Kamala Harris, former Vice-President Biden’s choice for running mate, is an accomplished national politician and was a candidate for the nomination herself. With 59% of likely voters saying it was probable that Biden’s vice-president would become the chief executive over the course of his term, she is guaranteed an outsized role in the campaign. Her candidacy and record as California Attorney General will be a focus of both campaigns and her position as a rhetorical lightning rod will demand media coverage.
Join FXStreet senior analysts Yohay Elam and Joseph Trevisani for an in-depth look at the Vice-Presidential candidate and the current state of the campaign.
Yohay Elam: For a politics and statistics junkie like myself, FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast has been the event of the week. Yet the most significant event in American politics has been Democratic challenger Joe Biden choice of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. Do VPs have a significant impact on the campaign?
Joseph Trevisani: Not usually. One consideration is can they assist in the electoral vote. In this case that is not a consideration at all. Biden doesn’t need help in California, the chance of Trump winning the state is less than zero.
Yohay Elam: I think geography doesn’t play such an important role, but rather identity. Trump was going to win Indiana without Pence, but he got Evangelist support with the pick, at least some
Joseph Trevisani: That is true. Biden made the choice difficult by promising early to choose a woman which became quickly an African-American woman. Harris probably has the least negatives of the choices. Her record as a prosecutor and California attorney general will certainly not dissuade progressives for voting Democratic in the fall. Even if in the primaries she was shunned by progressives.
Yohay Elam: Yeah, that’s one of her advantages. Most candidates go to the base in the primaries and to the center in the general election, party activists shape primaries
Joseph Trevisani: It is interesting that the ticket is composed of two primary losers, essentially chosen by the Democratic establishment.
Yohay Elam: I think centrist Democrats took the lesson from Trump’s primary victory, having only a plurality, not a majority. The GOP was unable to coalesce around a centrist
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, I agree. Also without Biden, the nomination goes to Sanders.
Yohay Elam: Dems saw Sanders as a risk, and closed ranks around Biden
Joseph Trevisani: Exactly
Yohay Elam: The left seems to accept Harris now despite rejecting her beforehand, but perhaps cracks will appear among Sanders supporters. With two moderates on the ticket, do you think some leftists will stay at home?
Joseph Trevisani: I don’t see Sanders voters supporting Trump, not voting perhaps. Harris, judging by her past positions is not a moderate, she is a liberal, one of the most left-wing Senators in Congress.
Yohay Elam: In a close election – which could happen at some point – every absence could make a difference. She is considered tough on crime as a prosecutor, and business-friendly to big tech in California
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, that is certainly true. But a list of the policies she supports or has supported, banning private health insurance, ending all restrictions on government funding of abortions, ending fossil fuels in a decade, gun confiscation, are all far from the mainstream of US politics, even if popular in NY and California. She will undoubtedly hedge and deny during the campaign but the video clips are available for the Trump campaign to use and they will.
Yohay Elam: The Trump campaign seemed ready with ads, she was the most probable pick. I think that the country is moving toward more health support the same it did with other topics such as gay marriage. Democrats had a wave in 2018 due to health
Joseph Trevisani: There is also her record as Attorney General in California with its aggressive jail record, something the Trump campaign will use for the African-American vote
Yohay Elam: I think that appealing to African Americans is a lost cause for Trump. He cannot tweet Law and Order! and calling for sending the military and appeal to blacks. The Biden campaign has a long list of racists comments from Trump
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, but so does the Trump campaign from Biden
Yohay Elam: I don’t think it’s balanced though, and Biden is able to acknowledge mistakes and apologize. Trump never admits a mistake, just denies that, like the promise to get 5 million coronavirus tests per day
Joseph Trevisani: I disagree, Crime impacts black American far more than anyone else. I have no doubt that the black urban resident understands this.
Yohay Elam: Promise, then deny he said that all on tape, taking away guns would help reduce the impact of crime
Joseph Trevisani: I don’t think the competition between who said what or lied is going to have much traction.
Yohay Elam: All politicians lie or at least mislead, but Trump is big-league
Joseph Trevisani: Exactly, it is, as computer folks say a feature, not a bug.
Yohay Elam: I think that Harris will use her prosecutor skills to lay the arguments against Trump, and he will say something racist against her, sooner than later, more powerful than a past quote
Joseph Trevisani: So is Biden. The clips go back decades, which is why I don’t think it will be a profitable avenue for either campaign.
Yohay Elam: Again, Biden is able to explain why he changed his mind. Trump is unable to keep his twitter feed silent
Joseph Trevisani: Provided he campaigns
Yohay Elam: He already said Harris is nasty, and that housewives will vote for him
Joseph Trevisani: I would venture to say he is right.
Yohay Elam: Women who speak, bad, housewives that like Trump, good. Nasty coming from Trump’s mouth, will not convince women to vote for him, and Harris can trigger more comments like that from him, especially via twitter (editado)
Joseph Trevisani: I don’t think Trump’s character is much of an issue, it is five years old now. Everyone knows who and what he is.
Yohay Elam: We know all about him, but those watching the evening news see little of his worst behavior
Joseph Trevisani: Yes and the undecided voters, the persuadable ones tend to consider polices
Yohay Elam: His campaign will try to smooth things, that’s what campaigns are for, but he’s not disciplined, and she could push him off message
Joseph Trevisani: That is true, Trump is a deck of wild cards all on his own
Yohay Elam: Yeah, not hard to irritate him, with his thin skin, and perhaps Harris is the best to do so
Joseph Trevisani: Still, policies will be considered and the Democratic platform, and the Harris record is far to the left of the US electorate, especially in the states Biden needs to win. Harris is also a bit off-putting in her public persona, hence her dismal primary record.
Yohay Elam: Being against guns makes Georgia and North Carolina hard to win
Joseph Trevisani: Another consideration is the chance of Biden finishing his term. In a real sense, it is a Harris-Biden ticket, and the Trump campaign will play that with a record of her extreme leftist policies.
Yohay Elam: Biden is only three years older than Trump, but Democrats’ approach to health care, just being more compassionate on the topic in general and especially in coronavirus times, so being more to the left on health could be an advantage, and being different from Republicans
Joseph Trevisani: And in NYS too, surprisingly enough. The urban unrest, riots, and crime and the unwillingness of any Democratic politician to condemn it, including Biden and Harris, is potent. Gun sales are through the roof, in New York State, also.
Yohay Elam: Yeah, that’s something I will never understand about America. It’s more than the NRA lobby. Crime is generally in a long-term downtrend in the US, and less prevalent in the suburbs. I don’t think crime is No. 3 on 4 on the list. Coronavirus is no 1, race relations no. 2
Joseph Trevisani: I disagree gun ownership is not an NRA created issue.
Yohay Elam: Yeah, more than NRA, it is embedded in American culture
Joseph Trevisani: Crime had been on a long-term trend down, it reversed about two years ago and has skyrocketed in cities in the past six months.
Yohay Elam: I think people in cities will still lean toward the Democrats, and those in the suburbs will not rank crime as a top topic
Joseph Trevisani: It will be an issue because it is so recent, disturbing, and one-sided politically. The cities where it is soaring are all Democratic-controlled. Again, a classic campaign issue for Republicans. And yes, the cities will vote Democratic and even if the vote is less, they are in no danger of losing, it is the impact in the variable places, like suburbs that is important.
Yohay Elam: So crime was on the decline, Trump said he will fix this American carnage, and crime is rising under his presidency
Joseph Trevisani: In Democratic-controlled cities and states who control the legal machinery in toto.
Yohay Elam: Perhaps crime will be easier to put on Democrats, but Trump’s blaming of Obama for everything has run its course. That may blur Republicans’ message on crime
Joseph Trevisani: There is very little Federal impact on crime. It is totally a state and locality issue. Almost all criminal law is state.
Yohay Elam: Looks like Republicans already managed to convince the public that crime is an issue even though it’s not. So Republicans will talk about crime and Democrats about Trump’s total failure with coronavirus
Joseph Trevisani: Even if true, it won’t matter what will tell is perception and the perception is that urban crime has soared, in cities it is accurate. Murder rates, shooting, robbery in the 25 largest cities have increased dramatically. And yes, I think you are right. The Democrats will blame Trump for the virus.
Yohay Elam: The world’s richest and most prepared country never contained the first wave. Trump has been dismissing all the time, failing to give an example with masks, encouraging states to ignore the White House’s own reopening guidelines, and showing he is unaware of statistics in that Axios interview
Joseph Trevisani: The success of that attack will depend on the virus status in the fall.
Yohay Elam: With around 166,000 dead and many more with long-term repercussions of the disease, I think the damage is done, polls have been stable of late. Hardly any correction for Trump
Joseph Trevisani: Infection rates, the second wave is rising in many countries worldwide so the US experience is typical. But back to Harris. She is essentially a president in waiting. I think the polling is 55% do not expect Biden to finish his first term.
Yohay Elam: It’s the US and South America together, also where gun violence is higher, and the previous one quote was the Financial Times, both trustworthy news sources
Joseph Trevisani: Not to me I am afraid
Yohay Elam: Where there’s a separation of opinion and news
Joseph Trevisani: At least not on Trump-related topics
Yohay Elam: It’s a virus that affects all the world, all Americans, and not a Trump issue. Not everything is around Trump, maybe for him it is
Joseph Trevisani: At any rate back to Harris. I think she will get far more attention, both from the media and the voters for two reasons.
Yohay Elam: You’ll see the same maps on every website. I can agree she’ll get attention, already getting comments that may backfire
Joseph Trevisani: First, she is likely to be far more accessible than Biden and two, voters already view her as a more than a possible president.
Yohay Elam: Biden said he’ll be a bridge to the new generation, but if Trump can continue serving, so can Biden
Joseph Trevisani: Rather an admission of what everyone suspects. It is an unusual position for a presidential campaign, I wonder how it will play with voters that the Democrats choose a candidate that will not finish his term.
Yohay Elam: I don’t see why he will not finish his term, at least in comparison to Trump
Joseph Trevisani: There was no shortage of younger more able candidates, Harris herself is or was one.
Yohay Elam: The same goes for Republicans, maybe they will still ditch Trump, or perhaps sacrifice Pence
Joseph Trevisani: I am speaking of the public perception of Biden. No one expects Trump not to finish if elected.
Yohay Elam: Voters believe Trump lacks the key traits for the Oval Office: less than half think he has the mental soundness (43 percent), intelligence (42 percent), and judgment (40 percent) to serve effectively as president, according to Fox News. Regime mouthpiece like China’s Global Times
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, but all those statistics are at about the percentage who have steadily disapproved of Trump that hasn’t changed in five years.
Yohay Elam: He won by the thinnest of margins, and Democrats won in 2018. It doesn’t take much to see him lose unless he rejects the election results
Joseph Trevisani: All true. The election was historically close in 2016. Reject the election results? Do you mean to refuse to leave the office?
Yohay Elam: Yes, he refused to say he’ll accept the election results in an interview with Wallace of Fox News
Joseph Trevisani: After five years, the Democrats still don’t understand when they are being trolled. The Pence-Harris debates will have much more than the normal interest. Do you think they could have an outsize impact?
Yohay Elam: I think Pence is irrelevant, and that Harris could troll Trump
Joseph Trevisani: Just for the record. I have zero concern that Trump will not leave the office if he loses.
Yohay Elam: Triggering demeaning responses from him and putting him on the back foot. I cannot dismiss a scenario in which the results are close on election night and that they move toward Biden as the slow count of mail-in ballots proceeds. That blue shift happened in 2018
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, I agree. Harris is not a terribly likable politician, hence her failure in the primaries, but a few comments from Trump could change that.
Yohay Elam: And I cannot rule out that Trump will say that is a fraud. Trump wants to deny the US Post Office funds to process the votes quickly, he said that. The blue wave shifted from +26 to +41 in 2018, as time passed by, especially with slow counting in California. Say that happens in a swing state, showing a narrow Trump victory after a few hours but showing a Biden victory after a few weeks
Joseph Trevisani: California permits post-election ballot harvesting.
Yohay Elam: A responsible politician would say “too close to call, let’s wait for the full results.” Trump is a sore loser. I hope you are right and it’s a California case. Currently, Biden has a significant but not insurmountable lead. That means that he could win by a landslide or that the Trump could narrowly win like in 2016
Joseph Trevisani: The election will not turn on California results.
Yohay Elam: But if the vote is close in Florida? Or Pennsylvania? Hopefully, you’re right and I’m wrong, Trump concedes defeat if he loses and the transition is orderly
Joseph Trevisani: I agree. I hope so as well, though my concerns are less. Final consideration. Do you think Harris will have a large impact on the campaign and the election?
Yohay Elam: I think she will have an outsized impact in comparison to previous VPs
Joseph Trevisani: We agree. It does happen.
Yohay Elam: But eventually, it’s a referendum on the incumbent, then a test of the challenger, then all the rest. And yes, nice to agree ahead of the weekend! Harris is more significant than Pence and Kaine. Those two are easy
Joseph Trevisani: I agree here also. The election will be, as it almost always is, and should be a judgment on the incumbent.
Yohay Elam: Yep, but I think we’ll find ourselves mentioning Harris again, perhaps more than once, in the run-up to the vote. 81 days to go
Joseph Trevisani: We will have several conversations about Harris I think. She is an interesting topic.