Kamala Harris pushes the envelope as Biden clashes with some Democrats


(Reuters) – Hosting rapper Fat Joe at the White House to talk about reforming marijuana laws. Visiting an abortion clinic. Call for ceasefire in Gaza on Alabama’s historic Selma Bridge. Walking the bloody crime scene of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

US Vice President Kamala Harris has stepped out of the shadow of President Joe Biden in recent weeks in a high-profile effort to persuade the fractured coalition of voters who sent her to the White House to seek a second term.

Harris’s rising role comes as progressive Democrats have targeted Biden over his pro-Israel stance and polls show him in a tight race against Republican rival Donald Trump.

war in israel and gaza

RAFAH, GAZA - FEBRUARY 22: Palestinian families, who have been repeatedly displaced due to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, live in makeshift tents in an empty area in southern Rafah, Gaza, February 22, 2024.  (Photo by Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

As left-leaning voters question Biden’s age and leadership, a problem Trump doesn’t face with his core voters, Harris, 59, has spoken more frequently and more directly than Biden on hot topics. Are discussing.

Biden has defended abortion rights, but has emphasized the importance of women whose lives are at risk, calling it an “extremely personal and painful” matter.

Harris has gone further – during a visit to Planned Parenthood in Minneapolis, believed to be the first time a sitting vice president has visited an abortion clinic, the former senator described abortion in glowing terms as a basic part of women’s health care. Told the part.

He said, “Everyone, get ready for the language: uterus.” “Issues like fibroids – we can handle that – breast cancer screening, contraceptive care – that’s the kind of work that happens here, in addition, of course, to abortion care.”

In Selma, he delivered the strongest remarks of any American official on Israel’s attack against Hamas: “Given the sheer scale of the suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire.”

His use of the word “ceasefire”, a term left-leaning Democrats were so eager to hear that it became a rallying cry, was applauded by some, though others demanded that it be accompanied by policy changes. Let’s do. Harris also called on Israel to do more to alleviate the “humanitarian disaster” in Gaza.

Abbas Alawieh, a top official, said, “There is no doubt that the vice president has tried to move the conversation about Gaza to a more sympathetic place, but while there is no evidence that she is pushing for a more meaningful policy change If so, then the introduction of the new language has failed.” One campaign urged voters to oppose Biden by voting “uncommitted” in the Democratic primaries.

“They need to put more pressure on Biden to change US policy,” he said.

Current and former Harris aides disputed the idea of ​​any difference in policy between Biden and Biden, describing their efforts as differing in tone and emphasis. He said Harris’ initiative is a reflection of areas of interest, which in some cases stem from her time as a prosecutor.

Dave Cavell, Harris’ former speechwriter, said, “She has been a leader on some of the most important issues facing the country, and certainly (those) that are going to determine the election.”

Current and former aides said Biden cannot emphasize divisive cultural issues without alienating the more conservative voters he needs to win. He said that as the “coalition leader” of the Democrats he needs to focus on the core economic issues that will impact centrists.

To that end, he has used 11 of his 16 trips this year to competitive election states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to promote “kitchen table” economic policies, such as bringing back manufacturing jobs sent overseas. and supporting unions.

Instead, Harris, the first Black, Asian and female vice president, is taking a militant role with the “Fight for Reproductive Freedom” tour and the “Fight for Our Freedom” college tour in addition to talking about the economy.

Another challenge for Harris

Biden has tasked Harris with a number of complex issues during his vice presidency, from tackling the decades-old problem of migration at the US southern border to pushing back against a generations-old practice of limiting voting rights for left-leaning Americans .

Winning back the parts of the Democratic coalition that have fractured over Israel policy, immigration and the economy is another major challenge.

Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Biden and Trump tied nationally, also finding that majorities of women, people under 40 and Latinos disapprove of Biden’s performance as president . Each group supported Biden in 2020, helping him defeat Trump.

Only 56% of Black people approved of Biden’s job performance, a low figure for a group that typically votes 9-to-1 for Democrats in presidential elections.

Harris, whose approval rating in recent opinion polls is also below 40%, is also America’s most popular Democratic politician after Biden. But some White House aides have privately questioned his effectiveness as an administration spokesman and his ability to win if he’s at the top of the ticket.

If Trump wins white voters, the largest American racial group, for a third consecutive election, Biden needs a major showdown among diverse groups that typically favor Democrats.

There are some indications that Harris is going to face a tough fight.

A trip to San Juan last week aimed at attracting the 5.9 million Puerto Rican Latinos living in the mainland United States, protesters chanted as Harris arrived at a community center to celebrate the Caribbean island’s culture.

Some chanted “Yankee, go home” and held signs calling Harris a “war criminal” for the Biden administration’s support of Israel in response to Hamas’ October 7 attack, despite the rising death toll in Gaza. Had kept. Such protests have occurred at several Harris events.

However, she has a vocal admirer in Biden, who once struggled with the decision whether to make her his running mate in 2020. Harris has worked carefully to make sure she doesn’t appear out of sync with her boss when describing Biden. And on 4 March she was “unified and consistent from the beginning” on Gaza.

“I love her,” Biden said of Harris on Feb. 6, without prompting. “She’s doing an incredible job,” he said on March 18.

Read Reuters’ complete Elections 2024 coverage here:

(Reporting by Trevor Honeycutt in Washington; Additional reporting by Arlene Eras and Nandita Bose; Editing by Heather Timmons and Deepa Babington)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters,


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