Harris the favorite to take on Trump after savaging Biden

Harris the favorite to take on Trump after savaging Biden

Kamala Harris at the presidential-primary debates. (Reuters)

Sen. Kamala Harris last week emerged as the clear winner during two nights of debates for the Democratic presidential primary in the US. The result has not yet shown in public opinion polls, but she won recognition from Democrat voters who might not have known about her before. She also won praise from the influential media.

Going into last week, former Vice President Joe Biden was the favorite to win, with some pollsgiving him a double-digit lead over his closest competitors. However, there was always a high probability that Biden’s good poll numbers so early in the race were just a result of people knowing his name before they recognized the other candidates. Biden has the greatest name recognition because he was the vice president only two-and-a-half years ago.

Biden has been a national figure since 1973, when he first entered the US Senate as a 30-year-old. He has run for president before — in 1988 and in 2008. In 1988, his campaign was derailed, in part, by plagiarism allegations. In 2008, he was not a top candidate, but he was chosen by the eventual winner, President Barack Obama, as his running mate.

Biden has become somewhat infamous for rhetorical gaffesover the years. He accidentally uses curse words in public, unintentionally demeans himself and his colleagues, makes racially insensitive comments and sometimes ascribes nefarious intentions to his own actions. He is also known to be a little too friendly with women of all ages. Though he has never been accused of seriously harming women, there are many widely viewed internet videos of the former vice president getting a little too close to women in public. Many Democrats dismiss Biden’s quirks and some lovingly refer to him as “Uncle Joe.” Yet, in this era when voters are so sensitive to any impropriety, his outgoing personality and penchant for speaking irresponsibly could cause problems for his campaign.

By the time Harris was done going after Biden, he appeared dumbfounded and defeated.

Ellen R. Wald

Harris’ campaign realized all of this about Biden and strategically planned to take him down during last week’s debate. She hit him hard on the issue of race, which is always a tough subject in the US. Slavery ended in the US in 1865, while legal racial discrimination was outlawed in the 1950s and 1960s. However, race is still one of the most serious issues in America. Harris, whose father is a Jamaican-born black academic, hit Biden on issues relating to the racial integration of schools when she was a girl. It may have seemed like a topic from the past, but Harris used her unique perspective — she reminded the audience that she was the only black candidate on stage that night — and Biden’s connections to a more bigoted American past.

By the time Harris was done going after Biden, he appeared dumbfounded and defeated. While Harris spoke to him, cameras showed Biden staring at his podium instead of looking at the audience, the moderators or Harris. While candidates in these debates usually keep speaking beyond their allotted times to say as much as possible, Biden chose to stop speaking early at one point. He said: “My time is up. I’m sorry.” And that line may be applied to more than just that moment in the debate. Perhaps he realized then and there that, at 76 years old, his time as a politician is up.

Now Harris should be considered the most imposing candidate for her opponents. Harris was a prosecutor in San Francisco, California, and the state’s attorney general. She only entered the US Senate in 2017 but, if she wins the presidential election, she would have had as much time in the Senate as Obama did before he won the higher office. Harris is the daughter of two immigrants. Her mother, who passed away a decade ago, was a cancer researcher born in India (Kamala is a Sanskrit word for lotus). Her parents divorced when she was a child and, while her father remained in California, she spent her adolescent years with her mother in Montreal, Canada.

Harris officially announced her candidacy for president in January. She was the third major candidate to announce, which meant she was able to get an early start on fundraising. But Harris was wise and kept a relatively low profile outside of the Senate chambers. While others running for president often said radical or wild things to get media attention, she mostly stayed quiet until her interactions with Biden last week. This kept her out of trouble and allowed her to shine on her own terms.

Now, at 54 years old, Harris is seen as young enough to be the mantle of the Democratic Party for some time. This is in stark contrast with Biden or Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who are all over 70 years old. Furthermore, by verbally sparring with Biden on the debate stage, she tried to prove to Democrat voters that she is tough enough to take on President Donald Trump.

There is still a lot of time before the primary elections in 2020, and Harris could implode with a poor performance or if an opponent successfully informs the electorate of some of the unsavory detailsof her past. However, at the start of the summer campaign season, Harris is now the favorite to face Trump.

  • Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a historian and author of “Saudi, Inc.” She is the president of Transversal Consulting and also teaches Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University. Twitter: @EnergzdEconomy
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