Though California Senator Kamala Harris has been at the top of Joe Biden’s list of potential running mates since the spring, there remains a contingent of Democrats who have been lobbying against her, expressing concerns about her trustworthiness and her policy record to Biden’s Vice Presidential search committee.
One major point of contention remains Harris’s June 2019 debate attack on Biden’s opposition to a federal student busing program in the 1970s, in which she implied that his position was soft on racism, though she later admitted her own opinion on the subject was largely in line with Biden’s.
One longtime Biden supporter and donor tells Politico that when former Senator Chris Dodd, a member of Biden’s VP vetting team, asked Harris about the ambush, “She laughed and said, ‘That’s politics.’ She had no remorse.”
According to the source, “Dodd felt it was a gimmick, that it was cheap.” Dodd’s concerns about a Harris nomination ran so deep that he pushed Los Angeles congresswoman Karen Bass toward the top of the list. Dodd urged Biden he should choose Bass because “she’s a loyal number two. And that’s what Biden really wants,” the donor said.
Dodd and Harris declined Politico’s requests for comment.
Though dozens of elected officials, strategists, former Biden advisors, and current donors reportedly told Politico that they still believe Harris is Biden’s best bet for a “do no harm” running mate, there remains a group of Democrats who oppose her nomination both publicly and privately. Along with Bass, they have also recommended Illinois Senator and Purple Heart combat veteran Tammy Duckworth and Barack Obama’s national security advisor Susan Rice to the committee as favorable alternatives to Harris.
Some powerful Bay Area donors have gone public with their endorsement of Duckworth over their own senator, including entrepreneur Susie Buell and Obama fundraiser Joe Cotchett. Both influential Democrats like Duckworth’s war hero bone fides, and Cotchette—along with many Harris detractors—think Harris’s record as California Attorney General could hurt Biden’s campaign.
“I don’t think Kamala Harris has it in the bag,” former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, though he added that Biden is “too much of a gentleman” hold a grudge against her for the debate swipe. Still others say that the bad blood between the campaigns in the wake of the incident should not be underestimated—pointing out that Harris’s team went so far as to emblazon her famous line, “That little girl was me,” on T-shirts.
Despite these concerns, Harris’s backers think her career as a prosecutor makes it likely she would bloody Vice President Mike Pence in any debate. She is also, they say, the most experienced choice, having won three statewide elections in the nation’s largest state, and having already faced the national scrutiny of a presidential campaign.
Los Angeles Democratic strategist Doug Herman, who ran a super PAC for Harris during her 2016 Senate bid, said “it’d be hard to bet against” her.
“There may be some drawbacks from what transpired in the debates, but she makes a strong addition to the ticket,” he said. “The flip of this is that historically it’s the dark-horse candidates who have ended up getting picked, and folks don’t see it coming because they are focused on the odds-on favorite.”