Biden’s Debate Struggles Prompt Questions About Kamala Harris as a Potential Replacement

Joe Biden had a troubling debate performance against Donald Trump on Thursday night, but how would his vice president fare against the former president?

Biden and Trump took the stage in Atlanta for their first encounter in nearly four years. Looming over the event was the issue of the president’s age. At 81, Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history. Concerns about his age exploded after he struggled at times during the event. According to Newsweek, Biden sounded hoarse and, at one point, trailed off while answering a question, apparently losing his train of thought. Afterward, there were calls among some Democrats for the president to step aside as the party’s nominee.

While there’s no clear front-runner in terms of a Biden replacement, with four months until Election Day, one obvious possible contender is Vice President Kamala Harris. The 59-year-old is notably younger than both Biden and Trump, who is three years Biden’s junior, and she’d be the easiest Democrat for the Biden-Harris campaign to switch to as the party’s candidate. Plus, if Biden were to resign, Harris would automatically become president.

RealClearPolling averages show that limited surveys suggest Harris has an even bigger disadvantage than Biden if she were to run against Trump. The former president leads Harris by 6.6 percentage points, with 49.3 percent support to the Democrat’s 42.7 percent. RCP averages show Trump ahead of Biden by just 1.5 points, with 46.6 percent to the president’s 45.1 percent.

A poll conducted by Politico and Morning Consult earlier this month found that only a third of voters think it’s likely Harris would win the election should she become the Democratic nominee. And just 3 in 5 Democrats think she would prevail. report from Reuters.

Harris has been widely criticized since taking office for not having a larger, more defined role in the Biden administration. Less than a year into Biden’s presidency, the White House was forced to issue a statement responding to attacks that Harris had not lived up to expectations.

In a November 2021 statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “For anyone who needs to hear it. @VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country—from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband.”

Harris, who was tapped by the president to address the border crisis, has also faced criticism for the response to the influx of migrants who have come to the U.S. since Biden took office. More than three years since she was appointed Biden’s border czar, immigration remains a top concern among voters.

Polls show that Harris’ reputation has struggled to recover from the missteps of her early days. Her approval rating, like Biden’s and Trump’s, is underwater. Less than 40 percent of Americans approve of the job she is doing as vice president, FiveThirtyEight’s polling averages show. Nearly half say they disapprove.

Harris does perform better than Biden. The president’s approval hovers around the 38 percent mark. Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of Biden’s job as president. told by The NY Post.

On the other hand, 42 percent of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Trump, and about 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.

Harris, however, remains steadfast in her support for Biden’s candidacy. The vice president defended Biden after the debate, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that while the president had a “slow start,” he ended the 90-minute event with “a strong finish.”

“What we saw tonight was the president making a very clear contrast with Donald Trump on all the issues that matter to the American people,” she said.

At one point, Harris got combative with Cooper after he argued that Biden’s debate performance disappointed many watchers.

“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 said.