The Deep Unpopularity of Kamala Harris

To me, Kamala Harris was one of the mysteries of the 2020 election cycle. She seemed to check a lot of boxes, and I saw her as an attractive candidate who had a good shot–maybe the best–at the Democratic presidential nomination. Instead, her campaign crumbled out of the starting gate, and notwithstanding ample initial fundraising, she didn’t make it to the Iowa caucuses. Despite having a number of superficial advantages, to paraphrase the old joke about dog food, the voters just didn’t like her.

Harris caught a major career break when Joe Biden more or less committed to having a black woman as his running mate, leaving Harris as the obvious choice, but she didn’t seem to take much advantage of it. With the elderly, frail Biden making few campaign appearances, one might have thought that Harris would be more visible on the campaign trail. Then again, maybe the Democrats didn’t want her to expose the hollowness of Biden’s excuses for staying out of sight. In any event, her vice-presidential run seems to have done little or nothing to enhance Harris’s standing with the electorate.

Now, a YouGov poll finds Harris under water, with 41% viewing her favorably and 48% unfavorably. The Washington Examiner points out that this negative perception contrasts strongly with other recent vice presidents. Dick Cheney, Mike Pence and Joe Biden himself, in 2009, all polled quite a bit better at a similar stage.

Harris has never shown much skill or appeal as a politician. Her path to the top in California, essentially a one-party state at this point, was paved by her illicit relationship with Willie Brown. I am not sure what it is about Harris that repels voters, but it should scare the Democrats. It is highly unlikely that Joe Biden will be a candidate for re-election in 2024, assuming he survives that long. The Examiner comments:

That Kamala can’t even get a simple majority of independents is a problem, and if Donald Trump doesn’t try to reclaim his throne, she’ll be an absolute disaster for Democrats.

Imagine a race without the burden of Trump’s personality, bombast, and utter lack of loyalty to the GOP. According to nearly every early poll, [Ron] DeSantis, Florida’s governor, is the undisputed front-runner for a primary and one that should make Democrats shake in their boots. His politics include all of the best parts of Trump’s agenda but none of the bad or the baggage, and unlike the mild-mannered Pence, DeSantis could destroy Harris on a debate stage.

Heck, Tulsi Gabbard destroyed Harris on the debate stage. But in all likelihood, the Democrats are stuck with her. If Biden dies or becomes incapacitated between now and 2024, Harris will be the incumbent. If Biden survives but graciously steps down after one term, it would be fratricidal for the Democrats to try to push Harris aside and nominate someone else. So, for better or worse, the Democrats are probably stuck with her.

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