-election as president and I intend to run with him as vice president of the United States." But not everyone thinks she should be on the Democrats' ticket. A Rasmussen poll last month found that 39 percent of likely voters didn't want Harris to be Biden's running mate.

Harris has ardent supporters and harsh critics, even within her own party. She came to the job with experience as California's attorney general and senator, and, as The New York Times noted, "has already made history as the first woman, the first African American, and the first Asian American ever to serve as vice president." Still, the Times said, Harris has "struggled to define her role much beyond that legacy." She has emerged as a strong voice for women on abortion rights, and made a high-profile visit to show U.S. support for Ukraine last year just before Russia invaded. But conservative critics say she has failed to deliver as the administration's point person on immigration. Do Harris' detractors have a point?

Harris isn't getting enough credit

The criticism of Kamala Harris "is unrelated to her performance as vice president and fails to account for the role she plays in the White House," said longtime Democratic operative Donna Brazile in The New York Times. She "occupies an office that can be the butt of jokes and criticism," and, as a Black woman, gets "underestimated, over-scrutinized, and unfairly criticized." She has done "an outstanding job" and compiled a record that stands up well against any of her predecessors.

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"Harris has met (mostly in person) with more than 100 world leaders to repair damage to our international relationships caused by Donald Trump." She announced in Munich last month that "the Biden administration has formally concluded that Russia is guilty of 'crimes against humanity' in its war against Ukraine and warned China not to assist Russia in its invasion." She helped raise $4.2 billion to "address the root cause of migration from Central America." She also has pushed voting rights legislation and expanding child tax credits, and getting people vaccinated against COVID. "Has she solved every problem? No, but name me one vice president who has."

Harris is a liability for Democrats

Harris has been "mediocre" enough to earn "a reputation as one of the least consequential vice presidents in modern history," said syndicated columnist Carl Golden in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Her rambling and often incoherent responses to media questions, breaking into giggles at inopportune moments, and her frequent inability to grasp the essence of complex issues have eroded confidence in her capability to sit at the pinnacle of global power."

But the only thing worse for Democrats than having her on their 2024 ticket might be trying to replace her. "No matter the pains taken to act with the utmost delicacy, any move to bypass Harris either as a presidential candidate or as a successor to the office will produce a firestorm of criticism and accusations of gender and ethnic bias."

Critics are exaggerating Harris' faults

There's no denying that Harris' "time spent within a heartbeat of the presidency has not gone as well as Harris might have hoped," said Alex Shephard in The New Republic. She's trapped in a job defined by the limitations of being second fiddle. "Her policy portfolio is small, she seems to rarely be involved in important decisions, and is often shunted off to insignificant, ribbon-cutting events."

Democrats have been "tying themselves into knots," and fretting about Harris and her political acumen" ever since she took office. But she probably isn't "as bad a potential nominee as many presume." Voters hold her "in roughly equal estimation to Biden: Her approval number (about 40 percent) is slightly lower than the president's, but her disapproval number (about 52 percent) is as well."

Biden should show Harris has his full support

"Harris' bad press isn't a result of attacks from opponents," said Francis Wilkinson in Bloomberg. "It's a result of a lack of confidence among allies." A lot of the flack just comes with this "rotten job." Her main duty as vice president "until now has been sticking around Washington to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate. It's as mundane as it is essential," but nobody, including Biden, seems to give her much credit for it. Biden also has made her his "point person on the southern border," which "is an even more thankless task." It makes her an easy target for demagogues who are calling her a failure because she hasn't solved a problem only Congress has the power to "fix."

Harris has risen through the Democratic ranks in California, winning "big statewide races." She "ably grilled former Attorney General William Barr among other slippery witnesses" when she was in the Senate. She "isn't untalented." Biden should be doing more to "convince first Democrats, then the wider electorate, that his vice president is prepared for the top job" if something should happen to him. "Biden selected Harris in the first place because he needed the qualities that she brought to the ticket. He still does."

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