As Joe Biden seeks to conquer public concern he is too old to run for and complete a second term in office, the White House is reportedly planning to boost support for Biden’s vice-president, Kamala Harris, in the face of increasing Republican attacks.
An unnamed source “familiar with conversations inside the White House” told NBC News: “They need her to be strong. They know she is a target, and the attacks have always been intense, and the ante is going to be upped. So they want to make sure she is on the best possible footing.”
An unnamed Democratic strategist, meanwhile, pointed to Biden’s eight years as vice-president to Barack Obama.
“Joe Biden knows better than anyone else that the No 1 qualification for when you select the vice-president is … ‘Will this individual be able to … do the job if I cannot continue?’.
“Joe Biden knew that, he knew that going in, and he is standing by her.”
At 80, Biden is already the oldest president ever elected. He will be nearly 82 by election day next year and 86 at the end of a second term if victorious. Harris is 58.
Earlier this week, Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador who is running for the Republican nomination, stirred controversy when she said Biden might well die in office.
Speaking to Fox News, Haley said: “He announced that he’s running again in 2024, and I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden you really are counting on a President Harris, because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely.”
Haley has called for mental competency tests for all politicians over the age of 75. Donald Trump, the clear leader in Republican primary polling, is 76.
The White House brushed off Haley’s remark by pointing to her low polling, the deputy press secretary Andrew Bates saying: “Honestly, I forgot she was running.”
But Republicans are unlikely to stop focusing on Biden’s age and concurrent attacks on Harris, the first woman and person of colour to be vice-president.
The former California attorney general and US senator has long been the subject of reports that she has struggled to make an impact as vice-president.
It is a common predicament. As the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile told the Guardian, “When you are second in command, not first in command, no one understands your role. So you have to constantly define your role and shape your own narrative. That is the challenge that she has.”
Recently, Harris has joined pushback against attacks on Biden based on his age.
“Age is more than a chronological fact, to be very frank with you,” she told ABC in February.
“It’s about thinking about whether we have in our leader, which we do in Joe Biden, somebody who is bold. What he has achieved in this presidency only two years in is historic in terms of the investment in infrastructure … I think you will see that we have a very bold and vibrant president in Joe Biden.”
On Thursday, Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Commitee, told NBC Harris had “really been at the forefront of a lot of the work that we’ve done politically.
“I really do believe that she’s going to be at the forefront and a crucial component of the re-election process.”
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