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I have been watching the commercials for the third district race and found it to be a down-to-the-wire-event. We have...

Biden, Harris together, maybe

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Eleanor Clift

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Keep your eye on Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the only one in the crowded Democratic field to gain real traction since entering the race in January. She’s raised more money in the first quarter of this year than any other candidate except Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and in a California Quinnipiac poll, she places third in the state with 17 percent, one point behind Sanders, and nine points behind frontrunner Joe Biden, who is expected to get into the race in late April.

Keep in mind that California is Harris’ home state, and skeptics might note that coming in third in her home state is not exactly rousing support. But no one else even gets into double digits, and some Democrats are already imagining what they call the Republicans’ nightmare ticket, Biden at the top with Harris his running mate.

Democrats want most to win, and early polls consistently show that Biden has the best chance to overtake President Trump in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the three states that put Trump in the White House. Biden was born in Scranton, Pa., where he is treated like a favorite son, and he can compete with Trump in these states for the demographic that eluded Hillary Clinton, the white working class.

Biden’s most important asset is his ability to put together the 270 electoral votes to win the White House. But he’s not new and different, and some views he held 30 and 40 years ago are hard to explain today. Having Harris on the ticket as a potential future president would add a much-needed element of excitement, especially for younger voters and people of color.

Harris’ mother, a breast cancer scientist, emigrated to the United States from India in 1960. Her father, an economics professor at Stanford University, emigrated from Jamaica in 1961 to do graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley. Growing up, Harris and her younger sister, Maya, who is now her campaign chairwoman, attended both a black Baptist church and a Hindu temple.

Harris has gained notice for the way she commanded the stage at her kickoff rally in Oakland and for her early positioning in South Carolina, one of the early primary contests where she is expected to do well. The California primary has been moved up to the first week in March, and with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s endorsement already in hand, she is likely to get a boost there as well.

At an Obama Foundation event in Berlin, Germany, President Obama said he warned Democrats that ideological “rigidity” can lead to a circular firing squad, where Democrats unload their negative attacks on each other instead of saving it for the general election.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been working behind the scenes to keep her party united and their eyes on the prize, which is defeating Trump. Pelosi doesn’t like litmus tests where candidates are pressed to support sweeping ideas like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All without taking into account their feasibility and their cost.

Pelosi is the most powerful Democrat for now. She won’t be endorsing anybody, but she wants a winning ticket, and so far, Biden and Harris look like a better bet than any of the others.

Part of picking a winner is picking the losers too, the ones who would make Trump competitive, the ones who he could easily describe as socialists.

That wouldn’t be Harris, who is under scrutiny for her tough on crime policies as California’s attorney general. She even pushed an initiative on truancy that threatened to jail parents if their children missed too much school. She told NPR that the policy was not meant to punish vulnerable families but to shine a spotlight on rampant truancy and direct resources to those families.

As for Biden, Harris would shore him up in many ways, including taking the edge off his biggest vulnerability, his inept handling of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings all those many years ago.

Washington Merry-Go-Round, America’s longest running column, presents today’s events in historical perspective. Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift are veteran commentators.

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