Kamala Harris says she is ‘ready to lead’ despite polling at a record low

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris said anyone who sees her at work 'walks away fully aware of my capacity to lead' - Brandon Bell/Getty Images
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Kamala Harris has said she is “ready to serve” amid growing questions over the age and health of Joe Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

The vice-president, 59, insisted she would be ready to step into the 81-year-old president’s shoes should the need arise.

“I am ready to serve. There’s no question about that,” she told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Air Force Two.

The comments will add fuel to the debate raging in the US about what the Democrats would do if Mr Biden was forced to step down ahead of this year’s election for health reasons.

Longstanding concerns over Mr Biden’s age and mental acuity were brought into sharp focus last week after the president was described as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” in an independent report into mishandling of classified documents.

Special counsel Robert Hur said Mr Biden’s memory was so poor that he struggled to remember when he was vice-president or when his son Beau had died. The Biden administration has rejected the description of the president.

Interviewed two days before the publication of the Hur report, Ms Harris told the WSJ that anyone who sees her at work “walks away fully aware of my capacity to lead”.

President Joe Biden
President Biden and Ms Harris hold hands at a Black History Month reception at the White House this week - Annabelle Gordon/CNP/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Democrat officials said there was no discussion about replacing Mr Biden as a candidate to lead the party into the election in November. If Mr Biden did withdraw, Ms Harris would have to gain delegates through the primary election system or enough support for a presidential ticket through the party’s national committee.

However, her own approval rating has been struggling.

According to FiveThirtyEight, 53.5 per cent of voters disapprove of the vice-president, suggesting she is more unpopular than Mr Biden.

Her tenure has been difficult; in 2023 an NBC survey found she was the most unpopular vice-president since polling began.

There were reports of tension between Ms Harris and the president and her image was hit by a raft of high-profile departures during her first year in office.

Ms Harris also faced criticism over her handling of the border crisis, with Eric Adams, New York’s mayor, complaining she had too much in her portfolio.

In recent months the White House has sought to boost her profile. In particular, she has led the administration’s defence of abortion rights, an issue identified by Democrat strategists as a vote winner after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.

It was an issue she raised in the WSJ interview, saying: “I do believe that the majority of people have an empathy gene,” she said.

‘I get why people are protesting’

“And the more they realise what has actually been happening since the Dobbs decision came down, the more open they are to consider the fundamental point, which is should the government be telling a woman what to do?”

She has also had to run the gauntlet of pro-Palestine protesters who have been out in force at her meetings since the Gaza war erupted.

“I get why people are protesting,” she  said in the interview. “We are working around the clock to end this conflict.”

As things stand there is no suggestion she will be dropped from the ticket. And should Mr Biden decide against running, Ms Harris would still need to find enough delegates to support her at the Democratic national convention.

“Many Democrats are conflicted about Kamala Harris being on the ticket,” David Gergen, who served as an adviser to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bill Clinton, told The Telegraph.

“They like and respect her personally and they appreciate that by traditional standards Ms Harris has earned another term.

“Indeed, they recognise that by traditional standards she has earned a place on the ticket. They also fear that dropping her would cause a firestorm in the black community.

“But they think leaving her on the ticket could be at least as hazardous. Given Biden’s age, this election is shaping up as a referendum on Harris as well as Biden.

“In their eyes, that is more weight than the sled will carry.”

After his memory came under fire last week, Mr Biden joked on Monday: “I know I don’t look like it, but I’ve been around a while. I do remember that.”

He added: “But you know, there’s so much we’re getting done”

Mr Biden’s spokesperson also defended the president’s lack of media interviews: “We have found some non-traditional ways. We think it’s important to meet the American people where they are.”

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