The president's advanced age and the closeness of the 2024 polls mean Joe Biden needs the partner who can best help him win, govern and lead. That's not Kamala Harris.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While I think this is a fantastic idea, it could only work if Harris voluntarily steps down.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Barro’s strange vendetta against Newsom really grates.
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.
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.)
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?
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).
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.
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.