Kamala Harris Is Said to Be Weighing an Endorsement of Joe Biden
Sen. Kamala Harris is weighing an endorsement of Joe Biden, according to multiple Democratic officials familiar with her deliberations. Such a move could lift Biden’s campaign and perhaps do even more to enhance Harris’ chances of becoming vice president, but it could also anger her liberal base in California.
An endorsement by Harris, if she wades into the primary race at all, would be unlikely to happen until after the Senate impeachment trial, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Yet she and Biden, the former vice president, have remained in contact since she exited the race and had a long conversation in the immediate aftermath of her departure.
“Senator Harris remains focused on the ongoing impeachment trial of President Trump,” said Chris Harris, a spokesman for the senator. “No decisions have been made about whether she will endorse, which candidate, nor when an endorsement decision will be made.”
Democrats close to Harris said she wanted to carefully consider the potential impact of her endorsement; was mindful that two of her female colleagues, Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, were still in the race; and was uneasy about the prospect of backing a candidate only to see him or her lose in California.
Biden has lavished praise on Harris since she departed the race, predicting she would have a wealth of political opportunities in the future. And when asked directly if he would consider her as his running mate, he said, “Of course I would.”
A Biden-Harris rapprochement would represent an extraordinary turnaround in their relationship after she so memorably confronted him on the debate stage last summer. Yet their would-be alliance is less surprising on closer inspection.
At the outset of the Democratic contest, they were collegial with each other. That was in large part because Harris served as state attorney general in California at the same time that Biden’s son Beau was attorney general of Delaware, and the two young, ambitious Democrats had bonded. (Beau Biden died in 2015.)
But Harris’ friendship with the former vice president became badly strained after the first primary debate, in June, when she criticized him for his past opposition to school busing.
Harris was trying to loosen Biden’s grip on African American primary voters, and her searing reference to her own childhood experience with integration might have been the high point of her campaign. But it came at the expense of an older, white candidate who was already fending off questions about his record on matters of race. And Biden was personally stung by her attack, his advisers said, because he considered her a friend.
Yet Harris’ surge in the polls did not last, and the two candidates never sparred again in the same way. By October, aides to both Democrats recall, they were getting along well when they ran into each other at the Des Moines, Iowa, airport before heading to Ohio for the debate there.
More significant than their personal rapport, a Harris endorsement of Biden would be politically useful for both of them.
A 55-year-old woman of African and Indian descent with law enforcement credentials, Harris was already likely to be on Biden’s shortlist, should he emerge as the nominee. Yet she could bolster her chances to be his running mate if she backed his campaign at a critical time, particularly if he did not win in either Iowa or New Hampshire next month and needed a boost in Nevada and South Carolina. And even if she is not chosen for vice president, she would be a leading contender for a Cabinet post, such as attorney general.
For Biden, who is working to consolidate support from Democratic leaders as Sen. Bernie Sanders’ progressive candidacy gains strength, an endorsement from Harris would signal that party leaders were rallying behind his candidacy and offer him a well-known surrogate to stump on his behalf as the race goes on.
The risk for Harris would be if she were to get behind Biden only to see him lose in California, which votes March 3 as part of Super Tuesday. A survey of the state’s Democratic voters, conducted this month by the Public Policy Institute of California, found that Biden was in second place to Sanders, of Vermont. But the poll highlighted the strength of the progressive bloc in the state: Sanders and Warren combined were capturing 50% of the vote.
Rose Kapolczynski, a longtime Democratic strategist in California, said Harris would not damage her prospects for reelection in 2022 by backing Biden. But if Democrats were to lose the presidency this fall, supporting him could shape how she was perceived by the left, were she to run again for president four years from now.
“It just depends on where she wants to go,” Kapolczynski said. “Is she interested in vice president or a Cabinet position? Or is she looking ahead to another campaign and how she’ll be positioned then?”
Bill Carrick, another California consultant and an adviser to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also said it would be unlikely that voters in the state would “make a judgment about the Senate race next time out based on whom she endorsed in the presidential race.” But Carrick added that Biden’s multiracial coalition overlapped with Harris’ own core base of support and that it would be logical for her to side with him.
“She’s going to have a lot of people allied with her who will be for Joe,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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