US Presidential Election: Step Forward, Kamala

US Presidential Election

After months of deliberation and internal conflict, the Biden campaign announced this week that Kamala Harris would join his ticket this November. Praised for her articulate dynamism during the primaries, and famed for her debating acumen, this choice will inject some much-needed energy into the Democratic ticket

In the short term, this announcement will afford the Biden campaign a flurry of positive press coverage, likely leading to a bump in the polls. However, with almost three months to go until election day, this short-term hype is largely irrelevant. She won’t be able to move the dial where it counts: the swing states.

Harris’ well-spoken nature will help to keep the attention away from Biden as much as possible, reducing the risk of a race-ending gaffe. He can stay in his bunker while she takes centre stage. Whilst the presence of such a dynamic running mate will likely make Sleepy Joe look like Even Sleepier Joe, this will not impact the race in a meaningful fashion – voters have already made up their minds one way or the other on Biden: endearingly gaffe-prone or scarily senile.

Senator Harris brings with her two strategic benefits:

  • Law and Order
    • Criticised in the primaries for her overly harsh sentencing decisions as California’s Attorney General, this record will become an asset in winning over the centre, given the current climate of unrest. Although such a record upsets the left wing of the Democratic party, their votes can be relied upon as they are so keen to dispose of Trump
  • Campaign funding
    • Harris has deep roots in California politics – first as Attorney General and then as Senator. Her home state is notorious for its heavyweight fundraising capacity, particularly from Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Having built a decade long relationship with these donors, Senator Harris’ presence on the ticket will open up a huge reservoir of campaign funding. However, this flood of cash comes at a price. The Republicans will be eager to capitalise on this Hollywood connection by levelling accusations of ‘Liberal Elitism’ at the Biden-Harris ticket, which could be potentially damaging in the crucial rust belt states. Luckily for Biden, he has a long-established reputation as ‘middle class Joe’ which can neutralise this line of attack.

So, nationally it would appear that Senator Harris brings with her an injection of energy and a mountain of cash – both extremely useful on the national level. However, as Hillary Clinton discovered in 2016, the national vote means nothing without an electoral college majority. It is the swing states who will decide this election one way or the other, and it is in those states where the Harris pick is likely to resonate least.

Many have predicted that Harris, as a black woman, will help to achieve a surge in minority turnout. However, it should be noted that polling indicates only 6% of African American voters thought race should be a factor in the selection of a VP. And in any case, it was Senator Warren, not Senator Harris, who African Americans preferred for VP prior to this announcement. Therefore, if a surge in minority voting is to occur in November, it will not be as a result of Harris’ VP candidacy.

And a side note, if Biden does win this November, Harris will leave a vacant California Senate seat in her wake – one of the most liberal states in the country. The left vs centre battle that played out in the Presidential primary will be replayed in that race too, reopening old wounds and worsening Democratic divisions.

President Trump will be keen as always to profit from divisions wherever he can find them. He has already attacked Harris as being of the ‘radical left’ and ‘phony’. Being a woman of colour from California, Harris hits all of the Trumpian flash points – a chance for Trump to roll out his favourite electoral strategy of inflaming tensions and forcing the electorate to take sides.

Overall, Senator Harris will provide the Biden campaign with a much-needed sense of energy and a near-limitless supply of campaign cash. This will boost Biden’s chances of winning the popular vote but is likely to be less effective in the crucial rust belt states where she will simply play into Trump’s strategy of provoking disagreement between the haves and have-nots.