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Kamala Harris Is Said to Be Weighing an Endorsement of Joe Biden

Kamala Harris Is Said to Be Weighing an Endorsement of Joe Biden

Senator Kamala Harris is weighing an endorsement of Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to multiple Democratic officials familiar with her deliberations. Such a move could lift Mr. Biden’s campaign and perhaps do even more to enhance Ms. Harris’s chances of becoming vice president, but it could also anger her liberal base in California.

An endorsement by Ms. Harris, if she wades into the primary race at all, would be unlikely to happen until after the Senate impeachment trial, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Yet she and Mr. Biden, the former vice president, have remained in contact since she exited the race and had a long conversation in the immediate aftermath of her departure.

“Senator Harris remains focused on the ongoing impeachment trial of President Trump,” said Chris Harris, a spokesman for the senator. “No decisions have been made about whether she will endorse, which candidate, nor when an endorsement decision will be made.”

Democrats close to Ms. Harris said she wanted to carefully consider the potential impact of her endorsement; was mindful that two of her female colleagues, Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren Massachusetts, were still in the race; and was uneasy about the prospect of backing a candidate only to see him or her lose California.

Mr. Biden has lavished praise on Ms. Harris since she departed the race, predicting she would have a wealth of political opportunities in the future. And when asked directly if he would consider her as his running mate, he said, “Of course I would.”

A Biden-Harris rapprochement would represent an extraordinary turnaround in their relationship after she so memorably confronted him on the debate stage last summer. Yet their would-be alliance is less surprising on closer inspection.

At the outset of the Democratic contest, they were collegial with each other. That was in large part because Ms. Harris served as state attorney general in California at the same time that Mr. Biden’s son Beau was attorney general of Delaware, and the two young, ambitious Democrats had bonded. (Beau Biden died in 2015.)

But Ms. Harris’s friendship with the former vice president became badly strained after the first primary debate, in June, when she criticized him for his past opposition to school busing.

Ms. Harris was trying to loosen Mr. Biden’s grip on African-American primary voters, and her searing reference to her own childhood experience with integration might have been the high point of her campaign. But it came at the expense of an older, white candidate who was already fending off questions about his record on matters of race. And Mr. Biden was personally stung by her attack, his advisers said, because he considered her a friend.

Yet Ms. Harris’s surge in the polls did not last, and the two candidates never sparred again in the same way. By October, aides to both Democrats recall, they were getting along well when they ran into each other at the Des Moines airport before heading to Ohio for the debate there.

More significant than their personal rapport, a Harris endorsement of Mr. Biden would be politically useful for both of them.

A 55-year-old woman of African and Indian descent with law enforcement credentials, Ms. Harris was already likely to be on Mr. Biden’s short list, should he emerge as the nominee. Yet she could bolster her chances to be his running mate if she backed his campaign at a critical time, particularly if he did not win in either Iowa or New Hampshire next month and needed a boost in Nevada and South Carolina. And even if she is not chosen for vice president, she would be a leading contender for a cabinet post, such as attorney general.

For Mr. Biden, who is working to consolidate support from Democratic leaders as Senator Bernie Sanders’s progressive candidacy gains strength, an endorsement from Ms. Harris would signal that party leaders were rallying behind his candidacy and offer him a well-known surrogate to stump on his behalf as the race goes on.

The risk for Ms. Harris would be if she were to get behind Mr. Biden only to see him lose in California, which votes on March 3 as part of Super Tuesday. A survey of the state’s Democratic voters, conducted this month by the Public Policy Institute of California survey, found that Mr. Biden was in second place to Mr. Sanders, of Vermont. But the poll highlighted the strength of the progressive bloc in the state: Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren combined were capturing 50 percent of the vote.

Rose Kapolczynski, a longtime Democratic strategist in California, said Ms. Harris would not damage her prospects for re-election in 2022 by backing Mr. Biden. But if Democrats were to lose the presidency this fall, supporting him could shape how she was perceived by the left, were she to run again for president four years from now.

“It just depends on where she wants to go,” Ms. Kapolczynski said. “Is she interested in vice president or a cabinet position? Or is she looking ahead to another campaign and how she’ll be positioned then?”

Bill Carrick, another California consultant and an adviser to Senator Dianne Feinstein, also said it would be unlikely that voters in the state would “make a judgment about the Senate race next time out based on who she endorsed in the presidential race.” But Mr. Carrick added that Mr. Biden’s multiracial coalition overlapped with Ms. Harris’s own core base of support and that it would be logical for her to side with him.

“She’s going to have a lot of people allied with her who will be for Joe,” he said.


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