Yesterday, former Vice President and presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden announced that Senator Kamala Harris would join his ticket as the candidate for Vice President of the United States. The decision came after months of speculation about who would join Biden in his campaign against President Trump in the November 3rd election.
The Biden team had remained tight-lipped for months despite numerous insinuations from the former Vice President that he would tap a female running mate and likely one of color. The decision to align with Harris, who went toe-to-toe with Biden in the Democratic Primary, is certainly a strategic one: Harris had generated a buzz among black and women voters earlier this year and is well poised to help secure those key voter demographics for the former Vice President.
Biden, who has struggled to gain traction on the national stage since outlasting his fellow Democratic hopefuls in the primary, desperately needs to rouse the liberal base and sway centrists if he is to challenge President Trump in November. Additionally, pressure from black voters to select an African American running mate had been mounting since the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the death of George Floyd. And while the names of several potential candidates had been circulated, national polls from as early as June had identified 55-year-old Kamala Harris as the most likely to energize Democratic voters.
The selection of Senator Harris is also a way for Biden to soothe concerns about his age. Biden, now 77 years old, would be the oldest president ever elected to the office should he win in November, a fact that is clearly a concern to the American voter and the Biden camp. At a CNN town hall in New Hampshire on February 5th, the former Vice President acknowledged that his age is an issue, stating that he would need to pick a running mate who would be “ready on day one to be President of the United States” if something should happen to him while in office.
The announcement brings a much-needed wind to the sails of Biden’s campaign which has lacked punch. In February, Biden was fourth in the primary behind Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren, and had suffered major losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. In the hectic field of potential nominees, Biden seemed timid, absent-minded, and old. It was obvious that his campaign needed revitalization, especially amid the pandemic which has shuttered rallies and other campaign events. The bet is that, with only 83 days before the election, Harris will bring momentum to his ticket. And what a big bet it is.
Trump Down in the Polls
Meanwhile, President Trump’s approval ratings are sagging. A Fox News poll released on July 19th shows Biden leading the President by eight percentage points with a strong grip on voters in key demographics including Blacks (+64 percentage points), Hispanics (+30), millennials (+22), suburban voters (+11) and independents (+11). It stands to reason that the addition of Senator Harris to the ticket will strengthen Biden’s lead in those segments and may help him secure women voters, especially those still undecided. To make matters worse, President Trump continues to take hits over his handling of the pandemic and the use of federal officers to quell protests in several U.S. cities.
Despite all of that, Biden still has his work cut out for him. The former Vice President fails to inspire confidence in his public appearances, owing mainly to his frequent gaffes and verbal miscues, a trait that will hurt him significantly when faced with Mr. Trump’s fiery shoot-first-ask-questions-later debate style. In the meantime, he will have to weather a new wave of Presidential prodding on social media.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2020
Sarah Palin Weighs In
Still, 11th-hour running mate decisions have crippled campaigns in the past. Senator John McCain’s 2008 campaign against Barack Obama was scuttled in large part due to the inclusion of Sarah Palin, then governor of Alaska, who drove a wedge between McCain and voters with her quirky personality and off-message wanderings. Palin, the second female in U.S. history to be nominated for the position, sent words of encouragement and support to Senator Harris via Instagram last night. She advised her to “trust no one new” and to “[not] get muzzled.”
But it likely matters very little what Senator Harris says or does between now and election day. Her role is clear: By joining Biden she’s delivering to his campaign a huge swath of coveted voters that President Trump will struggle to woo without a gambit of his own. Her inclusion could turn the all-but-won Trump reelection campaign into a race once more.