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Harris rushes to Biden’s defense after disappointing debate

<i>CNN via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Vice President Kamala Harris appears on CNN on Thursday
CNN via CNN Newsource
Vice President Kamala Harris appears on CNN on Thursday

By Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Vice President Kamala Harris knew she had to go to bat for President Joe Biden as devastating reviews of the president’s debate performance rolled in late Thursday night, aiming to strike a balance between sounding reasonable about the president’s performance while also hammering home the contrast between the two candidates, two sources told CNN.

Moments after the debate, Harris joined an organizing call, checked in with campaign officials on a brief call and then participated in previously scheduled interviews.

And on Friday, Harris’ staff made phone calls to check in with Democratic officials, trying to reassure them, reminding them of Biden’s record and agenda, and calling on them to remain united, according to another source.

Harris took that argument to Las Vegas on Friday – marking her fifth visit to the state this year – during a campaign event focused on Latino voters.

“There are three things that were true yesterday before the debate that are still true today. Let’s level set on this. First, the stakes of this race could not be higher. Second, the contrast in this election could not be more stark. And third, we believe in our President Joe Biden, and we believe in what he stands for,” she said.

“This race will not be decided by one night in June,” she added.

Biden’s lackluster debate performance carries real consequences for Harris – both as someone riding on his ticket and as someone who hasn’t generally been floated as the heir apparent amid panic among Democrats.

Heading into her Thursday night interviews, one of those sources said, Harris was focused on pointing out falsehoods spewed by Trump, while also nodding to the debate getting off to a slow start.

But one line stood out to allies and sources close to the vice president: “I’m not going to spend all night with you talking about the last 90 minutes when I’ve been watching the last three-and-a-half years of performance,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

The two sources told CNN that the vice president came up with the line spontaneously over the course of the interview – and one cited it as an example of why people close to her have repeatedly said she’s best skilled to prosecute the case in this election cycle.

“Her mood going in was clear-eyed about her job last night,” one of those sources said, pointing to her statement that Biden shouldn’t be judged by one debate performance.

“When she’s prosecuting a case, there are fewer tougher and (more) clear-eyed about what she’s got to do,” the source added.

Biden aides were pleased by Harris’ performance in a round robin of television interviews Thursday night after the debate. Staff watching from the campaign’s Wilmington headquarters audibly cheered Harris on.

The first years of her tenure as vice president were marked by tough assignments that proved thankless – taking the lead in diplomacy with Central American nations to try to stem migration to the southern border and taking the lead on voting rights legislation that was dead on arrival on Capitol Hill – along with some high-profile stumbles. CNN has previously reported that Harris had made her unhappiness with some of her assignments known within the White House.

But now Harris is embracing her role as a key voice on the campaign trail, especially on issues like reproductive rights, a major theme for the Biden campaign as it hones its message ahead of November, among other defining issues. She’s also bringing the message to the campaign trail with a revamped energy that has been on full display in recent speeches.

Harris will continue her campaign travel blitz Friday, participating in a fundraising event in Park City, Utah, and a political outreach meeting with Black supporters in Los Angeles.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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