A pair of top-ranking House Democrats on Wednesday offered starkly differing views about Kamala Harris being Joe Biden’s running mate for reelection amid growing scrutiny of the vice president being the running mate of a president who will be nearly 82 years old on Election Day next year.
During an interview on CNN, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn offered a full-throated endorsement of both Harris’ on-the-job performance as well as her placement atop the Democratic ticket with Biden for the 2024 election and suggested that expectations placed on the vice president have been unrealistic compared to her predecessors.
His comments came shortly after former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was noncommittal, at best, when CNN asked whether she thought Harris was the best running mate for Biden.
The display of Democratic disagreement in electoral ideology between two veteran members of Congress came on the heels of Republican-led fearmongering that Harris could become president if Biden, who turns 81 in November, doesn’t serve his entire presumed second term because of old age or cognitive concerns.
It all started Wednesday when CNN host Anderson Cooper asked Pelosi a simple yes or no question: if she thought Harris was “ the best running mate” for Biden.
Pelosi offered an ambiguous answer.
“He thinks so, and that’s what matters,” she said.
When Cooper pressed for her opinion, Pelosi again was evasive, saying the vice president is “very politically astute” and that “people shouldn’t underestimate what Kamala Harris brings to the table.”
So Cooper asked once more, and Pelosi then suggested Harris doesn’t “do that much” because of the nature of the job.
“She’s the vice president of the United States,” Pelosi responded to Anderson while still not answering the question. “People say to me, ‘Well, why isn’t she doing this or that?’ I say, ‘Because she’s the vice president.’ That’s the job description. You don’t do that much.”
Pelosi went on to say that she thinks Harris has “represented our country very well at home and abroad,” but it wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Harris or her accomplishments as vice president.
As a result, Republicans took Pelosi’s fateful words and ran with them to social media in their latest effort to discredit Harris and sow the seeds of discord among Democrats ahead of a consequential election cycle.
Conversely, Republicans have been largely silent about Clyburn’s interview with CNN host Abby Phillips who asked the Congressman similar questions as Anderson’s to Pelosi.
After saying that “people who really matter” are “all sold on [Biden’s] reelection,” Clyburn added unequivocally that Harris should remain the president’s running mate.
“I think that Kamala Harris has done a great job,” Clyburn said before explaining that unrealistic expectations have been placed on the vice president.
“People want her in her … first two years to be the kind of vice president Joe Biden was in his sixth and seventh years of his vice presidency,” Clyburn continued. “Everybody gets a learning curve in this business.”
More pointedly, Clyburn said Harris “should not be held responsible for her gender or her race. Too much of that is involved in these discussions.”
When presented with Pelosi’s vague answers to Anderson’s line of questioning, Clyburn repeated that he was satisfied with how “efficiently and effectively” Harris was doing the job.
“That’s what matters to me,” Clyburn said.
In recent weeks, Harris has come under increasing scrutiny based on Republican-led talking points that emphasize the politics of fear at the prospects of her becoming president. As Clyburn alluded, the basis of those attacks probably has more to do with Harris being a woman who identifies as Black and less about her job performance.
Polling shows that Democrats are satisfied but not excited about Harris, who has repeatedly dismissed concerns about Biden’s age.
Harris said last week that she was ready to become president if the situation presented itself but also cautioned that Biden’s presidency ending prematurely is a “hypothetical” situation that she doubts will happen.
“Joe Biden is going to be fine, so that is not going to come to fruition,” Harris told the Associated Press. “But let us also understand that every vice president — every vice president — understands that when they take the oath they must be very clear about the responsibility they may have to take over the job of being president.”
In the meantime, Harris is going to keep on keeping on and is scheduled to kick off a college tour on Thursday in an effort to secure the youth vote for next year.
Unlike Pelosi, voters aged 18-29 years old — also known as Generation Z — have expressed their approval of Harris in no uncertain terms and have extreme faith in her ability to be president, according to polling from earlier this year.
When it comes to approving of Harris’ job performance, 60% of the Gen Z voters polled indicated they either somewhat approve or strongly approve of her as vice president. Aside from Black voters as a whole, those were by far the strongest approval numbers for Harris of any demographic surveyed.
When asked whether Harris qualified to be president, 52% of the Gen Z voters responded in the affirmative. That’s second only to Black voters’ 58%.
When it came to the topic of whether Gen Z voters think Harris is honest and trustworthy, 52% of the young respondents said yes. That’s in comparison to 61% of Black voters responding the same way.
Finally, on likeability, 51% of the Gen Z voters surveyed responded in the affirmative regardless of whether they are with her politics. Sixty percent of Black voters responded similarly.
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