As approval ratings for Kamala Harris have now plunged to the lowest level for a vice president in nearly 30 years, talk of replacing her atop the 2024 Democratic ticket has only grown over the past few months.
An NBC News survey conducted earlier this month and published last week found that just 32 percent of registered voters have a positive view of Harris compared to 49 percent who have a negative view, leaving a net negative rating of -17 points, or “the lowest for any vice president in the poll’s history,” the outlet reported Monday.
Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they have a “very negative” view of Harris. The outlet noted that Harris’ approval rating is the lowest for a VP since 1995, when Al Gore was VP to President Bill Clinton.
All of which has fueled talk and speculation that President Joe Biden has to replace her with someone much more popular and who could be far more effective, from a Democratic Party standpoint, as president.
“The perception that (Biden) will not be mentally fit enough to carry out the demands of the job may be unfair, but that perception is clearly held by a majority of voters, including Democrats and Independents,” wrote Tom Rogers, editor-at-large for Newsweek.
But he went on to write that Biden, despite his own low approval ratings and questions about his viability and health, could likely still win — without Harris.
“Vice President Harris could render Joe Biden unelectable. Which is why it is Harris who should be replaced,” he noted.
The White House is aware that Harris is a liability. Officials within the administration “are rushing to the aid of Vice President Kamala Harris to try to shore up her underwhelming poll numbers heading into 2024,” Axios reported in April.
“Officials believe that could make her a drag on the ticket as Biden begins a reelection campaign that likely will boil down to a few tight states,” the report added, noting that there is an effort underway to dramatically improve her image.
Anita Dunn, one of the most prominent figures within the West Wing, has recently instructed the White House political and engagement teams to collaborate in organizing events featuring Harris to advocate for key Democratic initiatives like infrastructure spending and abortion rights, Axios noted, adding:
This is a huge shift from much of Biden’s first two years, when there was mutual distrust and anonymous sniping between the vice president’s team and the West Wing.
Harris, initially saddled by Biden with no-win issues such as immigration and a stalled voting-rights bill, has frustrated many of his top aides. She has suffered frequent staff turnover, and rarely has been entrusted with high-profile assignments.
U.S. News & World Report, meanwhile, noted that the White House has a “backup plan” for Biden, who appears to be aging rapidly, that involves shoring up Harris.
While the 80-year-old president claims he’s ready for the challenges of a second term, which would conclude when he turns 86, the White House and the Biden-Harris campaign are concurrently amplifying Harris’s prominence, the outlet reported.
The strategy aims to provide voters with a firsthand glimpse of what it would be like to have not only the first woman but also the first woman of color as the nation’s leader.
“The more people are reminded of the leadership of Vice President Harris … the more people are reminded of the outstanding public servant she is, the more she becomes a threat to the Republican Party,” Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY’s List and a senior adviser to Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign, told U.S. News.
But would Biden actually replace Harris? Not likely, say experts.
“Harris has her critics within the White House and those around Biden. The relationship between the president and vice president has been described as friendly but not intimate. Even so, the political cost of replacing Harris, if the thought ever crossed Biden’s mind, would far outweigh any gain,” Mark Barabak wrote in a column for the L.A. Times in February.
“Effectively firing the first female, first Black and first Asian American vice president would risk a serious backlash from the Democratic base — especially Black women, who were crucial to Biden’s election,” he added.