By Jasmine Wright
Washington (CNN) — Allies of Vice President Kamala Harris and other prominent Democrats are sending a clear message to their fellow party members who speculate that she should be replaced as President Joe Biden’s running mate in 2024: It’s time to stop it.
“It’s not only a distraction, it’s offensive,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore told CNN in an interview.
The vice president has faced renewed calls from some pundits and columnists to be dropped from the ticket amid heightened concerns about the president’s age and doubts over her ability to lead if Biden were no longer able.
It’s at least the second major go-around of questioning whether Harris’ rightful place is by Biden’s side for the 2024 contentious race, leaving her office tired of the fraught conversation, according to a person familiar with the dynamic.
“Everybody’s sort of over it,” the person said.
The feeling is shared across most of the Democratic spectrum, who hope the party turns their sights on former President Donald Trump or whomever the Republican presidential nominee will be, instead of handwringing about themselves.
A source close to the Biden campaign told CNN: “People need to get on board and recognize every time they undermine the vice president, they undermine the campaign. We cannot afford to lose to these Republicans. So, get on board.”
There have both been private and public efforts to deliver this message.
Privately, according to a person familiar with campaign operations, the Biden campaign contacted both former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, after neither directly answer repeated questions from CNN about whether Harris was the best running mate for Biden on the 2024 ticket. The campaign asked Pelosi and Raskin to clarify their comments and both lawmakers later cleaned up their remarks to offer direct messages of support.
Raskin told CNN in a follow-up statement Friday that “Vice President Harris has excelled in perhaps the most ambiguous and challenging job in our constitutional system and she is unquestionably the best running mate for President Biden in 2024.”
Pelosi’s office offered no additional statement but pointed CNN to the praise Pelosi heaped on Harris in her interview, saying she’s “very politically astute, I don’t think people give her enough credit.”
Discussions on how best to shepherd the party along are also happening among groups like the Congressional Black Caucus, who are actively talking about how to combat the replacement chatter and other attacks against the vice president, according to a source familiar with the effort.
“Some of us need to say that they are acting in many ways like agents for the MAGA crowd,” Rev. Al Sharpton told CNN. He plans to call on Democrats to stop during CBC weekend in Washington, DC. “I can only think that they are either politically stupid or working for the opposition.”
And according to conversations with more than a dozen Democratic strategists, elected officials and people close to the vice president, many will join Sharpton in urging Democrats to stop their groaning over the Biden-Harris ticket and end the chatter of potentially replacing the vice president.
Publicly, key Democrats have come out to support Harris, casting the lingering doubt as harmful to Biden and his 2024 chances.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said “of course” Harris should be the Democratic 2024 vice presidential nominee. Newsom and Harris are old friends – and sometimes frenemies.
“I mean, by definition, if I think this administration last two, two-and-a-half years, has been one of the most outstanding administrations the last few decades. And she’s a member of that administration, she gets to lay and claim credit to a lot of that success. The answer is absolutely,” he said in an interview to CNN earlier this week.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and a former rival who was once iced out by the vice president for her lukewarm support, said Thursday she was proud to support Harris’ campaign with Biden.
“Vice President Harris is a passionate, clear, unyielding advocate for Americans’ freedoms, leading the administration’s efforts to protect reproductive freedom and strengthen voting rights,” Warren said in a statement. “I am proud to support her campaign with President Biden and I’m confident that the Administration’s record of delivering for American families will lead them to victory in 2024.”
‘There’s a lot of people in Washington who would love that job’
Many who CNN spoke to believe the origins of the doubt come from a place of misogyny, racism or jealousy from other Democrats who wish they were in the vice president’s spot. Harris is the first woman and first Black and South Asian person in her role.
“There’s a lot of people in Washington who would love that job,” said Jim Messina, a Democratic operative who ran Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. “I think that a lot of the criticism at the at the vice president is borderline misogynistic and there’s a lot of people who judge her harder than they would judge a male politician (in) that role.”
Moore, the only Black governor in the US, said, “The attacks on her, they hit different – they hit our ears differently. And I think people should remember that.”
But others cite Harris’ low poll numbers and history of gaffes as reasons to take a second look at her position. Three prominent political columnists collectively suggested politicians like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia as possibilities to replace Harris.
Contacted by CNN, each Democrat rejected the notion.
“I absolutely do not think Vice President Harris should be dropped,” Raimondo told CNN directly. “I fully support Vice President Harris on the ticket. I think she is doing an incredible job as vice president and is a strong leader for our country.”
“Gov. Whitmer supports President Biden and Vice President Harris,” a spokesperson for the Michigan governor responded.
“‘I’ve seen the vice president up close and in action in my state, and you couldn’t contain the excitement in the room. I’m hard-pressed to imagine a better partner for President Biden,” Warnock told CNN.
“Kamala Harris is a tremendous leader. I was proud to introduce the Momnibus with her and am pleased we can continue to work together to end disparities in maternal health. I am on team Biden-Harris and enthusiastically support their re-election in 2024,” Underwood said in a statement.
“Any assertion that there is anyone better qualified to run on the Democratic ticket other than President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris is absolutely ludicrous. I am excited to do my part to ensure that they are both re-elected so that we can continue delivering for the people of this country,” Bass said in a statement.
Harris keeps her head down
It’s unclear whether the latest round of coalescing behind the vice president will be enough to stop all the handwringing.
Harris and the Biden administration have spent the last several months trying to build up her public profile, bolstering her public schedule to include stops focused on the hot 2024 issue of abortion as well as being the first-in-line responder to GOP attacks on freedom. On Thursday, the White House announced she would serve as the head a newly launched, first-of-its kind White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, the latest step in the Biden administration’s efforts to enact meaningful gun control against the backdrop of a deadlocked Congress.
Harris has also beefed up her fundraising efforts, a key signal of her expanded role in the campaign.
Biden aides see their path to victory next year embedded firmly in their ability to secure Black voters, women, young people and other groups that tend to respond warmly to Harris.
But this most recent round of speculation comes as Republicans have frequently made Harris a central figure in their campaign trail attacks, with some – such as former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley – insinuating that this upcoming election is really about the vice president due to Biden’s age.
Asked earlier this month about her reaction to constant critiques, Harris said in an interview that it was “not new.”
“They feel the need to attack because they’re scared that we will win based on the merit of the work that Joe Biden and I, and our administration, has done,” she added.
More recently, during a conversation at a Pennsylvania community college on voting rights, Harris did not directly reference the rumbles over her place on the ticket. But in a thinly veiled moment, Harris called those who once doubted her and then-candidate Biden’s 2020 bid, “haters.”
“So, when people turned out in 2020 – even though they were the doubters. I would say, some of the haters. Let’s keep it real,” Harris said, with some laughter.
There was “record turnout, and it’s because you voted that Joe Biden’s president of the United States and I’m vice president of the United States,” she added to a crowd of younger voters.
It was reflective of what appears to be her office’s larger “say nothing” stance, at least publicly.
“They’ve been in the mode of, they’re ignoring it,” one source familiar with Harris’ office told CNN.
And those close to Harris say, though she’s generally “very aware of what people are saying,” it’s unlikely she’ll proactively address the calls for her to leave the ticket. Instead, she’ll work through it.
“I think she keeps her head down and keep working,” Sharpton told CNN.
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