Nancy Pelosi seemed to offer a less-than-ringing endorsement when asked if Kamala Harris was the best running mate for Joe Biden next year, saying: “He thinks so, and that’s what matters.”
But the former US House speaker also had praise for the vice-president, telling CNN: “And, by the way, she’s very politically astute. I don’t think people give her enough credit. She’s … consistent with the president’s values and the rest.”
As Biden knows after eight years under Barack Obama, the vice-presidency has never been easy to fill. Harris may or may not agree with John Nance Garner’s famous observation, that the job he did for Franklin D Roosevelt wasn’t worth “a pitcher of warm piss”, but she has experienced familiar trials.
Speculation over her performance and possible replacement has been constant. In a deeply sourced new book about the Biden White House, the author Franklin Foer describes Harris’s struggles to define her role.
Nor does Harris enjoy favourable polling. Her approval rating – like Biden’s – has long been stuck at around 40%.
Biden is the oldest president ever elected and will turn 82 shortly after the 2024 election. In that light, the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has been prominent among Republicans targeting Harris on the campaign trail. The prospect of a Harris presidency should “send a chill up every American’s spine”, Haley recently told Fox News.
Pelosi, however, spoke glowingly of her fellow Californian’s political skills.
“People shouldn’t underestimate what Kamala Harris brings to the table,” she told CNN. “People don’t understand. She’s politically astute. Why would she be vice-president if she were not? But when she was running for attorney general in California [in 2010], she had 6% in the polls … and she politically astutely made her case about why she would be good, did her politics, and became attorney general.”
Harris became a US senator in 2016, then mounted a presidential campaign in 2020, showing strongly at Biden’s expense on the debate stage but dropping out before the first vote. Biden mended bridges and named Harris his running mate.
“She’s the vice-president of the United States,” Pelosi said. “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. You know, you’re a source of strength, inspiration, intellectual resource. I think she’s represented our country very well at home and abroad.”
On Thursday morning, Pelosi told MSNBC: “The Biden-Harris team is our team. We’re very proud of it. And we’re all going to work very hard to make sure that they are re-elected.”
Biden and Harris seem set to face a rematch with Donald Trump, if not with Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, who is challenging for the Republican nomination (and who on Wednesday said Biden advised him to “stay close to the president and build that relationship” after he and Trump won in 2016).
Pence’s stint as Trump’s vice-president ended with the January 6 riot, when Trump supporters sought Pence at the Capitol, chanting that he should be hanged.
On Wednesday, Pence said that showed his stint as vice-president “didn’t end the way I wanted it to”.
Pelosi told CNN Trump’s attempt to overturn the last election meant “nothing less is at stake than our democracy … you hear that in the country. You hear that globally. And we have to remove all doubt that our democracy is strong.”
Last Sunday, Harris was asked if she was ready to step up as president.
“Yes, I am, if necessary,” she told CBS. “But Joe Biden is going to be fine. And let me tell you something: I work with Joe Biden every day.”
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