Former Vice President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he is tapping his former Democratic primary opponent Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his vice presidential nominee, ending months of speculation surrounding the first ever female-exclusive VP selection process.
“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked Kamala Harris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden tweeted.
A former career prosecutor, Harris served as San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011 and California attorney general from 2011 to 2017, before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.
Harris quickly drew headlines for her tough lines of questioning towards Trump administration nominees and officials, such as her 2017 grilling of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his frequent claims that he couldn’t recall details of his discussions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
Harris launched her campaign in January and was instantly cast as a leading contender for the nomination, but failed to garner broad, lasting support for her bid–including among black voters–particularly sustaining damage for stumbling over her position on Medicare-for-All.
Harris’s most notable moment and largest polling bump of the campaign came when she clashed with Biden at a Democratic primary debate over his record on busing in the 1970s and his “hurtful” anecdotes about rosy relationships with segregationist senators, with Harris accusing him of opposing busing and Biden calling it a “mischaracterization” of his positions and hitting Harris’s record as a prosecutor.
But after dropping out in December and endorsing Biden in March, Harris’s public relationship with Biden rapidly improved, with Harris frequently and effusively headlining fundraising events for Biden and brushing off concerns about their clash over busing.
“Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau. I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse,” Biden said of Harris, adding, “I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.”
Harris praised Biden as someone who can “unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us,” adding, “I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.”
The Trump campaign released an ad and statement claiming Harris “ran for president by rushing to the radical left” and slammed her for joining Biden’s ticket after attacking him during the primary, labelling her “Phony Kamala.”
Some on the left took aim at Biden’s pick as well; Briahna Joy Gray, a former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)’s 2020 presidential campaign, slammed the Democratic party for running a “a ‘top cop’ and the author of the Joe Biden crime bill to save us from Trump” amid protests against police violence, asserting that it shows “contempt for the base.”
But progressive politicians, including those who ran against Harris for president and vice president, lauded the pick; Sanders tweeted that Harris “understands what it takes to stand up for working people,” and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) called Harris a “great choice” because of her “tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people.”
More establishment Democratic politicians were likewise highly supportive of the pick, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying that Harris will “continue her legacy of trailblazing leadership to move our nation forward,” as vice president, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeting that Harris has been “an outstanding Senator and will be an outstanding Vice President!”
Former President Barack Obama tweeted, “I’ve known Senator Kamala Harris for a long time. She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing.”
Harris and Biden are slated to deliver joint remarks on Wednesday in Wilmington, DE, focused on “working together to restore the soul of the nation and fight for working families to move the country forward.”
“You can’t be successful at the highest levels of national politics for 40 years like he has without the rapid ability to turn yesterday’s rivals into today’s allies,” Harris’s former press secretary Ian Sams said of Biden in June.
Biden pledged to pick a woman in March, and his rumored shortlist included governors, members of congress and even mayors and state legislators. He also faced pressure to pick a woman of color like Harris, especially in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, which ignited a national debate over race and policing. But Biden frequently said his top criteria for a running mate were that they were “simpatico with me, both in terms of personality as well as substance,” and had the ability to govern if Biden, 78, were unable to perform the duties of president.
Kamala Harris and her husband, attorney Doug Emhoff, had a fortune of $6 million as of August, 2019, according to Forbes reporter Michela Tindera. The bulk of the money comes from Emhoff’s legal work and profits from several books authored by Harris.
Despite advocating firmly progressive positions during her presidential campaign like universal government health care, a $15 minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and debt-free college, the left took aim at Harris most sharply for her tenure as California attorney general. She was slammed by left-wing activists for contemporaneously calling herself the state’s “top cop,” with “Kamala is a cop” becoming a viral meme that would come to broadly define the leftist opposition to her candidacy.
32%. A Politico/Morning Consult poll of 1,992 registered voters pegged Harris at 32% favorability and 34% unfavorability. While she is well known with voters, she lacks universal name recognition, with 1 in 5 voters saying they have never heard of her and another 14% saying they have no opinion. But in the end, Harris may not have an outsized impact on the outcome in November; 54% of registered voters said Biden’s VP pick wouldn’t impact how they vote in November, while 16% said it would have a major impact and 20% said it would have a minor impact.
Harris is the first woman of color to run for either president or vice president on a major party ticket. Her election as vice president would make her the first Black American to serve in the role and the first woman or Indian-American to serve as either president or vice president.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Trump campaign will doubtless use Harris’s confrontation with Biden over busing against the Democratic ticket, but Harris brings with her numerous advantages as well. Her experience as a large state attorney general and U.S. senator make it difficult to argue against her qualifications for the job, and having run for president before, she rejoins the campaign trail intimately familiar with the scrutiny and spotlight of the national political stage. In that respect, Harris may be what many have described as the “do no harm” candidate, providing modest benefits to Biden with limited risk.
-Andrew Solender, Forbes Staff
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