Kamala Harris is reportedly losing favorite status in the tumultuous Biden veepstakes. Here's why.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Former Vice President Joe Biden (L) and California Senator Kamala Harris (R) speak while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders walks by after the third Democratic primary debate.Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
  • Drama surrounding a nominee's VP pick is nothing new, but Joe Biden's age has heightened the attention on his looming decision.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris has been a favorite for the nod for quite some time, both in political chatter and betting markets.
  • However, a series of articles reporting doubts by some in Biden's inner circle — particularly following a meeting between Harris and one of Biden's most trusted confidants, former Sen. Chris Dodd — has put Harris in a precarious position.
  • The crux of the issue goes back to last July when Harris executed a viral critique of Biden in the first debate of the primary, or what Biden's sister and former longtime campaign manager described as "that T-shirt moment."
  • With so many motives at play, this is what you need to know about Harris' standing as a potential running mate, and why she may not get the job.

Sen. Kamala Harris has been considered by many pundits to be the favorite to become Joe Biden's running mate for quite some time.

Yet several recent reports have quoted sources relaying doubts from Biden's inner circle about Harris, and other options like former National Security Adviser Susan Rice or Rep. Karen Bass — both Black women with extensive experience in the nation's capital — have seen their stocks rise.

Proponents of Rice and Bass have touted their lack of political ambitions as strengths for either of them serving as a loyal VP pick who can also offer their own policy expertise in the White House — the subtext meaning they won't be motivated by a potential run in 2024 or 2028 like Harris might.Advertisement

So what exactly is going on here, and where does Harris stand?

The drama and mystique of a potential VP pick makes the process ripe with innuendo and rumors in the press.

On a near daily basis, the supposed favorite can oscillate from one candidate to another. The reasons why unflattering details on a candidate or other rumors are coming out at a certain time can be confusing for those following the saga from afar.
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When it comes to Harris, the crux of the conflict is split between two places in time: the first televised Democratic primary debate last July, and the 2024 presidential race.

As for those who reportedly have reservations about Harris, things get a little murkier, but only a few confidants close to Biden are the ones to watch. This is what the Kamala drama is all about.Advertisement

The 'inner circle'

Former Vice President Joe Biden (C) arrives with wife Jill Biden (R) and sister Valerie Biden Owens (L) at a Super Tuesday campaign event at Baldwin Hills Recreation Center on March 3, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.Mario Tama/Getty Images

The big story this week has been about a meeting Harris had with one of Biden's closest advisers and best friends, former Sen. Chris Dodd.

Dodd, who championed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, is one of the four members on Biden's official vice presidential selection committee. Advertisement

The 76-year-old reportedly had qualms over Harris showing no "remorse" for going after Biden at the debate over his opposition to federally mandated bussing, with the California senator telling Dodd "that's politics."

That viral moment centered around Harris challenging Biden for opposing federally mandated bussing, drawing her personal story into the mix by describing how bussing allowed her to go to a better school.

"There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day," Harris told Biden. "That little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats."Advertisement

Biden and Harris would later appear to bury the hatchet, appearing even chummy at times during the primary before Harris dropped out and eventually endorsed Biden.

Yet Dodd's meeting with Harris, first reported by Politico, apparently went so poorly that it revealed "a contingent of Democrats who are lobbying against Harris for VP — some privately, some openly," according to Politico.

Dodd was looking for an earnest apology for what he reportedly described as a debate "gimmick" that "was cheap," according to Politico, rather than taking Harris' view that Biden's past positions were fair game.Advertisement

Whether Harris could be a trusted deputy to Biden or put her own political ambitions first was what Dodd and others in Biden's inner circle as well as some donors are worried about, Politico reported.

Harris' trustworthiness was reportedly the issue Dodd was most concerned about coming out of the meeting, but critics have asked why a septuagenarian white guy should have so much sway over Biden picking a woman of color for his running mate. Gender tropes are also at play, with different connotations of ambition and loyalty potentially working against Harris as a woman in politics.Advertisement

Yet under the radar, two women are also key in Biden's VP decision, and neither are on the official selection committee.

One is Biden's wife, Jill, who was on the record as very critical of Harris' attack, calling it "like a punch to the gut" before striking a more conciliatory tone when both appeared on stage together in Michigan back in March.

Biden has said he often consults his wife on important decisions, and it has been hard to get a read on where she stands on Harris despite efforts by the campaign to turn the page once the California senator endorsed him.Advertisement

The other crucial figure in Biden's inner circle is his sister, Valerie Biden Owens.

Archival photo of Joe Biden and his sister, Valerie Biden Owens.Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty Images

Biden Owens led every single one of her brother's political campaigns until this one, from student government to all seven of his Senate runs and even his 1988 and 2008 presidential bids.Advertisement

She carries many of the same mannerisms as her brother, and can show sharper elbows on the trail than the more conflict-averse Biden.

Back when I was in New Hampshire working as the political reporter for The Keene Sentinel covering the 2020 primary, Biden Owens came to the local campaign field office to meet supporters and volunteers.

We stepped aside for an interview once she was done shaking hands, and I asked about the debate moment.Advertisement

Biden Owens demeanor suddenly turned to a shade of irritation, and she let loose before an aide stepped in to say she needed to get back to the SUV parked outside to head over to another event.

"He's very conscious of that T-shirt moment," she told me, referring to the Harris campaign selling merchandise referring to the debate moment and one of Harris' more memorable quotes, "That Little Girl Was Me." "You know what I mean by the T-shirt moment? 'I was that little girl' and — for Christ sake, Joe's been for civil rights since he lived it for his whole life," Biden Owens said.Advertisement

In a late June story from The Washington Post, Sean Sullivan and Annie Linksy reported that qualms with Harris among Biden's wife and sister were enough of a concern for the campaign that they had to be addressed with a show of unity.

"Seeking to quell rumblings from some Democrats who have said they detected signs of frustration with Harris from Jill Biden and Valerie Biden Owens, Biden's sister and longtime political adviser, the Biden campaign on Friday looked to publicly dispel the notion that their views of Harris are anything less than positive," Sullivan and Linsky wrote.

"Both Dr. Biden and Valerie have nothing but the utmost respect, admiration and affection for Senator Harris," Biden campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander told The Post in a statement. "Any rumors or conjecture to the contrary are not true and have zero basis in reality or fact."Advertisement

Whether those feelings have truly been smoothed over can only be known by those who have unfettered access to Biden's inner circle.

But if Harris does come up short, the warning signs were in place long before the summer veepstakes stories started dropping.

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