Kamala Harris debuted as Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick by emphasizing her own biography and their shared personal connection, while taking on the traditional role of a running mate: piercing attacks on their opponents.
“Let me tell you, as somebody who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut,” Harris said in an appearance with Biden at a high school in Wilmington, DE.
All of the major broadcast and cable networks covered the event which, because of the coronavirus pandemic, looked much different than any other.
Social distancing mandates were evident not just in the lack of a crowd to cheer at various lines that otherwise would have gotten applause, but at the caution that the candidates and their spouses used in getting too close to each other. Biden and Harris entered wearing masks and, at the end of the event, she stood with her husband a distance apart from Biden and his wife, Jill, as photographers snapped photos of the Democratic ticket.
The need to stay apart perhaps made it more difficult for pundits and political watchers to read the chemistry between them, but Harris and Biden spent a great deal of their remarks emphasizing the bonds they share, particularly when it came to the vice president’s son, Beau Biden, who died in 2015. Harris was a friend of Biden’s son, who she said “inspired people to be a better version of themselves.”
“When I asked you, ‘where did you get that? Where did this come from? He’d always talk about his Dad,” Harris said, as Biden stood to the side and bowed his head.
Biden said that her relationship with his son influenced his decision. “I know how much Beau respected Kamala and her work and that mattered a lot to me, to be honest with you, as I made this decision.”
He also said that he had spoken to the parents of Harris’s husband, entertainment attorney Douglas Emhoff, and said that his campaign “has always been a family affair. I have got some news for you — you are all honorary Bidens.”
Biden talked of the historic nature of her candidacy as the first Black woman and Indian American to be on a national party ticket.
“This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke, especially little black and brown girls who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities, but today, today just maybe they are seeing themselves for the first time in a new way as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents,” Biden said.
He also noted that Wednesday was the third anniversary of the Charlottesville neo-Nazi protests, which he said was a “wake up call for all of us as a country” and a “call to action” for his campaign.
Harris talked of her heritage as the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, and spoke of the importance of family and her step children. She said that “I’ve had a lot of titles over my career and certainly Vice President will be great, but Momala will always be the one that means the most.”
What was not lost on Harris was that her role as running mate, as is tradition, will be to deliver searing attacks on their opponents. She focused in particular on Trump and Pence’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, calling the administration a “failed government.”
“This virus has impacted almost every country, but there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation,” she said. “It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start.”
Just hours after she was announced as Biden’s pick on Tuesday, Trump blasted her as “nasty” and “disrespectful,” pointing to her manner of questioning of Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 2018.
But Biden pointed to Harris’ prosecutorial abilities as an asset, and said, “Is anyone surprised Donald Trump has a problem with a strong woman or strong women across the board?”
Later, the campaign announced that it raised $26 million in the 24 hours since Harris was announced as Biden’s running mate.
They both appeared together at a grassroots fundraiser later on Wednesday, in the same room but seated about six feet apart.