Harris not an easy target for Trump
WASHINGTON – Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate provides a brand-new target for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign that has struggled to find an effective line of attack against his Democratic rival.
But going after Harris comes with its own risks and challenges.
Within minutes of Biden’s announcement on Tuesday, Trump had called Harris “nasty,” “horrible” and “disrespectful,” while his campaign painted her as an extremist who would yank the moderate Biden to the left.
But there is little evidence at the moment that suggests that the public views Harris, a former California prosecutor and attorney general with strong ties to the Democratic establishment, as a radical.
In fact, she’s more liked by Republicans than Biden, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on August 10-11, just before she was announced as Biden’s pick. The poll showed 21% of registered Republican voters have a favorable impression of Harris, compared with 13% who had a similarly favourable view of Biden.
More concerning for Trump: Attacks that could appear sexist or racist against the first Black woman on a major party ticket in U.S. history could complicate his campaign’s effort to shore up his standing among suburban women, a critical voting bloc he must win back in order to get re-elected, strategists on both sides say.
Already, leading Democratic women warned against a replay of Trump’s match-up in 2016 with then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who was subject to gender-based critiques as the first female presidential candidate. Trump has also called Clinton “nasty” and accused her of playing the “woman’s card”.
“If he wants to use misogynistic tropes against Kamala Harris, I think that is deeply challenging for him,” said Neera Tanden, a top aide to Clinton during her presidential bid. “He has no room for error with suburban women.”
According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, Biden had an advantage of 10 percentage points among women and a 6-point lead among those who live in the suburbs. Overall, Biden leads Trump by 11 points, less than three months to go before the November 3 vote.
Sarah Longwell, a Republican pollster, said Trump’s advisers would likely want the president, known for fiery and bombastic rhetoric against his political rivals, to be more cautious about attacking Harris unless they had reason to believe suburban women distrusted or disliked her.
“But there’s no evidence yet that they do dislike or distrust her,” Longwell said. “In fact, my guess is that she’ll play pretty well with suburban women.”
Trump’s standing with the public has faded badly amid the coronavirus pandemic, the economic downturn and nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice.
Scrambling for something to alter the trajectory of the race, Trump and his Republican allies quickly launched a fusillade of attacks at Harris moments after the pick was announced. (Reuters)