Could The Vice Presidential Debate Be A Warm-Up For Harris In 2024?

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Adam Barnes General Assignment Reporter
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As Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris prepare to take their socially distant places on a Salt Lake City debate stage Wednesday evening, one major question looms — if Biden wins the presidency, is this the first stop on the Harris 2024 campaign tour?

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has not confirmed whether he will pursue a second term should he win the election in November, and he said on the campaign trail in March that he is a bridge rather than the future of the country. This could leave the door open for Harris in 2024 if not before.

A Rasmussen poll, conducted prior to Biden’s formal nomination Aug. 18, found 59% of respondents are unsure whether Biden will finish a full term. The Aug. 10 poll also indicated 49% of Democratic voters think Biden’s VP pick will finish the term, compared to 73% of Republican voters surveyed.

Strategists suggest Mike Pence could prove to be a formidable foe for Harris on the debate stage.

“Mike Pence is as smooth as Trump is crude,” Democratic strategist David Axelrod said on his podcast. “He’ll probably give the performance that Trump’s handlers wished that he had given something like.”

Wednesday’s debate topics, which have not been released moderator Susan Page, could include aslew of hot button issues ranging from COVID-19 deaths to police reform to the supreme court. On the potential docket, too, is Harris’ record as California’s attorney general. (RELATED: The Vice Presidential Debate May Be More Important Than The 1st Presidential Debate)

Harris’ record as attorney general shows that she was hesitant to get involved in police shootings, the New York Times reported. She was targeted as a callous prosecutor during her own campaign when Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard accused Harris of putting “over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”

Harris has advocated for police reform since the death of George Floyd and introduced the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act on June 8.

Harris has lodged  complaints about Trump’s competence to handle a global pandemic and criticized a potential Trump-backed Coronavirus vaccine. When asked by CNN’s Dana Bash in prerecorded aired Sept. 5 whether she would get an approved vaccine prior to the presidential election, Harris notably said she wouldn’t trust a vaccine touted by the president.

“Well, I think that’s going to be an issue for all of us,” Harris told Bash. “I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he’s talking about.”

Polling shows that voters hold a largely unfavorable view of the way Trump has handled COVID-19. A Real Clear Politics (RCP) average reveals a 14.4% difference between those who approve and those who disapprove. A CNN poll, conducted Oct. 1 to Oct. 4 found that 59% of respondents disapprove of Trump’s handling. Harris could exploit the widening gap during Trump’s stay at Walter Reed after his own diagnosis.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Sept. 18 opened the door for the Senate to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee.

Harris is completely opposed  to a committee vote prior to the election. She voted no to the confirmation of both Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s first two picks . Now, with a vote for Amy Coney Barrett looming, Harris seems poised to decline another nominee.

The court nomination was a major point of contention in the first presidential debate, with Biden arguing that voters should decide who gets to pick a new justice, but they will not get that say if the senate votes on the nominee because we’re in the middle of an election already. The election has already started, tens of thousands of people have already voted.

But according to Trump, the voters made their choice four years ago. “We won the election and therefore we have the right to choose her,” Trump said. “I’m not elected for three years, I’m elected for four years.”

The odds of Kamala Harris running for president following a VP bid are high. Since 1789, 14 of 47 Vice Presidents have won their own presidential bids, according FiveThirtyEight. And since the end of World War 2, 8 of 13 VP’s won their party’s nomination.

Harris’ favorability polling, which  sits around 45% according to RCP average, received a bump in a CNN poll released Oct. 6. The poll found that 47% of respondents have a favorable view of her — compared to 43% Sept. 1.

“If Harris does become vice president, it undoubtedly raises her odds that she might one day occupy the White House and lead the Democratic Party in a presidential election,” Five Thirty Eight election analyst Geoffrey Skelley wrote. “Even after her underwhelming 2020 bid, one only has to look at Biden’s career arc to see how Harris’s presidential aspirations could benefit from serving as VP.”

“It wasn’t until Barack Obama made Biden his vice president in 2008 that he established a strong enough profile within the party to become its preferred choice in 2020,” Skelley added.