Senator Kamala Harris was considered by many pundits to be the favorite to become Joe Biden’s running mate for some time.
Still, several recent reports have cited sources relaying doubts within Biden’s inner circle about Harris, and other options like former National Security Advisor Susan Rice or Representative Karen Bass – both black women with extensive experience in the nation’s capital – saw their shares increase.
Rice and Bass supporters have touted their lack of political ambitions as assets for one serving as a staunch choice of vice president who can also offer his own political expertise to the White House – the subtext meaning that they won’t be motivated by a potential race in 2024 or 2028 like Harris might.
So what exactly is going on here and where is Harris at?
The drama and mystique of a potential VP choice makes the process ripe with innuendos and rumors in the press.
On an almost daily basis, the supposed favorite can swing from candidate to candidate. The reasons why unflattering details about a candidate or other rumors come out at some point can be confusing to those who follow the saga from afar.
As far as Harris is concerned, the crux of the conflict is torn between two places in time: the first televised Democratic primary debate last July and the 2024 presidential race.
As for those with reservations about Harris, things get a bit tricky, but only a few confidants close to Biden need to be watched.
This is the whole subject of the Kamala drama.
The ‘inner circle’
This week’s big story is about a meeting Harris had with one of Biden’s closest advisers and best friends, former Senator Chris Dodd.
Dodd, who championed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, is one of four members of the official selection committee for Biden’s vice-presidency.
The 76-year-old reportedly had qualms that Harris showed no ‘remorse’ for suing Biden over debate over his opposition to federally mandated buses, with California senator telling Dodd ‘this is politics “.
That viral moment centered on Harris, challenging Biden for opposing the federally mandated bus, incorporating his personal story by describing how the bus got him to a better school.
“There was a little girl in California who was in second class to enter her public schools and she was bussed to school every day,” Harris told Biden. “That little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate between democrats.”
Biden and Harris would later appear to bury the hatchet, sometimes even appearing buddies during the primary before Harris gave up and finally approved of Biden.
Still, Dodd’s meeting with Harris, first reported by Politico, apparently went so badly that it revealed “a contingent of Democrats lobbying Harris for VP – some in private, some openly.” according to Politico.
Dodd was seeking a sincere apology for what he would have described as a “gimmick” debate that “was cheap,” according to Politico, rather than taking Harris’s view that Biden’s past positions were fair.
Whether Harris could be a trusted deputy to Biden or put his own political ambitions first is what worries Dodd and other members of Biden’s inner circle as well as some donors, Politico reported.
Harris’ reliability would have been the issue Dodd was most concerned about leaving the reunion, but critics have questioned why a white man in his 70s should have so much influence over Biden choosing a woman of color for his running mate.
Gender tropes are also at play, with different connotations of ambition and loyalty that could potentially play against Harris as a woman in politics.
Yet, under the radar, two women are also key to Biden’s vice-president decision, and neither are on the official selection committee.
One of them is Biden’s wife Jill, who has been said to be very critical of the Harris attack, calling it “like a punch in the gut” before strike a more conciliatory tone when the two appeared on stage together in Michigan in March.
Biden said he often consulted his wife on important decisions and it had been difficult to know where she stood on Harris despite the campaign’s efforts to turn the page once the California senator approved it.
The other crucial figure in Biden’s inner circle is his sister, Valerie Biden Owens.
Biden Owens has led every political campaign from his brother until this one, from student government to his seven Senate elections and even his presidential offers of 1988 and 2008.
She wears many of the same manners as her brother and can show sharper elbows on the track than the more conflict-averse Biden.
During my time in New Hampshire as a political reporter for The Keene Sentinel covering the 2020 primary, Biden Owens came to the local campaign office to meet with supporters and volunteers.
We stepped back for an interview after she was done shaking hands, and I asked about the timing of the debate.
Biden Owens’ attitude suddenly turned to a shade of irritation, and she let loose before an assistant stepped in to say she had to return to the SUV parked outside to drive to another event.
“He’s very aware of this T-shirt moment,” she told me, referring to the Harris campaign selling merchandise referencing the time of debate and one of Harris’ most memorable quotes. , “That Little Girl Was Me”.
“Do you know what I mean by T-shirt moment?” I was that little girl, “and – for goodness sake, Joe has been for civil rights since he’s lived it all his life,” Biden Owens said.
In a late June Washington Post article, Sean Sullivan and Annie Linksy reported that qualms with Harris among Biden’s wife and sister were worrying enough for the campaign that they needed to be approached with a display of unity.
Seeking to quell rumblings from some Democrats who said they detected signs of frustration with Jill Biden’s Harris and Valerie Biden Owens, Biden’s sister and longtime political advisor, Biden’s campaign sought on Friday to publicly dispel the idea that their opinions on Harris are nothing short of positive, ”Sullivan and Linsky wrote.
“Dr. Biden and Valerie have the utmost respect, admiration and affection for Senator Harris,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander told The Post in a statement. “All rumors or conjectures to the contrary are not true and have no basis in fact or in fact.”
Whether these feelings were truly softened can only be known by those with unfettered access to Biden’s inner circle.
But if Harris fails, the warning signs were in place long before the stories of the summer veepstakes started to plummet.