Opinion | Campaign

Kamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along

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Joe Biden and his team are nothing if not calculating, safe and conventional. Those facts alone indicated that he would choose Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris has been the obvious choice since she shrewdly dropped out in the fall. No hopeless stumbling through the primaries, racking up poor finishes for her.

In keeping with how winning presidential nominees select their running mates, Biden ignored the chimera of picking to win a state and stuck with much larger concerns. As an old white Catholic heading a party increasingly hostile to that demographic he had to pick the opposite, and Harris is a buffet of ethnicity (African-American and Indian) and religion (Baptist with a bit of Hinduism and a Jewish husband). Tough luck for the atheists.

Experience on the ballot and running for president was likely a significant trump card for Harris over Val Demings and - especially - Susan Rice... but not for what she learned, but for what people learned and didn't learn about her. In short, Harris has received a decent vetting and survived the critical onslaught with relatively little damage. The Susan Rice media boomlet quickly flamed out when a few leaks about her personal fortune made her look like some kind of Koch brothers wannabe to the progressive left.

Kamala Harris is and always was the safe pick.

For a challenger who has led the incumbent for over two years head-to-head, safe is sensible. Biden was not about to let a few debate barbs get in the way. As Harris correctly analyzed, her tough attack on Biden last summer can be summed up as "That's politics." She might have added, "... so grow up, thin-skinned losers."

The pick is not without problems - and not due to any attacks forthcoming from President Trump. ANY pick by Biden would be subject to as much withering fire as possible. The main issue is that Biden is essentially turning over the Democratic Party to Harris. But what are all those disgruntled future Democratic presidents going to do, back Trump?

If Biden wins, no president since James Buchanan has been less likely to seek re-election going into office.

Starting on Wednesday, Nov. 4 (or sooner), every Democratic elected official, donor and pundit will be working overtime sucking up to Harris. Given expectations, the sitting president's own staff will be sure to have Harris on board with any substantive decision.

While the winners are obvious in the veepstakes, including Harris and any of her allies, there are some significant losers:

Elizabeth Warren: She never figured out that she wasn't really on the list and her campaign for the job pushes her further into the political wilderness. Other than ethnicity, the major reason why Elizabeth Warren was never a serious contender is that nobody in a putative Biden administration wanted to deal with a headstrong, bumptious Warren looming over everyone.

Stacey Abrams: Publicly campaigning for VP is always a bad idea, and Abrams pushed that bad idea to the extreme. There are plenty of other African American women Biden can put into prominent roles. Abrams will soon be camping out with Warren in the wilderness.

All the other possible VP candidates - Whitmer, Duckworth, Demings, Baldwin, Klobuchar, etc., - played nice and are in line for due consideration by the Biden-Harris crowd.

Christopher Dodd:  Maybe he just doesn't care at this point, but Dodd's public whining about Harris not being "loyal" is an influencer death sentence. Don't fall behind on those mortgage payments, no bailouts for you!

John Morgan: Who is that, you ask? That question will be going around. The Florida plaintiffs lawyer, Biden donor and political kingmaker attacked Harris as a choice and, incredibly, did so on the record. How can a guy so immersed in politics make such a mistake? Morgan represents every Democrat who the Harris people can identify as involved in the last-ditch "ditch Harris" movement.

Fortunately for Morgan, money talks and he won't be camping in the wilderness with Warren and Abrams. But, those plum ambassadorships are looking sketchier these days.

Choosing Kamala Harris is the most important decision Biden has made politically. As for how Biden will actually govern, we won't know that until he picks a Chief of Staff.

Keith Naughton, Ph.D., co-founder of Silent Majority Strategies, is a public affairs consultant who specialized in Pennsylvania judicial elections. Follow him on Twitter @KNaughton711.

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