Kamala Harris allies strategize in case Biden withdraws

Kamala Harris

Key questions include whether Harris would control the massive Biden-Harris campaign fund run by the Biden team if the president were to drop out of the race.

Harris has emerged as an early favorite to replace the president at the top of the ticket, but that’s no guarantee that the Democratic National Convention in Chicago won’t feature more contenders and a potentially messy battle for the nomination.

According to Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who acknowledged the rules during a recent call with party donors, Harris would likely hold the keys to most of the money. Biden’s campaign began in June with $91 million in cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission records. The entire political operation, which includes Biden’s joint fundraising committees, began July with $240 million on hand, according to the campaign.

There is also discussion among Harris confidants about the need to begin scheduling meetings for the vice president with some of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors if Biden drops out, these people said.

Harris’s allies have been pressing other donors and party officials to reconsider the potential advantages the vice president’s policy portfolio could bring to a Democratic campaign platform: her focus on reproductive rights, her outreach to Black voters and marginalized communities and her comments in February in Germany when she emphasized the strength of American support for Ukraine in its fight against a Russian invasion, according to a person familiar with the engagement.

Some of Harris’s past fundraisers are also texting each other an old, minute-long video of the vice president confronting former President Donald Trump’s appointees when she was a U.S. senator, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. It shows clips of Harris confronting people including former attorneys general Bill Barr, Jeff Sessions and then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The video also underscores a key message, they say: Harris’ willingness to stand up to Trump’s allies shows she has what it takes to go head-to-head with the former president. “By taking on Trump head-to-head, Kamala will use her character, her values, and her experience as a prosecutor to expose Trump,” a voiceover in the ad says.

The video was produced for a political action committee called “People Standing Strong,” which never fully activated because Harris dropped out in 2019, shortly after it was created. The PAC reportedly set aside nearly $300,000 in advertising in the key state of Iowa, but the ads did not air because Harris dropped out before the state’s primary.

A White House spokeswoman for representatives of the Harris and Biden campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

Any discussion of what Harris might need to win a nominating convention fight was unthinkable for Democrats before Thursday’s debate, when Biden struggled to make his case for re-election and failed to counter Trump.

Biden’s poor debate performance greatly changed the mood among donors, with many privately discussing the need for the president to step aside to give the party the best chance of beating Trump in November.

For example, donors sending the video are “confused, scared and sad” since the debate, said a longtime strategist close to many of California’s top fundraisers. “They are desperate to beat Trump.”

Dmitri Mehlhorn, a longtime adviser to Democratic donors including tech investor Reid Hoffman, said in an email to allies Wednesday that was shared with CNBC that while he remains supportive of Biden, Harris, in his view, would be a strong alternative to take on and potentially defeat Trump.

“To be clear, Vice President Harris is a badass. A ticket with her at the top, paired with someone who balances her brand weaknesses (examples range from Mark Kelly to Andy Beshear to Roy Cooper to Josh Shapiro and many others), would be absolutely competitive with the convicted felon and lunatic the other side has pledged to nominate,” Mehlhorn wrote. “We would lose Joe’s superpower brand, but gain other benefits and remain competitive.”

Biden’s team has said the president will not drop out of the race. Harris, meanwhile, has remained loyal and is scheduled to have lunch with the president at the White House on Wednesday.

Despite his public pledge not to drop out, The New York Times and CNN reported Wednesday that Biden has privately signaled to an ally that he may not be able to save his candidacy.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates vehemently denied the story in a social media post. CNBC and NBC News have not independently confirmed the conversation.

Harris defended the president’s debate performance before a group of his past donors in San Francisco on Tuesday.

The event was held at the home of real estate executive Susan Lowenberg, and the crowd included former Harris donors from her days as a candidate for San Francisco district attorney, according to the group’s report.

“We have to fight and we know how to do it,” Harris told the crowd. “When we fight, we win.”

Since the debate, there has been a growing chorus of party donors — most of whom have spoken privately, and some lawmakers publicly — questioning whether Biden is up to being president for four more years and, if he is not, whether it is right for him to be the party’s nominee in November.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, on Tuesday became the first Democratic lawmaker in Congress to call for Biden to resign.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Jim Clyburn of S.C., both longtime Biden allies, said in interviews on MSNBC that it was fair for voters to ask about Biden’s health in the wake of his debate performance.

“I think it’s a legitimate question to say, ‘Is this an episode or is this a condition?’” Pelosi said in the interview, noting that the question should be asked of Biden as well as Trump.

Polls have had a mixed message for Biden since the debate.

A CNN poll shows Trump leading Biden by six percentage points nationally, which is identical to the network’s national poll in April.

But 75% of those surveyed say anyone other than Biden would have a better chance of defeating Trump than he would.

Harris’s stock has also started to rise in online betting on who will be the Democratic presidential nominee.

PredicIt, which allows people to place bets on political events, now has the vice president in a close second place behind Biden.

Before the debate, PredictIt calculated that her odds of becoming the party’s nominee this year were so far behind Biden’s that she trailed the likes of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *