VP Harris Could Defeat Trump

VP Harris Could Defeat Trump

I fear for America’s future and hence the world’s — more so now than ever. I had relaxed a bit after the last two national elections, which had seemed to signal a return to normalcy. Donald Trump was decisively defeated in 2020 and, in 2022, most of his fellow election deniers also lost in their bids to take over the election machinery of swing states. But now we’re back in Crazytown. Trump is the almost certain Republican nominee in 2024. And, if current polls are to be believed, he has an excellent chance of winning the presidency again — despite his two impeachments, his incitement of an insurrection, and the 91 felony counts he currently faces in four criminal cases.

A year ago, I naively imagined that Trump would be politically hurt by being indicted. Once again, I either overestimated the American public or underestimated Trump. If anything, the criminal cases seem to have helped him politically. He leads all his Republican challengers by a very wide margin: In the FiveThirtyEight polling average, he is at nearly 56 percent among Republican voters.

Even more disturbing, Trump is running neck and neck with President Biden in general-election matchups. That means — given the Republican advantage in the electoral college — that he is probably ahead in the electoral count. Somehow, most voters have decided that Biden is too old for the presidency, but Trump, who is only three years younger and infinitely less cogent, isn’t.

The prospect of another Trump term is the greatest foreseeable disaster that can befall the United States and the world. Trump is likely to be 10 times more dangerous this time around, because he won’t allow any adults in the White House to act as a check on his worst instincts — no more Jim Mattis as defense secretary, John F. Kelly as chief of staff or H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. In a second term, Trump is likely to only appoint advisers as unhinged as he is.

We can only speculate what this will mean, but the likelihood is that Trump will cut off aid to Ukraine, pull out of NATO, eviscerate the civil service and the military’s top ranks, and appoint an attorney general who will prosecute his enemies. For a start. He was eager to do all of those things in his first term but was dissuaded or blocked by the “deep state.” He’s unlikely to allow that to happen again. He has become even more radical and more authoritarian since leaving office, and he now has much more experience in getting what he wants out of the government.

The consequences will be dire enough domestically, imperiling U.S. democracy, but they will be even worse internationally. Among other alarming consequences, a Trump presidency could allow Russian leader Vladimir Putin to defeat Ukraine and remake the 21st-century global order in favor of tyrants and aggressors.

So how do we stop Trump? Biden is a feeble vessel at best, but he’s the only realistic option we have. It’s true that he is 80 years old (and would be 82 at the start of a new term), and he often stumbles rhetorically and sometimes physically. But his successful performance in office belies his doddering image.

He has managed to pass big, bipartisan bills, including infrastructure legislation that Trump only talked about. He has been even more impressive internationally, assembling a large coalition to oppose Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and another coalition in East Asia to deter China from aggression of its own. The economy — the ultimate barometer of a president’s performance — has been doing much better than expected, with low unemployment, declining inflation and no recession in sight. That’s a record any president can be proud of. Yet the polls haven’t been giving Biden the credit he is due, possibly because perceptions of the economy still lag the reality.

In an ideal world, Biden would head off to a well-deserved retirement and a younger, more vigorous successor — someone such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, California Gov. Gavin Newsom or Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo — would run in his place. The likelihood is that any of those candidates would be stronger than Biden in the general election.

But we don’t live in that ideal world. In the world as it is, we’re just a few months before the start of the primaries, so if Biden were to step down now, the almost certain Democratic nominee would be Vice President Harris. (The last sitting vice president who sought but failed to secure a party’s presidential nomination was Alben Barkley in 1952.) And I have yet to meet a Democrat who has any confidence in Harris’s ability to beat Trump.

Harris has a poor track record in national politics. She exited the 2020 Democratic race before a single vote was cast and has done little to elevate herself as vice president (admittedly a difficult task in a low-profile post with few fixed responsibilities). Moreover, unfair as it is, there is good cause to worry that Trump would run a sexist and racist campaign that could hurt Harris among working-class White voters in industrial states. The RealClearPolitics polling average shows that, while Trump is beating Biden by just 0.5 points, he leads Harris by 4 points — and that’s before he has begun to focus his fire and fury on her.

At the same time, any move to challenge Biden in the primaries or to replace Harris on the ticket would lead to Democratic fratricide which would likely ease Trump’s path back to power. Anyone who believes in preserving American democracy and the U.S.-led world order, therefore, has no choice but to back Biden in 2024, however uninspiring that might be.

We had better hope that popular perceptions of the economy improve … and that a likely Trump conviction might dissuade swing voters from supporting him … and that a third-party candidate won’t split the anti-Trump vote … and that Biden doesn’t experience any Mitch McConnell-like freeze-ups or other health scares. Otherwise, come November 2024, we might be facing the end of the world as we know it.

You can see why I’m not feeling good about the future — not when the fate of the world depends on the vitality and vigor of an octogenarian who looks his age. But it does.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on Sunday said Vice President Kamala Harris could “overwhelmingly” win against former President Donald Trump but that President Joe Biden must decide whether he will remain in the race as the Democratic Party’s nominee amid backlash over his disastrous debate performance. Asked about polling that showed Harris outperforming Trump if she replaced Biden, Schiff said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he thought she would be a “phenomenal president.”

“I think she has the experience, the judgment, the leadership ability to be an extraordinary president,” Schiff told moderator Kristen Welker. Asked if Biden could win the election, Schiff said, “Either he has to win overwhelmingly or he has to pass the torch to someone who can.” Pressed again by Welker on whether Harris could win against Trump, Schiff said he thought “she very well could win overwhelmingly.”

“Before we get into a decision about who else it should be, the president needs to make a decision whether it’s him,” he said. Asked whether Biden should drop out and pass the torch to Harris, Schiff again argued that it’s up to Biden to make that call.

“I think Biden should take the time talk to people outside of his immediate circle, talk to people he respects, people with objectivity, people with distance, and make the right decision for the country,” he said. “And I’m confident Joe Biden has always made the fundamental distinguishing distinction between he and Donald Trump.”

Schiff also raised concerns about the president’s standing against Trump in the general election, noting the president’s age. “Given Biden’s incredible record and given Trump’s terrible record he should be mopping the floor with Donald Trump,” Schiff said. “It should not be even close, and the reason it is close is the president’s age.”

Schiff also said Biden’s interview with ABC News that aired on Friday wasn’t enough to quell mounting concerns from Democrats about his mental fitness. “The interview didn’t put concerns to rest. No single interview is going to do that,” he said. “And what I do think the president needs to decide is, can he put those concerns aside? Can he demonstrate to the American people that what happened on the debate stage was an aberration, that he can and will beat Donald Trump.”

Pressed on whether he thinks Biden should take a cognitive test after he refused during his ABC News interview to commit to taking one, Schiff said he’d be happy if both Biden and Trump were willing to take a test. “I think, frankly, a test would show Donald Trump has serious illness of one kind or another,” he said. “But ultimately, the decision is going to come down to what Joe Biden thinks is best, and if his decision is to run, then run hard and beat that S.O.B. And if his decision is to pass the torch, then the president should do everything in his power to make that other candidate successful.”

Schiff’s answers come after Biden’s interview with ABC News did little to assuage concerns from Democrats who have called for Biden to step aside after his lackluster debate performance last month. Front-line Democrats who spoke to NBC News say they fear that his debate performance has done irreversible damage to his candidacy.

In his interview with ABC News, the president sought to reassure voters that he remains the best candidate to beat Trump in November, arguing that he had a “bad night” at the debate as he sought to tamp down mounting concerns over his age and mental fitness. Biden remained publicly defiant in the face of calls from some Democrats to drop out of the race, repeatedly saying that only “the Lord Almighty” could convince him to end his bid for a second term in office.

Joe Biden’s stumbling debate performance left Democrats so panicked some are searching for an alternative to replace the 81-year-old president as the party’s standard-bearer. Biden has given no indication that he intends to exit the race, and his campaign has flatly dismissed the suggestion. But that has done little to silence critics who are openly questioning whether Biden is the right person to take on Donald Trump, a figure the president – and his party – view as a grave threat to American democracy.

In the unlikely scenario Biden decides not to run, the most obvious choice to replace him would be his 59-year-old vice president and running mate, Kamala Harris. But it would not be automatic – and other candidates would likely challenge Harris, who has suffered her own low approval ratings, for the nomination. Already some Democrats are looking past the vice-president at other possible contenders – Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, Illinois governor JB Pritzker, California governor Gavin Newsom and Maryland governor Wes Moore.

It’s a sign that Democrats have yet to fully embrace Harris as Biden’s heir apparent. “To even discuss Biden stepping down while COMPLETELY IGNORING THE VP … is a serious look into how we see the importance, capacity and seriousness of women of color,” writer Tanzina Vega, said on X. Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, is the highest-ranking female elected official in US history and the first Black and first Asian American to serve as vice president.

Democrats, traumatized by Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump in 2016, rallied behind Biden in 2020 over a younger, more diverse and progressive field of candidates that included Harris. As a candidate, Biden promised to be a “bridge” to the next generation of Democratic leaders, which many interpreted as commitment to serve one-term and before passing the baton to Harris. But when the time came to make a decision, Biden argued that he was still the Democrat best-positioned to beat Trump.

For the past three and a half years, Harris’s barrier-breaking vice-presidency has divided Democrats. Negative press, some of it self-inflicted, compounded by sexist and racist attacks, and a challenging policy portfolio weighed on public perception of the former California senator. Nearly 50% of voters have an unfavorable view of Harris, according to 538’s polling average, compared with the roughly 40% who view her favorably, figures that are comparable with Biden’s.

Despite a rocky start to her tenure, Harris has eased into the role, especially since becoming the administration’s leading voice on abortion rights. On Monday, Harris marked the second anniversary of the US supreme court decision that overturned Roe v Wade with a fiery warning that Trump would not hesitate to further restrict women’s reproductive rights in a second-term. Nodding to her background as a prosecutor, the vice president declared: “In the case of the stealing of reproductive freedom from the women of America, Donald Trump is guilty.”

Harris’s clear defense of abortion rights, by far Democrats’ strongest issue, stands in stark contrast to Biden. During Thursday’s debate, Biden fumbled an attack on Trump over Republican bans on the procedure, pivoting bizarrely to immigration and raising the case of a young woman murdered in Georgia. Moments after Biden finished the debate, it was Harris who came to his defense first in a pair of interviews. On CNN and MSNBC, Harris spun his performance, saying voters must look at the last three-and-a-half years of accomplishments and not just at the 90-minute debate. Harris conceded that Biden had a “slow start” but insisted he finished “strong.”

“I’m talking about the choice for November,” she said on CNN. “I’m talking about one of the most important elections in our collective lifetime.” In a sharp back-and-forth, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper pressed Harris about calls for Biden to step aside. “I’m not going to spend all night with you talking about the last 90 minutes when I’ve been watching the last three-and-a-half years of performance,” she said, emphasizing his legislative and executive achievements he’s pulled in his first-term.

At a rally in Las Vegas the following day, Harris doubled down on her support. “In the Oval Office, negotiating bipartisan deals, I see him in the situation room keeping our country safe,” she said, adding that the election would not be decided by “one night in June”. The Atlanta debate was the first of the election cycle, with a second scheduled in September. The Biden campaign has agreed to a vice-presidential debate between Harris and Trump’s eventual running mate, but the terms have not yet been to confirmed.

In a hypothetical matchup against Trump, Harris performed roughly on par with Biden, trailing the former president by six points in a February Times/Siena poll. Biden trailed Trump by five points in the same poll. Meanwhile, the poll found Harris ran stronger than Biden with Black voters, though worse with Hispanic voters and men. Biden’s age has long been an electoral challenge. But his shaky debate performance shocked even his staunchest supporters. At a rally on Friday, Biden acknowledged his stumbles, but insisted he was still the best candidate to defeat Trump.

“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” he said at a post-debate rally in North Carolina. “I know I don’t walk as easy as I used to, I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to, I don’t debate as well as I used to, but I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth.” But mounting concerns about Biden’s mental acuity have drawn even greater scrutiny of Harris, particularly from the right. Republicans have sought to make Harris a boogyman, with Nikki Haley warning during the GOP primary a vote for Biden was a vote for “a President Harris”.

With the convention scheduled for mid-August in Chicago, and the formal nomination process to take place virtually at some point before that to meet an Ohio ballot deadline, many Democrats have said there is not enough time to replace Biden at the top of the ticket. Former South Carolina lawmaker and Democratic commentator Bakari Sellers, who endorsed Harris in the 2020 primary, said wishing for an alternative to emerge at this stage was futile.

“You’re not nominating Gretch or Gavin or Wes over Kamala. Stop it,” he wrote on X, adding: “Choice is Trump, Biden or couch. I choose Joe.”

Source: NBC News, The Guardian

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