Harris faces new test of political skills in 2024 campaign

Washington: She swaggered, she jabbed, she inspired. She even joked.

Anyone looking for a glimpse of what Vice President Kamala Harris could bring to the campaign trail would have found it this week at Howard University, where she headlined a rally for reproductive rights.

Now Harris, the first woman and person of color in her position, will be put to the test as President Joe Biden seeks a second term. Although vice presidents are rarely decisive in reelection efforts, Harris is poised to be an exception. Not only is she leading the charge on Democrats’ most potent issue, the battle over abortion rights, she’s the running mate for the oldest president in history, increasing scrutiny over whether she’s ready to step into the top job if necessary.

It’s an issue that Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, raised on Wednesday in an interview with Fox News.

“If you vote for Joe Biden, you really are counting on President Harris,” Haley said. “Because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old” — the age Biden would be at the end of a second term — “is not something that I think is likely.”

Harris’ mission until Election Day will be energizing the voters that Democrats most need — specifically women, people of color and young people — while sustaining what will likely be an unrelenting barrage of Republican attacks.

“Vice presidential candidates, if they’re going to make a difference, they’re going to make it at the margin,” said Joel Goldstein, a historian of the vice presidency. “But if you look at our recent history, a lot of our presidential elections have been decided at the margins.”

Harris’ appearance at her alma mater Howard University on Tuesday night, the same day that Biden announced his reelection bid, was a first look of how she’ll approach the campaign. Her focus on abortion echoed her message during the midterm elections, but was even more barbed than usual as she targeted “extremists” she accused of taking away people’s rights.

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