Harris pays early dividends for Biden campaign

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“I think she brings with her the energy of every black woman in the country,” said former Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, the first black woman elected to the chamber, and only one besides Harris. .

When Biden spoke on a campus here earlier this summer, the parking lot was nearly empty and the only activity was a few reporters waiting for their temperatures to be taken. But a day after Harris’ announcement, the same high school parking lot was crowded with cars. Supporters with personalized signs and Biden and Harris t-shirts have blasted the pavement with iPhone cameras to catch their first glances at the pair that will face Donald Trump.

In interviews, more than a dozen people familiar with Biden and Harris’ operations, as well as elected officials and campaign aides sketched out how the ticket comes together and how it will roll out in the final 79-day sprint. before the election. Much of the focus has been on preparing and onboarding candidates and reintroducing Harris at events alongside Biden.

In the days following this week’s convention, the two are expected to sit down together for their first extended TV interview. People close to the campaign have said they plan for Harris to stick to a similar trip planned to Biden, although that depends on how much the coronavirus subsides.

The campaign believes it can help with a number of constituencies, including African Americans, suburban women, and, given its history in California, Latinos in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas.

The first signs of what they won came in Harris’ first speech as Biden’s running mate on Wednesday. Demonstrating the lineup that made her one of the first nomination contestants, she woven a methodical pursuit of the Trump administration with a personal tribute to Biden’s late son Beau. The Biden campaign announced it raised nearly $ 50 million within two days of joining the note, an incredible sum after spending months slashing Trump’s cash advance. Instant polls now show Democrats are more likely to vote for the ticket.

“I tried to imagine some of the other vice presidential candidates who didn’t campaign a lot to get there, and that would have been difficult,” said Rose Kapolczynski, a longtime Democratic strategist in California, highlighting the difficulty of connecting with a TV audience without the applause and energy of a rally.

Harris in the speech assaulted Trump for squandering the economy Biden helped revive with Barack Obama. But, Kapolczynski added, equally dramatic was the contrast between Harris and Biden, both visually and in tone.

“He’s a 70-plus-year-old white man, which is heartwarming for many moderate Democrats. Now he has a post that looks like America and looks to the future, ”she said. “It’s an invitation to young voters and other casual voters to come out and vote this time. Kamala Harris looks like change. “

While Harris has been a boon to Biden, some are already focusing on how the benefits go the other way. Harris sawed off on questions and stumbled in the primary before dropping out in December. Several people familiar with the campaign said after watching it last week that they now believe Harris, whose strong run as a candidate last year has been overshadowed by constant errors and a crowded challengers field, will bring more to the table than they ever imagined before. They also expect the infrastructure and apparatus of Biden, who has largely respected a disciplined message and avoided embarrassing leaks, to keep her focused and encourage her to full potential as an activist.

Harris’ selection followed months of intense work to improve his reputation with the public and Biden’s camp after his candidacy also exposed his shortcomings as a manager. With his eye on the vice presidency, Harris brought in new advisers and severed ties with assistants who had clashed – and also managed to enrage some of Biden’s team during their murderous primary . Once the interview process began, Harris closed ranks behind a small group of helpers while consulting with others on a need-to-know basis.

Harris is now surrounded by new staff handpicked by Biden’s campaign, though aides said he was assembled before he was sure he would pick Harris. Karine Jean-Pierre, senior advisor to Biden, is Harris’ new chief of staff and Sheila Nix is ​​senior advisor to Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Liz Allen is the Director of Communications.

As usual, she is expected to bring only a handful of her employees to the countryside. Rohini Kosoglu, Harris’ former chief of staff for the campaign and in the Senate, will advise her in a leadership position, said a person familiar with the movement. Sabrina Singh, a new addition to Harris’ staff who has spent time on Cory Booker and Mike Bloomberg campaigns, will work in communications under Allen.

A day after the deployment speech, Harris joined Biden for a health and coronavirus briefing. Florida Representative Donna Shalala said the new post offered an early example of how they could continue to complement each other to deliver “a very simple message.”

That day it was “everyone must wear a mask. Nothing complicated about it, ”Shalala said. “Then they went on the attack, calling out Trump for the lack of leadership. “

Another challenge came last week when Trump refused to reject a baseless theory that Harris is not eligible for the vice presidency. Although her parents were not U.S. citizens at the time of her birth, Harris was born in Oakland, California, making her a citizen under the Constitution.

Biden’s team responded with a statement calling Trump grotesque, accusing him of trying to instigate racism with a ploy from a place of weakness. Since then, the campaign has adopted a strategy of letting go, although some contributors have individually continued to point out that it is rooted in racism. The math is that voters who are persuaded by the attack are unlikely to come into the Biden-Harris fold.

“They are desperate, I think that’s how we feel about it,” an adviser said, adding that the Biden campaign would continue to monitor whether the claims are gaining ground and act on them.

Harris and Emhoff returned to Washington on Saturday night after spending four days with the Bidens in Wilmington. Biden at one point called out Emhoff’s children as well as his mother. “There was definitely a deepening of the relationship,” said an adviser of the Bidens, Harris and Emhoff, who has developed his own social media sequel. Biden and Harris also spent some one-on-one time.

After the convention, campaign events are expected to remain largely virtual. The Biden campaign is looking for more creative ways for the two to interact with the public and reporters. They see its connection not only to communities of color, but are encouraged by polls which they believe demonstrate its appeal to suburban women. And they’re looking to create virtual events to build that strength.

Harris’ first big test as Biden’s running mate will be when she delivers her convention speech on Wednesday. The text has been described as a collaboration between collaborators at Biden and Harris, and the senator herself. Some advisers to Harris and her close allies are urging her to add more depth to the telling of her own story, with some noting that she needs to move beyond the limited personal anecdotes she has comfortably recounted for many years.

Others have suggested that he base his biography on the moment. Harris’s parents, immigrants from Jamaica and India, were active in the civil rights movement. Her late mother was a cancer researcher. Shalala said the best way to showcase Harris is to allow “her personality, her charisma, her appeal as a candidate” to shine.

“They have to allow the senator to be the senator,” she said. “They don’t need to mold her in a way that she looks like Biden. But she needs to be like a partner.

Harris’ precise role in the campaign is still being worked out, although officials and the senator’s aides noted that she had spent months as Biden’s surrogate and fundraiser and that she already knew. many of its policies. One obvious approach for her, given her legal background and background in questioning Republican witnesses in the Senate, is to go on the attack.

“As an activist, I think she can sue the Trump administration because of the many ways it has brought this country back,” Representative Barbara Lee, the first of several Congressional Black Caucus members, said at approve Harris last year. .

But some allies and strategists, aware of the criticisms that followed Harris’s debates, said they feared ranking her and lowering her own popularity in the process.

Tracy Sefl, a former Hillary Clinton advisor, said the Biden campaign would be wise to deploy Harris virtually to host smaller, more intimate conversations – a format she said would help Harris stand out and forge a bond. more intimate with voters.

“Tens of thousands of people joined a Zoom with President Obama and George Clooney, exchanging jokes about their barking dogs while arguing for Joe Biden. I would appreciate that a lot more, but now with Kamala, ”Sefl said. “By hearing it and seeing it in action, the close-up will play to its many advantages. … It may sound counterintuitive, but the virtual format adds privacy and, when done right, can really create a sense of community.

As Harris polled far behind Biden with black voters (she dropped out before the vote began), Moseley Braun stressed her appeal among black women and cited her connections to black sororities. Harris, a Howard graduate, was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, which Moseley Braun said single-handedly would get hundreds of thousands of people to vote for Harris and Biden.

“There are a lot of people who are very hopeful that she represents hope and progress for our country,” said Moseley Braun.

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