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'We already have hurdles. Let’s not create more': Democrats dubious about Kamala Harris' political future, impact on 2024 election
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'We already have hurdles. Let’s not create more': Democrats dubious about Kamala Harris' political future, impact on 2024 election

With a new presidential election cycle fast approaching and an elderly, scandal-plagued president in office who has admitted he could "drop dead tomorrow," Democrats are taking stock of their options. Not all in the party are sure that Vice President Kamala Harris, 58, is capable of handling the top position — or even her own.

Party politics and the passage of time

Cleve R. Wootson Jr., writing for the Washington Post, spoke to a number of Democrats who are fretting about Harris continuing in a senior leadership role in the Democratic Party.

"People are poised to pounce on anything — any misstep, any gaffe, anything she says — and so she’s probably not getting the benefit of the doubt," Jacquelyn Bettadapur, longtime leader of Georgia's Cobb County Democrats, told Wootson.

Bettadapur suggested that Harris suffers politically because many Democrats "don't know enough about what she's doing," and because "she's not [that] adept as a communicator."

Harris' aptitude as a speaker has been questioned on multiple occasions, such as in response to her March 2022 speech in Sunset, Louisiana, during which she tried to wax poetic about the "passage of time":

Kamala Harris Repeatedly Brings Up "The Significance Of The Passage Of Time"youtu.be

On Tuesday, Harris was ridiculed for her speech at an event honoring former NASA astronauts, which some regarded as infantilizing, seen here:

Bettadapur is not alone among Democrats in her concern about Harris' ability to communicate and voters' willingness to listen.

A number of Democrats reportedly spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, noting that many rank-and-file party members are "unpersuaded that she has the force, charisma and skill to mount a winning presidential campaign."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently told WGBH in no uncertain terms that President Joe Biden should seek reelection, but when asked whether Harris should be his running mate, she was nowhere near as sure, saying, "I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team."

Harris' polling numbers might be enough to make Biden's team uncomfortable.

According to a FiveThirtyEight average of multiple recent polls, 51.2% of likely voters surveyed indicated they disapproved of Harris.

YouGovAmerica indicated that as of Jan. 30, the vice president's favorability sits at around 41.2%, whereas 54% of the thousands of registered U.S. voters polled said they held an unfavorable view of her.

A Los Angeles Times poll indicated that at the time of her inauguration in 2021, her favorability was pushing 50 and her unfavorability was south of 45. As of Jan. 10, her unfavorability has grown to 53% and her favorability plummeted to 40%.

At this stage in their tenure, vice presidents Mike Pence, Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, and Al Gore were all much more popular than Harris.

While Biden has also been met with low approval ratings throughout his time in office, it is apparent that he would have trouble taking Harris lower than where she has already been.

Despite being touted by Vanity Fair and other liberal publications as a potential frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, she proved to be grossly unpopular right until the moment she scuttled her campaign, citing a lack of financial resources.

While finances may no longer be a problem, some Democrats are concerned Harris may have other deficits to contend with.

Wootson noted that Harris' "critics also question her basic political skills on the national stage."

For instance, her exchange with NBC News' Lester Holt — in which she downplayed the urgency of visiting the beleaguered U.S.-Mexico border — was seen as emblematic of many other "missteps and shaky public appearances."

Harris' advisers reportedly said in private that such interviews, during which Harris was permitted to go off-script, "hurt more than they help."

Democrats confided in Wootson that Harris has a visibility problem beyond the speeches she shows up for.

A Democratic leader in Wisconsin said, "I don't know if I've seen any reports of her being here or in other nearby states recently. ... The vice president's job is really to be that person out there."

J.A. Moore, a South Carolina state lawmaker who has supported Harris in the past, said, "I wish she was out there and more visible."

The trouble with visibility is that Harris might find herself too closely associated with her top assignment: stemming the influx of illegal aliens stealing into the United States. While border czar, around 4.8 million criminal noncitizens have entered the United States under Harris' watch.

Where optics are concerned, some Democrats appear keen to suggest that Harris' unlikability may be connected not to her communications issues or tactical failures but to her race or sex.

Erick Allen, chair of the Cobb County Democrats, told the Washington Post that failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was "vilified and beat up to the point where she couldn't recover" in part due to her sex.

"There's a segment that just will not vote for a woman for president, and there's another segment that will not vote for an African American. Having two of those checkboxes, you’re just going to have a higher threshold regardless," said Allen.

Allen added, "There are some people in our party who are saying, 'We already have hurdles. Let’s not create more.'"

Wootson intimated that what some may frame as hurdles could have otherwise proven beneficial: as "the first woman or person of color to hold the office, [Harris] had instant cachet and an influential platform."

It remains unclear if Harris will be able to exploit this cachet and her platform in the absence of perceived charisma in a way that convinces Democrats and voters to let her hold onto power beyond 2024.

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