This smooth race ended this week, thanks to a confluence of events – some under his control, some not.
* The White House made much of Harris’ two-day trip to Central America earlier this week. And Harris’ main goal was simple: to send a message to Central Americans to stop coming to the southern border of the United States. Which she did, to the dismay of the Liberals but to Biden’s satisfaction. But the visit ended up being overshadowed by its seemingly offhand response to a question from NBC’s Lester Holt about why she hadn’t yet visited the southern border. (Biden tasked Harris with leading the administration’s response to stem the flow of migration from Central America.)
“At some point, you know, we’re going to the border,” Harris said in the interview. “We went to the border. So this whole set, this whole set about the border. We went to the border. We went to the border.”
“Me, and I haven’t been to Europe,” Harris replied to Holt, laughing. “And I mean, I don’t – I don’t get the point you’re making.” Which one, not great. As CNN reported on Tuesday: “Multiple sources say there was real hope inside the White House that Harris’ first overseas trip would be a success, and fear what appeared to be ill-prepared answers to this inevitable question won’t eclipse it. “
* Immigration aside, Harris’ other big job in the Biden administration is expanding voting rights – and pushing back a series of laws passed in GOP-controlled states that make voting more difficult. That effort took a hard hit on Sunday, when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) announced he would oppose the For the People Act, a major electoral reform program that Democratic leaders on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue had advocated. Manchin’s opposition not only guarantees that the measure is DOA in the Senate, but also that its potency as a problem to be used against Republicans in 2022 is greatly reduced. As Manchin sought to pivot – calling for passage of the John Lewis Advancement Voting Rights Act – prospects for passing the legislation appear decidedly dim. All of this means that the adoption of any sort of major (or minor) electoral reform proposal in this Congress seems highly unlikely at the moment.
* Politico reported on Monday that Biden is increasingly likely to run for a second term in 2024, despite being in his early ’80s by then. “According to his allies, Biden believes he is the best-equipped Democrat to take on Trump, just as he did until 2020,” Politico wrote. “They also say it’s motivated by the idea that his legacy could be that of the president who defeated Trump and Trumpism, which he sees as a villainous and corrosive move.”
Add it all up and you have a bad week for Harris. And unfortunately for her, it probably won’t be a bad week. Manchin’s opposition to the For the People Act, coupled with the complex challenges at the border – there’s a reason none of the last three presidents have been able to come up with a viable solution – raises the possibility that the two Harris’ top priorities don’t live up to she the kind of wins a vice president with an eye on the most senior position might want.
The Republicans are taking advantage of this moment to step up their attacks on Harris. (Note: Harris has been a regular target for Republicans since she started running for president – and the frequency of these attacks has only increased as the GOP has struggled to find a good shot. on Biden.)
“The only thing Vice President Kamala Harris has managed to achieve over the past 3 days has been to avoid facing the deepening crisis at the US border,” tweeted
Minority Parliamentary Leader Kevin McCarthy.
These attacks, however, won’t (and shouldn’t) bother Harris – or Biden. The Trump wing of the Republican Party, which constitutes the majority of the GOP base, is heavily invested in demonizing Harris and will find ways to do it no matter what the Vice President says or does. (Plus, the fact that Harris is the first woman and the first person of color to serve as vice president shouldn’t be lost on anyone in this conversation.)
What should Harris and his advisers worry that his first trip abroad – a much-touted trip, no less – did not go as planned.
And its two national priorities, immigration and the right to vote, appear to be neutral at best.
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