Trump's attacks on Kamala Harris haven't landed

President Trump and Kamala Harris.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

A reminder: When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) appears on the debate stage tonight, it's because she is the Democratic nominee for vice president — even though President Trump seems to wish she was the presidential nominee instead.

For a week or two in August — after Joe Biden named Harris as his running mate — it appeared the president's campaign would shift the focus of its attacks and negative advertising from Biden to Harris. Trump launched a series of racist and sexist attacks on Harris and falsely hinted that she is ineligible to serve on the ticket, while his surrogates spread word that she would be the real power in a Biden White House — Biden would be her "puppet."

It's unusual for a campaign to focus so intently on the VP candidate. But Trump relishes campaigning against minorities and women, and finds it more difficult to get his footing against consensus-oriented white guys like Biden.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"The notion of a Biden presidency simply does not provoke the visceral rage that Clinton and Obama did — not in Trump, and not in his supporters," The Atlantic's Adam Serwer noted in June.

Attacking Harris put Trump back in his political comfort zone. But it didn't work. Polls show Biden with a widening lead over the incumbent. So while Trump still lobs the occasional tweetbomb at Harris, the energy and frequency of those attacks seems to have waned.

So Harris will face Vice President Mike Pence at tonight's debate. And Trump, dragged down by a faltering economy and his mishandling of the coronavirus, will keep trying to find a winning argument for his re-election. He is running out of time.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Joel Mathis

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife and son. He spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His honors include awards for best online commentary from the Online News Association and (twice) from the City and Regional Magazine Association.