In her bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Nikki Haley is setting her sights on Vice President Kamala Harris. Haley argues that supporting President Joe Biden is effectively endorsing Harris as the next president, given concerns about Biden's age and Harris's perceived ineffectiveness as Vice President.
This strategy of targeting the vice president during a presidential campaign is not entirely unprecedented in American history. Throughout the years, vice presidents have often been subject to campaign attacks, albeit with limited success. Even the first negative television ad in 1956, which raised concerns about Vice President Richard Nixon potentially taking over due to President Eisenhower's health issues, did not significantly impact the election outcome.
However, the Biden-Harris team cannot rely solely on historical precedent in the 2024 campaign. Biden's approval ratings have been less than stellar, and the media frequently highlights his age as a potential concern. This unfavorable environment could make attacks on Harris by Haley and other Republicans more effective.
Moreover, the challenges that plagued Harris's unsuccessful 2020 campaign have not disappeared. She has at times struggled in interviews, providing unclear answers or repeating phrases without finishing her thoughts. This contrasts unfavorably with both Biden and former President Donald Trump, who, despite having relatively low approval ratings themselves, outshine Harris in terms of favorability. Harris also carries higher unfavorable ratings, making her a vulnerable target for criticism.
Even prominent Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and influential figure Jim Clyburn have been cautious in offering strong endorsements of Harris. Pelosi evaded the question when asked if Harris was Biden's best chance for re-election, and Clyburn, who played a crucial role in rescuing Biden's 2020 campaign, appears to be somewhat reserved in his support for the vice president.
Despite the doubts surrounding the Biden-Harris ticket, it seems unlikely that removing Harris would be a viable solution for the campaign. Replacing a relatively young black woman on the ticket with another candidate could be viewed unfavorably by voters and leave a negative impression.
In the end, Harris's performance as Vice President may not be the sole determinant of Biden's electoral prospects. The responsibility for the success or failure of his campaign ultimately rests primarily with him. As Amani Wells-Onyioha, a Democratic strategist, argues, attempting to shift blame onto Harris would be an effort to evade accountability.