The answer to the headline depends on who you ask. Biden supporters, naturally, say Sen. Kamala Harris crossed a line from which there is no going back when she accused the former vice president of opposing school desegregation by opposing Department of Education programs to bus minority children to predominantly white schools within a community and bus white schoolchildren to schools with more minority students. The concept many decades back was a controversial solution to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision which forced school desegregation, but Harris felt this was an open line of attack on Biden despite the issue stemming from the 1960s and 1970s.
While Harris appeared to score political points at the debate last week, the backlash against her actions has begun to swell. As some Biden supporters and proponents see it, Harris would’ve been on the very short list of vice presidential options for Biden, but that time has now gone:
One major Biden supporter from California who declined to be named for publication said Harris’ direct attack on Biden was a mistake that would haunt her.
“It’s going to bite her in the ass,” the supporter noted. “Very early on there was buzz … Biden-Kamala is the dream ticket, the best of both worlds.’’
After this week, “That sh** ain’t happening.”
The criticism of Harris over her rough treatment of Biden is among the first signs of backlash — including in her home state — against the California Democrat who had a breakout moment in the first presidential debate.
It’s true, there has always been some talk of hitching up Biden with Harris as a “dream ticket.” The goal of getting Biden’s name and experience coupled with a younger, female vice presidential nominee who’s popular in progressive circles seems like a good match on paper.
On the other hand, Harris was asked once whether she would accept a spot as Biden’s vice president in the event that he wins the nomination. In response, Harris shrewdly answered something along the lines of “maybe we should ask Biden if he would be my vice president.”
Beyond the backlash from Biden supporters, Harris’ attack also re-framed the debate within the Democratic primary over how candidates should approach racial issues in the campaign:
Others, however, say that the debate is precisely what is necessary as the party looks to nominate its next standard-bearer.
“It’s not really about busing. It’s about what their commitment to racial justice looks like,” said Aimee Allison, the founder and president of She the People, a group intent on bolstering women of color in politics. “We should have a conversation that puts racial justice in the middle of a conversation in the Democratic primary.”
In other words, according to the pull quote, it’s about whether Democrats should disqualify any candidate who has a history of being involved in politics during turbulent racial times such as the 1960s and 1970s when any number of decisions and votes can be examined in retrospect and viewed through the lens of racial politics in 2019. Harris exposed this weak point in Biden’s record which he will assuredly learn to account for and more adequately rebut in future debates.
Biden feels some love
Harris’ decision to attack Biden so strongly has created a situation where voters are finally being forced to decide whether they truly like Biden as a candidate, or whether he simply became the “default choice,” in their minds, to beat Donald Trump.
It’s also a sign of the goodwill and loyalty that many still feel toward that the vice president, who has managed to keep many of his backers in his camp, even amid criticism of what was roundly viewed as a subpar debate performance. Indeed, sources say Biden walked away with a $1 million haul after two fundraisers in San Francisco alone this weekend.
Biden did poorly in his first debate performance but that’s likely due to some rust at this point in his career. He hasn’t been in a tough primary battle or fight since he last ran for president in 2008. After becoming Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden has basically coasted for the past 11 years up until now. His backers will forgive a weak performance, but they’re going to want to see some changes.
CNN poll puts Harris in 2nd place
We briefly touched the trend yesterday that Biden’s poll numbers were taking a dent from his debate performance, and that Harris was experiencing an upswing, but no pollster seems to capture the result as much as CNN:
Post-debate CNN poll: 2020 Democrats
6/28-30 (change from 5/28-31)
Biden 22% (-10)
Harris 17% (+9)
Warren 15% (+8)
Sanders 14% (-4)
Buttigieg 4% (-1)
Booker 3% (-)
O’Rourke 3% (-2)
Klobuchar 2% (-)
Castro 1% (-1)
de Blasio 1% (+1)
Gabbard 1% (-)
Yang 1% (-)
[everyone else <1%]
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) July 1, 2019
The pre-debate/post-debate numbers gave Harris a 9-point bounce while Biden dropped 10 points. Those are eye-popping numbers if they’re corroborated by other polls. Luckily for Biden, the CNN numbers are still an aberration, but the trend must be watched closely to see if other pollsters document similar moves.
If it’s true that Harris rocketed into the number 2 position, knocking Bernie back, the race has truly shifted since the June debate and we’re headed into new and uncharted territory for the July debate.