Kamala Harris Emerges as Top Contender if Biden Steps Down: Senior Democratic Sources Reveal

Featured & Cover Kamala Harris Emerges as Top Contender if Biden Steps Down Senior Democratic Sources Reveal

Vice President Kamala Harris stands as the leading alternative to replace President Joe Biden if he opts out of his reelection campaign, as per insights from seven senior sources associated with the Biden campaign, the White House, and the Democratic National Committee. These sources reveal ongoing discussions about potential replacements.

Biden’s recent faltering and often incoherent debate performance against Republican Donald Trump has sparked widespread panic within the Democratic party. Concerns about his fitness for a second term have led to calls for the resignation of top aides.

While some influential Democrats have proposed other alternatives to Biden, such as popular cabinet members and Democratic governors like California’s Gavin Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, and Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, the sources believe bypassing Harris would be nearly impossible. They suggest that Harris, with the highest name recognition and polling among potential candidates, would naturally inherit the Biden campaign’s funds and infrastructure if nominated.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll indicates Harris is trailing Trump by just one percentage point (42% to 43%), which falls within the poll’s margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, demonstrating a performance on par with Biden’s. Furthermore, Harris has been thoroughly vetted for national office and has withstood intense scrutiny from Republicans. Notably, U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn, a key figure in Biden’s 2020 victory, expressed his support for Harris as the Democratic nominee if Biden steps aside.

Michael Trujillo, a Democratic strategist from California who worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in 2008 and 2016, stated, “It’s pretty near impossible to win the nomination over the vice president.” He emphasizes Harris’s entrenched position within the party.

On July 2, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed concerns, attributing Biden’s debate performance to a “bad night” and reaffirming his commitment to running for reelection. The Biden campaign referred questions about the scenario to Harris’s team, which firmly stated, “Vice President Harris looks forward to serving a second term with President Joe Biden.”

Biden’s campaign has secured 3,894 delegates from state primaries, with only a few dozen “uncommitted” delegates left. These delegates are expected to formally nominate Biden later this month during a virtual meeting before the Democratic National Convention in August. Trujillo reiterated Harris’s substantial support within the party, saying, “All of the delegates are not just Joe Biden delegates, they are Kamala Harris delegates,” and she would have significant backing from all states.

Donna Brazile, former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and a key figure in the upcoming Democratic National Convention, stated that Harris is the immediate successor if Biden steps down. Brazile emphasized the structured process, noting, “People may have dreams of another superhero but there is a process and the last time I checked it’s a Biden-Harris ticket, she’s number two on the ticket,” while reaffirming Biden’s status as the Democratic nominee.

Overlooking Harris, the first Black and female vice president, could trigger backlash from Black and female voters, who are crucial for any Democratic victory, according to several Democratic strategists.

However, some influential Democrats remain skeptical of Harris’s chances against Trump. Four sources mentioned that Harris has been largely sidelined in post-debate speculations due to doubts about her electability. The U.S. has never elected a female president, and Harris’s role as vice president has limited her ability to distinguish herself. As recently as last year, concerns within the White House and the Biden campaign labeled her a potential liability.

Despite finding her footing on abortion rights, Harris’s approval ratings have not significantly improved, lingering below 40%. Polls indicate that she and Biden have comparable odds of defeating Trump. Harris has also faced continuous attacks from Republicans and conservative media, often viewed by her allies as sexist and racist.

Three Democratic donors, who previously advocated for Biden’s withdrawal, conceded this week that bypassing Harris is “impossible.” These donors had been considering Whitmer and Newsom as potential alternatives until recently. One donor remarked, “There is a real conversation in the Democratic party about leadership right now, but fair to say, and I’m not thrilled about this… it will be impossible to ignore Kamala.”

Another donor added, “She’s nobody’s choice, but yeah, nearly impossible.”

Despite growing calls for Biden to step aside, his reelection campaign remains firm, buoyed by his improved performance in a scripted speech in North Carolina. Stephanie Cutter, former deputy campaign manager for Barack Obama and current producer of the Democratic National Convention, stated unequivocally, “President Biden is the nominee and he’s going to remain the nominee.” She warned against fostering intra-party conflict, cautioning, “For those who are looking for some sort of interparty fight, be careful what you wish for because that would ensure a Trump victory.”

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