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I mean, it seems like the obvious answer to “So why wouldn’t he do that?” is that it would piss off a substantial minority of the Democratic base, which is wildly over-represented in fundraising and media presence. It would also retroactively cast Biden’s 2020 decision to run with her in a worse light. If Kamala were to voluntarily step down in favor of some face-saving position like UN Ambassador, then maybe this could work out, but otherwise I don’t see how Biden could manage this without making a huge mess.

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Sep 13, 2023·edited Sep 13, 2023

I think that an unmentioned premise of this column is that dumping Harris would mean picking an enormous fight within the Democratic coalition. It would be one of the most remembered moments of Biden's presidency and outrage, disgust and disappoint a huge number of people. This reaction might itself might be good politics for Biden, however: a sign that he rejects what annoys voters about Harris and her style of politics.

Josh doesn't mention it I assume because the outrage at Biden for getting rid of Harris would probably loom larger in the discourse than in real life. How many people are going to vote for Cornel West because Biden dumped Harris? There would be a thousand op-eds about how the move is an affront to the Black community, but how much will Black voters care?

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The folks who would complain about dropping Harris have no where to run... it’s not like that move is going to make them vote Republican.

More bluntly as it stands now Biden beats Trump w/ or w/o Harris (polls showing a close race between them are as full of shit as the polls Josh complained about in 2020 showing how weak Biden was) but probably loses to any other Republican candidate. The addition of a popular and effective Governor as VP puts the dems in play for more possible races.

Take it from a life long centrist independent from Michigan, Whitmer’s moves have been so sharp and strong that the local Republicans have whiplash.

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You’re not wrong but what really makes the Dems precarious is that they are perceived as the party of coastal elites. Fairly or not this perception is an automatic negative weight against them which is something that Whitmer addresses while Harris does not

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Sep 15, 2023·edited Sep 15, 2023

I'll admit that as a homosexual that I'm bit annoyed by the perception that if Harris turns out to be an overpremoted mediocrity, it is our ingrained stereotypes about Black women that have caused our society to fail her. Whereas Mayor Pete is just some white guy striver.

But really I'm glad that gay men don't have to perform the same dance about their identity that somebody like Harris does: I'm *so* historic, the fact I'm successful speaks so well about America, if you don't like me you are failing America. Nobody thinks Amy Klobuchar is homophobic for disliking Pete, but we have to treat Harris with kid gloves. If Harris manages to impose herself on the party as a Presidential nominee and the loses, who does that help? And if you insist that the problem isn't her rather obvious flaws but the fact that America won't accept a Black woman as president... where does that leave us?

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We’ll stated. I also think that a problem with Harris is that she doesn’t seem to have much Black engagement. She’s done very well reaching out to women especially after Dobbs but is much harder to find her pubic resonance with the Black community

What unfortunate is that I don’t dislike her. She’s done a B+ job and had no serious missteps. She just has no spark.

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Your above statement is missing a key consideration. The issue is not whether they would go vote Republican. They would not vote at all.

Low Black turnout already cost us a Senate seat in WI and it may do so again this year.

What people don’t understand is, Dems are in a precarious position; while the GOP has made in roads with POCs recently, the only POC that would make much impact on the EC would be if the GOP began gettin 15 to 20 percent of the Black vote instead of the 5-8 percent they get now. Why? Simple. Unlike Hispanics and Asians, Black voters are concentrated in several battleground states where their votes make a difference: PA, VA, GA, MI, WI and MN.

These are all relatively close states that Dems tend to win or have won by putting together a coalition of White Suburbanites and Black voters; sort of the Old Post Civil War GOP coalition. However these votes tend to be close. Imagine if the GOP won 20 percent of Black voters in PA? Now, the margins in Philly would not be so large. All of a sudden, Biden’s 99K vote margin would shrink or disappear. Also, remember that there is a certain portion of White voters who would also vote GOP if they felt the GOP was not so anti-Black.

While it may seem hyperbolic, the numbers suggest otherwise. In addition, history has shown that this is accurate.

Now one could argue that overall it would be good for the U.S. it the GOP had more Black voters; even I, a slightly left or center voter can say that.

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Sep 13, 2023·edited Sep 13, 2023

The odds of the nominee being somebody other than Trump seem vanishingly slim to me, but Trump vs. Biden was too close for comfort in 2020.

Anyway it would be much easier for Democrats to deal with the Harris problem now than in a primary four years from now.

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I agree, but I also think the optics could be bad in a somewhat different way that's maybe more relevant when we're talking about actual swing voters.

Whitmer is 7 years younger than Harris. She's thinner and conventionally prettier. Harris hasn't particularly done anything *wrong* in her 2.75 years on the job, but she's inarguably 3 years older than she was in 2020. I think if Biden were to switch out Harris for Whitmer now -- regardless of how smoothly it was packaged -- there'd be a strong subliminal sense of "this corpse of a male CEO just decided the company's top-ranking female was too boring and frumpy and yesterday's news and replaced her with her younger hotter equivalent."

Importantly, that'd strike a chord with voters who wouldn't have previously had the slightest attachment to Kamala Harris. And while the set of people who'd be pissed about the putative racial implications is pretty much limited to hardcore Democrats, I suspect the set of women who might feel a twinge of resentment at Harris being cavalierly tossed aside in that way extends more broadly across demographic and party lines.

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Sep 14, 2023·edited Sep 14, 2023

IDK, I don't think anybody is preoccupied with Harris's age or appearance.

I actually think that the Black political establishment within the Democratic party, including people like Jim Clyburn, is very strongly attached to a relatively old-fashioned idea of racial representation. Steve Cohen has represented a majority Black district for almost two decades and they don't let him into the CBC.

If the first Black VP were also the first VP in living memory to be bumped off the ticket, a lot of influential Black people who didn't particularly like Harris might see the gesture as insulting, and I'm not just talking about nonsense groups like "Black Womxn For." If I had to pick an alternative I'd pick a Black politician who has a record of winning Black votes in swing states: Warnock.

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Agree completely.

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They missed an opportunity when Biden picked Katanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court instead of Harris. I have zero issues with KBJ, but that would have resolved this problem. Maybe he offered it to Harris and she (unwisely in my view) turned him down?

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founding
Sep 13, 2023·edited Sep 13, 2023

Disagree on UN Ambassadorship. If the vice presidency ‘isn’t worth a bucket of warm piss’ to quote Cactus Jack Garner, the UN Ambassadorship post-Cold War is worth what you get when you pour the bucket out. It would be an abject humiliation to go from VP to UN Amb.

Ironically, horse trading with the UN Amb. spot back when the office had some profile in the 60’s started the Dems’ disastrous streak of fumbling SCOTUS appointments. LBJ convinced lib Justice Arthur Goldberg to come off the court for the UN spot so he could put his buddy Abe Fortas on the bench, leading to Fortas’ failed CJ nomination a few years later.

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I remember reading that Nixon made it known that he willing to give up the VP position to be Secretary of State but not for any other position.

I assume that Harris wouldn't take the trade-off. She wants to be President and most Democrats think she's entitled to a shot. If that leads to a Republican becoming President instead of a Democrat that's America's fault for not appreciating KH. This is an attitude that would make sense to me if this were the 1996 election, but they talk about Trump like he's Hitler. If they were really were as alarmed by Trump as they pretend they are they'd nominate Mitt Romney or like , Phil Bredesen. (The opposition in Hungary really did nominate a sort of Hungarian Phil Bredesen, because they really do think Orban threatens their democracy. We in this country don't think that because it isn't true.)

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Sep 12, 2023·edited Sep 12, 2023

It never occurred to me that I might take the time to comment on a Substack article, let alone a Barro article (I'm a fan), but this analysis is gobsmacking.

Any voluntary change in the 2024 ticket is a giant red "salience" button for the issue of whether Biden is the right candidate. Further, as in every election, the incumbent's ticket is a referendum on the performance of the incumbent themselves.

Biden's biggest problem is that he's one of the most effective Democratic presidents in the last 50 years and nobody knows it. His biggest challenge will be to focus 2024 on his own accomplishments (and to resist being sucked into the black hole of negative campaigning that a Trump candidacy will generate). There's nothing Biden could do that would be more disruptive to that goal than to be the first incumbent since FDR to voluntarily switch running mates.

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I very much agree with the point about salience. More specifically, anything that draws attention to the fact that Biden has a Vice President and the choice of that person is a highly consequential decision necessarily raises the salience of Biden's own mortality as an issue. That's playing directly into what's politically probably Biden's biggest organic weakness.

And what's Biden's story as to the switch? Has he lost confidence in Harris's ability to pick up the baton if/when his health fails him? If so, why should we trust his choice this time around? If that's got nothing to do with it and he just thinks Whitmer has more upside politically, should we be concerned that he's picking a VP on those grounds and not based on whom he really trusts to step in for him if necessary?

Even if Biden manages to hit on the most appealing possible answer to those questions and to stick to it, the very fact that those are the questions that need to be answered is already a loss for him IMO.

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Joe won't fire Kamala. But how about this:

Kamala resigns in order to run for the open California Senate seat, which she'd win easily. Joe appoints Gretchen to interim VP, making her the VP nominee in 2024 and the natural choice in 2028.

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I was thinking Merrick Garland retires to spend more time with his family and Harris replaces him. But I like your idea better

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Biden sets up a super-duper commission to examine the future of Puerto Rico and appoints Sotomayor to head it, then Kamala takes her place.

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There is also an open governors race in 2026, which would allow her to finish her term. Personally I think it would be good for her to try running the largest state if she wants to be president someday.

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Persuasive piece, but it won’t happen. Biden is too loyal, and it would cause too much an uproar and drama. It’s Biden-Harris, for better or for worse. We had just better hope it’s enough to beat Trump, at the very least, in 2024.

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While I think this is a fantastic idea, it could only work if Harris voluntarily steps down.

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Regardless of whether something like this happens, I agree with what I feel some of Josh’s sentiment is, that we should look to governors for future presidential candidates. I’d love for there to be a primary in 2028 between Whitaker, Polis, Shapiro, Bullock, Beshear, Cooper, etc, even Newsom (who I think is a relatively effective governor on some issues, but too preoccupied with appearance and what’s next).

Governors are practical, they better understand the challenges of running an executive and can’t hide behind the rest of their legislative chamber on what they’ve done or haven’t done.

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Our last governor president, not so great.

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*Whitmer not Whitaker

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Sure, Harris isn't great, but I’m not sure if the benefit of replacing her outweighs the cost of a hundred news cycles of “hurr durr this is racism herpa derp 400 gazillion years of oppression” that divide the party.

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As much as I want to see her replaced, the thought of that blowback from outsized identity politics voices is so exhausting in advance. Even if it has little actual effect on black voter turnout, it will be hung around Biden's neck forever and we will never hear the end of it from those grievance-driven people.

Of course, if (when?) she becomes President herself due to Biden dying or her somehow getting elected on her own, you know that all of those people are going to insist that any and all criticism of her is illegitimate because racism and misogyny. The whole intersectionality discourse. So there will be a reckoning about her one way or another.

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This is well argued Josh! But you pose the question “So why wouldn’t he do that?”

I’d love to see you write a piece that tries to answer that! Because clearly that question is really the issue, not whether he *should* replace Harris.

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Mr. Barro, you are way behind me on this. I was telling my friends this weeks ago. (Of course, I am nobody so who cares.)

So good to see it put so clearly.

The problem is, everyone at that level is driven by ambition. V.P. Harris is a fine, decent, and well-meaning person, but, like everyone else, she has a Kamala industrial complex of friends and supporters who love her for whatever reasons (valid and imaginary) and stand to gain from her remaining on the ticket.

Republicans are distinguished by their inability to put country over personal interest, or even their own party. One can wish that the Dems would gain some clarity about the political picture in full, and rise above this. Persuasive arguments like yours can only help.

If Biden takes your advice, I trust that Ms. Harris is enough of a patriot to not retaliate too strongly. Her entourage, I am not so sure about.

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Barro’s strange vendetta against Newsom really grates.

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Disagree. Newsom is smarmy and off-putting and what really grates is how some figures in the liberal media establishment seem to love him so much.

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I messaged him for the Mayonnaise Clinic to see if his opinion of Gavin Newsom has changed given Newsom’s been articulately defending Biden recently and lining up the party behind him. I think that’s a good thing, and I have been impressed. Still have other candidates I much prefer other than him, though.

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Governer Haircut is very easy to dislike and I am sticking with Jorts on this. All Haircut no substance, smarmy and gross.

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Lots of VPs don’t go on to become president. I think it would be a mistake for Biden to switch. This is talked about every four years and hasn’t happened in decades.

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But we have never had a President this old before. So the "actuarial" likelihood that she will become President is higher than for just about any VP. I think that's the honest and fair reason for making the case that this time is different.

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Yes, I remember at this point in the 2012 cycle many were calling for Obama to dump Biden and replace him on the ticket with Hillary.

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Given the dumpster fire that is today’s Republican Party, being led by a 🤡it’s hard for me to see how Biden loses. People will cross their fingers and hope he can physically/mentally last a few more years. Personally, it’s looks increasingly doubtful. He’ll win, won’t be able to complete the term, and she’ll become President. Then, all the people you mentioned will have to fight her in 2028, if she remains unpopular which is likely. Maybe, by then, Republicans will have hit rock bottom and have some talent and a viable platform. Probably the best scenario if you care about the Republican Party. ( It does seem like the country is clamoring for a conservative Democrat.)

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One additional point on Harris's weak electoral record: she won her 2016 Senate election against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez. What's more, the entire federal and California state Democratic parties we're all aligned behind Harris: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_United_States_Senate_election_in_California#Endorsements

This (along with her VP pick in the first place) shows that what Kamala Harris is really great at is working Democratic party insiders. Which... certainly is a skill, but not really a viable path to the presidency (see also, 2016 Clinton campaign).

On a different note, Josh's piece seems to frame Harris's removal from the ticket as Biden announcing from the oval office that he really hates her guts or something. These kinds of things can be choreographed (and in fact must be). I'd note that Gavin Newsom is term limited in 2026. If Harris were to proactively announce that she were leaving the ticket to pursue the governorship, it could be framed as completely her decision. She would of course receive instant endorsements from the entire federal Democratic party including Biden and to a lesser extent, the state Democratic party (see above).

Personally, I think this would be a very good move for Harris. To be blunt, people aren't confident in her ability to govern. By being the executive of the largest state, she can show us what type of leader she would be. Hell, maybe she'd just do better in California than DC?

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It's only choreographable if Biden can credibly threaten to just replace Harris without her co-operation.

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Just reading this analysis of the likely primary dynamics I’ve already given up on 2028 if Biden wins in 2024. Hoping for Youngkin or someone else who is less off-putting and weird than DeSantis (the political annihilation of DeSantis is the single greatest service Trump has done for this country).

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Harris might be the front runner for 2028 for Dems coming out of the vice presidency, but she is very beatable. Whitmer, Shapiro, or Polis could definitely take her down. And I’m hoping also that Republicans can nominate a moderate candidate like Youngkin or maybe even Kemp. No Trumpified, obnoxious, divisive culture warrior.

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Whitmer/Booker 2028. I don’t see a way that Harris is replaced in 2024. Personally, I think a Senator or congressperson is better as VP because they theoretically have relationships on the Hill.

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According to Battle for the Soul, Whitmer was the choice of his head, but he went with his head and picked Kamala.

I don’t think this is a likely outcome, but it would accomplish some healthy “hippie punching” and illustrate Biden isn’t beholden to an ideology. He’ll do what works.

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