5 Takeaways From Kamala Harris’s First Full Day on the Biden Ticket

5 Takeaways From Kamala Harris’s First Full Day on the Biden Ticket

When Joseph R. Biden Jr. dialed up Senator Kamala Harris on a videoconference call and asked her The Question — “You ready to go to work?” he said, to which she replied, “Oh my God, I am so ready” — his choice as vice president was a well-kept secret but hardly a surprise.

Almost from the start of the 2020 campaign, the possibility of a Biden-Harris ticket had loomed large in the imagination. Voters would bring it up unprompted on the campaign trail, sometimes to the annoyance of Ms. Harris, and Democratic strategists pictured it as they dreamed up an ideal alliance to take down President Trump.

Now that a Biden-Harris ticket is the Democratic reality, here are five takeaways from their first full day as a ticket after a rollout that was as smooth as it was socially distanced from spontaneity:

A wave of news coverage heralded Ms. Harris’s nomination as groundbreaking, but it could easily be lost just how rare it is that Black women are elevated to positions of political power in America. Ms. Harris is only the second Black woman ever to serve in the United States Senate, and the first South Asian-American woman. No Black woman has ever served as the governor of a state. Before Ms. Harris, no Black woman had ever been on a major party’s presidential ticket.

And yet the choice of Ms. Harris can, at the same time, fairly be described as conventional and even the most expected pick, not just because of her ideological alignment with Mr. Biden but also because of her ability to draw support from so many corners of the Democratic coalition. During her own primary bid, that fact sometimes left her without her own base, as she oscillated between explicit appeals to the left (her pre-candidacy embrace of “Medicare for all”) and moves toward the middle (she promised a middle-class tax cut as her top priority).

Enter Ms. Harris, at 55 a comparatively youthful politician who, at her best, can be one of the Democratic Party’s most engaging speakers.

The placement of Ms. Harris, a daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, on the ticket represents the recognition of the critical role that Black women play in the Democratic coalition as its most reliable voters. She offered a taste of the range of her potential political appeal in her first speech. She cut at Mr. Trump, talked up her habit of home-cooked Sunday dinners and embraced her place in history in a line of “heroic and ambitious women.”

Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden, 77, engaged, both onstage and later at a small-dollar fund-raiser, in some back-and-forth banter that showed their deep familiarity. “With your permission, madam vice president,” Mr. Biden gently butted in at one point.

This is no political shotgun wedding but a yearslong relationship that dates to Ms. Harris’s days as California’s attorney general, which overlapped with the tenure of Mr. Biden’s son Beau Biden as attorney general in Delaware. Ms. Harris said Beau, who died in 2015, had been on her mind since the elder Mr. Biden asked her to join the ticket.

“I’ve been thinking, yes, about the first Biden that I really came to know, and that of course is Joe’s beloved son,” Ms. Harris said. Then she added a quick and knowing addendum. “One of his beloved sons, Beau.”

The choice was announced around 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday. The Biden campaign promptly broke the donation-processing site ActBlue’s record for the most money ever raised in an hour. By early evening the campaign had achieved its biggest single day of grass-roots online fund-raising.

On Wednesday, Ms. Harris made her debut speech to the nation as part of the ticket. It was carried live on all the cable and broadcast news networks. The Biden campaign promptly broke ActBlue’s hourly record again.

By the end of Ms. Harris’s first full day on the campaign trail, the Biden campaign war chest had swelled, according to the campaign, by well over $34 million — and that is probably just the start. One official with the campaign said it had sold $1.2 million worth of yard signs since her announcement.

What makes the Harris choice unique — and what was one of her potential appeals as a candidate herself — is the senator’s ability to lure both traditional big donors and waves of smaller supporters online.

Jon Henes, a lawyer who had served as Ms. Harris’s national finance chairman, called her “the perfect choice” for Mr. Biden and said her selection had spurred requests to assist the new ticket. “The immediate outpouring of support with people asking how they can help is so meaningful and confirms that Vice President Biden made the right choice with Kamala,” he said.

Other donors, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, echoed the sentiment. “Everyone loves her,” said Marc Lasry, a hedge fund executive and top Democratic fund-raiser.

Playing the attack dog is fairly standard fare for vice-presidential picks, and Ms. Harris is well suited to the role. A former prosecutor, she made some of her biggest splashes in her three-plus years in the Senate grilling Trump administration appointees: Brett M. Kavanaugh. Jeff Sessions. William P. Barr.

She quickly adopted the language of a district attorney on the stump. “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open-and-shut,” she declared. “Just look where they’ve gotten us.”

Prosecutorial skills were a centerpiece of her own presidential appeal, and for Mr. Biden, having her by his side — even virtually — could free him to more forcefully make the proactive case for his own presidency, even as his advisers see the 2020 race chiefly as a referendum on Mr. Trump.

In one of several fresh lines on Wednesday, Ms. Harris said of the president, “He inherited the longest economic expansion in history and then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it into the ground.”


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