VP Kamala Harris kicks off campaign sprint under a new spotlight

VP Kamala Harris at a conference. PHOTO: X banner on @VP

LAS VEGAS – Vice President Harris hits the road this week on a high-stakes mission to energize key parts of the Democratic coalition as President Biden continues to fight for his reelection bid, putting her under an unusual spotlight as she seeks to bolster Biden’s candidacy while also showcasing her own talents as a campaigner.

Harris on Tuesday (July 9) visits Las Vegas for a Biden campaign event focused on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) voters, a small but vital group. The trip marks her sixth visit this year to Nevada, a battleground state that Biden won by fewer than 34,000 votes in 2020 and that recent polls suggest could be slipping from the Democrats’ grasp.

Harris’s campaign swing – she visits Dallas on Wednesday and Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday – comes as some Democrats weigh the possibility that she could become their presidential nominee if Biden steps aside following his faltering debate performance late last month. While Biden has repeatedly said he will remain in the race, many Democrats consider Harris the only realistic replacement should he step aside.

That leaves the vice president with dual, delicate and potentially contradictory goals this week: strengthening Biden at a deeply vulnerable moment of his political career while also demonstrating her own potential appeal. With Biden in Washington seeking to tamp down any rebellion in Congress, Democrats will be closely watching Harris in the coming days to gauge her abilities as a campaigner, especially after an ill-fated presidential run in 2020.

The Biden campaign has long seen Harris as a potent messenger in reaching Black and Asian American voters, an asset that has become more important as the president scrambles to shore up his support from these influential groups. In 2020, exit polls showed Biden winning Black voters by 75 percentage points and Asian American voters by 27 points, and any faltering enthusiasm among them could be devastating in a close race against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Harris’s mother was an Indian immigrant, and her father came from Jamaica. Her ascent has been a point of pride in the Black and Asian communities. She will be joined at Tuesday’s event by Padma Lakshmi, an Indian American author and television host.

Ahead of the appearance, the Asian American Action Fund, a Democratic-aligned PAC, described Harris’s appearance as a “community celebration to recognize the accomplishments that President Biden and Vice President Harris have delivered for the AANHPI community – and all Americans!”

Harris emerged as a vociferous defender of Biden after the presidential debate, urging voters to focus on the dangers of a second Trump term. A day after the June 27 debate, Harris was also in Las Vegas for a rally, where she sought to defend the administration’s record and neutralize concerns about Biden, depicting him as a leader and Trump as a liar.

“This race will not be decided by one night in June,” she said that day, seizing on what has become her central message – that Biden may have had a bad debate night but that he is a great president, and his performance does not reflect deeper problems with his health or competence.

Few if any communities are as important to any Democrat’s national aspirations as Black voters, especially Black women, whose embrace of Biden in 2020 catapulted him to the nomination and the presidency. Harris spent last Saturday at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, speaking to a crowd of mostly Black women in a moderated conversation that focused heavily on the stakes of the election but did not touch on the current controversy surrounding the Democratic Party and its standard-bearer.

The vice president’s multiday trip this week includes an address to the historically Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. on Wednesday in Dallas. Harris, who graduated from Howard University in 1986, is a member of AKA, giving her access to a powerful network of engaged activists.

On Thursday, Harris heads to Greensboro, her sixth trip to a state Democrats are attempting to flip blue this election. Next week, she will meet in Indianapolis with members of Zeta Phi Beta, another historically Black sorority with a record of focusing on social justice.

Moderated or even scripted events like the ones Harris is participating in this week have allowed her to make a campaign pitch to key voters without having to contend with the pointed questions that have arisen following Biden’s rocky debate performance.



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