The US Presidential election is still 21 months away, but Democrats are wrestling with a problem:
Vice President Kamala Harris.
In truth, the US Vice President is not their biggest problem. The biggest problem is the President himself:
Earlier this month the Washington Post found fewer Republicans want to see Trump nominated again in 2024 than want to see someone else on the ballot, 44-49. That’s discouraging for the former guy but still conspicuously better than Biden’s polling. The same survey found 31 percent of Democrats want him back as nominee, versus 58 percent who prefer an alternative.
The data turned grimmer when respondents were asked specifically about their enthusiasm for each candidate. A third of Republicans declared themselves enthusiastic about a third Trump run; just 16 percent of Democrats said the same about Biden running again.
That poll was no outlier. On Tuesday Reuters released its own survey finding 40 percent of Republicans opposed to another Trump run versus 52 percent of Democrats opposed to Biden being back on the ballot. When tested against fellow Democrats like Bernie Sanders in a hypothetical primary, Biden managed just 35 percent of the Democratic vote. In a hypothetical Republican primary, Trump pulled 43 percent of Republicans.
More than half of Democrats do not want to see Biden on the ballot in November of next year. The reasons for this are fairly obvious: Whether you think it fair or unfair, many American voters have doubts about his ability to do the job at his current age. What’s he going to be like, if re-elected, by 2029?
The difficulty is that despite all that, they are sort of stuck with him. The obvious successor to the President is the Vice President, and that’s where the problems really start to kick in:
Most recent (December) Gallup favorable/unfavorable numbers for Kamala Harris and where her VP predecessors stood in Gallup polling at *roughly* the same point: https://t.co/oz3RPrLTUg pic.twitter.com/9phC80i9oc
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) February 16, 2023
Note both the polling, and the piece below it from Jonathan Martin in Politico: “Trepidation about the VP keeps them quiet”. Read the whole piece in that tweet if you want a laundry list of the reasons for her unpopularity.
Whether those reasons are fair, or unfair, Harris is the most unpopular Vice President in modern history. Things have gotten so bad for her that one Democrat strategist reportedly admitted in private that one of the strongest lines against Biden in next year’s election will be “a vote for Biden is a vote for Harris” – because should he die, or become unfit, in office, the job falls to the Vice President.
But he cannot get rid of her either – the sight of a Democratic, Liberal American politician kicking the first black woman to be Vice President off his ticket would likely be fatal to his chances in his own party.
Of course, Biden still has advantages: The Republican Opposition is facing what seems certain to be a bloody primary between the last President, and the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. If Trump does not prevail in that primary, then there is every reason to believe that he will simply either declare that it was rigged, and tell his supporters not to vote, or that he will run as an independent, splitting the opposition to Biden, or that he will do both. In that scenario, Biden may well win by default. Biden, by contrast, will face no primary opposition, allowing him to save money and – at his age – energy for the general election fight.
But the Kamala Harris problem is a growing issue for the sitting President: If, for example, he faces off against Donald Trump in the general election, then the choice will be between two men of around eighty years of age, neither of whom would be actuarily guaranteed to live to finish their terms. In that circumstance, the identity of the Vice Presidential candidate, and public perceptions of him or her, might well prove decisive. Americans, after all, take this kind of thing very decisively.
This is where Trump, or DeSantis, or someone else has an advantage: They can pick a Vice Presidential candidate who is popular. Biden cannot – he is tied to a millstone, so to speak.
It’s something to watch, in the months to come.