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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

If Not Biden, Then Harris

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance on Thursday, there has been off-the-record talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket.  Some Democrats have gone on the record.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Leigh Ann Caldwell and Nicole Markus at WP:
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is signaling to members that Harris would be the best option to lead the ticket if Biden chooses to step aside, said two people familiar with this thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), a high-ranking member of the House and a longtime Biden friend, has publicly said he would support Harris if Biden steps aside, adding that his fellow Democrats “should do everything to bolster her, whether she’s in second place or at the top of the ticket.

Note: Biden owes his presidency to Clyburn, a very smart pol.  It is a loud signal that Clyburn even entertained the Harris hypothetical.

If Biden is going to pass the baton to Harris, he must act soon.  She would need to pick a running mate, and a decent vetting would take weeks. The last overnight pick was Tom Eagleton in 1972, who had to withdraw after revelations that he had undergone electroshock therapy.

 Mike Allen at Axios:

If President Biden steps aside, Vice President Harris would be almost impossible to beat for the nomination, thanks to endorsements, money, optics and 2028 politics, top officials tell Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei for a Behind the Curtain column.Why it matters: All Harris needs is Biden's backing. If she gets it, the Obamas and Clintons likely would follow, makizg any challenge an affront to the sitting president and two former presidents.

The big picture: If she gets Biden's endorsement, the only way a top-tier Democrat could challenge her would be to risk their future by saying "not your turn" to the first woman vice president, first Black American vice president and first South Asian vice president.Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chaired the House Jan. 6 committee, told Axios' Hans Nichols that Harris is "incredibly strong ... You can't say Biden has done a good job without saying she's done a good job." For her to be pushed aside from consideration, he said, "would be the kiss of death for the party."

Of course, all this may take a while. Biden stunned lots of powerful Democrats yesterday by digging in ahead of his interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos (now being shown as a prime-time special at 8 p.m. ET Friday).After publication of a new poll showing him losing ground to former President Trump, and breaking-news stories suggesting he might quit, the 81-year-old president joined Harris on a campaign all-staff call. He insisted: "No one's pushing me out ... I'm not leaving."

 The intrigue: Biden and his closest advisers have long felt Trump would beat Harris. They question her political skills and likability beyond the liberal bases. But polls show her running no worse than Biden in a hypothetical match-up with Trump.And in some cases, better: A post-debate CNN poll found Harris in a statistical tie with Trump and slightly stronger than Biden because of broader support from women (50% of female voters back Harris over Trump vs. 44% for Biden) and independents (43% Harris vs. 34% Biden).
Biden's private worries wouldn't necessarily keep him from endorsing her publicly. It's called politics. Biden would push to pair her with a moderate Democratic governor like Pennsylvania's Josh Shapiro (51), Kentucky's Andy Beshear (age 46), North Carolina's Roy Cooper (67) or Illinois' J.B. Pritzker (59).

 How it works: We gamed out potential scenarios with some of the nation's most experienced Democratic operatives. Most feel strongly that for both political and practical reasons, Harris looks all but unbeatable.If Biden "got there" on deciding to throw in the towel, top Democrats expect he would announce he was endorsing Harris — his running mate in 2020, and partner in governing for the past three years. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during her briefing yesterday that one of the reasons Biden picked her back in 2020 "is because she is, indeed, the future of the party."
One reason to go that route is to avoid the mayhem of a wide-open convention in Chicago beginning Aug. 19. That would take Democrats' focus off Trump while they scrambled, knifed and preened.
Harris as nominee, or perhaps president, would become part of Biden's legacy, which matters a lot to him — a proud, stubborn man who's been in public life for 50+ years.

Then there's the practicality: If you're eyeing the 2028 nomination, you're thinking about the base. Do you really want to torpedo Harris' chance to become the first woman president of color?What are your real chances of defeating Harris and her formidable apparatus (White House, DNC, Biden-Harris campaign) when you're less well-known nationally than she is — then beating the Trump machine, with its huge head start, in the 75 days between the Democratic convention and Election Day?