Biden, Harris Lash Trump During Debut 08/13 06:14
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris pushed past their one-time political rivalry to
deliver an aggressive attack on the character and performance of President
Donald Trump in their historic first appearance as running mates.
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- Joe Biden and Kamala Harris pushed past their
one-time political rivalry to deliver an aggressive attack on the character and
performance of President Donald Trump in their historic first appearance as
The physical debut of the Democratic ticket on Wednesday was without
parallel in recent political annals. The coronavirus prevented Biden and Harris
from appearing before the large, adoring crowd that typically greets a
presidential nominee and his or her running mate. Instead, they spoke in a
mostly empty high school gym where reporters nearly outnumbered campaign aides
and the candidates' family members.
While the pandemic made a traditional campaign rollout impossible, it gave
Biden and Harris a setting to emphasize their criticism of Trump as unable to
contend with the most severe public health crisis in a century. Harris was
particularly sharp in her condemnation of the administration.
"The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut," Harris
said. "This virus has impacted almost every country. But there's a reason it
has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It's because of Trump's
failure to take it seriously from the start."
She added: "This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn't up for
Harris is the first Black woman on a major party's presidential ticket, and
she and Biden noted the historical significance.
"This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up --- especially
little Black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in
their communities. But today, today, just maybe, they're seeing themselves for
the first time in a new way," Biden said.
Harris, who is also of South Asian descent, noted the "heroic and ambitious
women before me, whose sacrifice, determination and resilience make my presence
here today even possible."
For his part, Trump has struggled to land on a coherent message about the
Biden-Harris ticket, casting the Democrats as simultaneously too liberal for
America and yet not progressive enough for their party's base. Trump has
resorted to sexist and racist criticism, referring to Harris as "nasty" and
tweeting that "the 'suburban housewife' will be voting for me" to keep
He also noted the two Democrats' disagreements during the primary campaign
"She said horrible things about him," Trump said Wednesday. "She mocked him,
openly mocked him. That's why I thought that was a very risky pick. Because I'm
sure that will be played back."
But onstage in Wilmington, Biden and Harris showed clear affection toward
one another. He called his running mate an "honorary Biden," and Harris offered
a poignant tribute to his son Beau, whom she was friends with when both served
as state attorneys general. Biden seemed overcome with emotion as Harris spoke
of Beau, who died in 2015, as "the best of us" and a man who modeled himself
after his father.
She signaled that she'll offer a vigorous defense of Biden's qualifications
on issues of race and civil rights, though she made headlines for assailing him
for his past opposition to federally mandated busing during a primary debate.
Noting Biden's own vice presidency under President Barack Obama, she said he
"takes his place in the ongoing story of America's march towards equality and
justice" as the only person "who's served alongside the first Black president
and has chosen the first Black woman as his running mate."
Biden's choice of Harris brought more than just historical weight to the
ticket --- it also provided a big fundraising boost for the campaign. He
announced at a later online fundraiser that the campaign raised $26 million in
the 24 hours since she was announced, with 150,000 people giving for the first
Still, the day was not without its challenges. The main event started an
hour late, and the gymnasium in which the candidates spoke lost its air
conditioning after a power outage hit the area. While most of the cable news
networks took the event live, the online livestream cut out just a few minutes
into Biden's remarks.
The appearance was the first in a rollout that Biden aides say blends the
historic nature of Harris' selection with the realities of the 2020 campaign
and the gravity of the nation's circumstances, which include the pandemic and
its dramatic economic fallout.
Harris was considered a favorite throughout Biden's search, and she's been a
regular surrogate campaigner and fundraiser for him since he became the
They'll nonetheless have to paper over differences exposed during the
primary campaign, from Harris' initial support for a single-payer health
insurance system and the Green New Deal to her deeply personal debate-stage
broadside against Biden over his opposition to federally mandated busing to
integrate public schools in the 1970s.
Harris no longer supports a single-payer health insurance system, aligning
instead with Biden's proposal to add a public insurance option to compete
alongside private plans. Still, she memorably raised her hand during one
Democratic primary debate when candidates were asked whether they could back a
system that scrapped private health insurance altogether.
She has broadly endorsed the Green New Deal, progressives' most ambitious
set of proposals to combat climate change, but she didn't make that an anchor
of her presidential bid. Biden has moved left on his climate proposals during
the 2020 campaign but has not fully embraced the Green New Deal.
In Washington, Harris has advocated overhauling the criminal justice system,
intensifying her efforts since George Floyd's killing by a white Minneapolis
police officer in May. And she's called for sweeping domestic programs to
benefit the working and middle class. But she has taken heat for some of her
aggressive stances as a local prosecutor in the San Francisco area and for not
prosecuting bank executives in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.
Biden bets that, on balance, Harris has broad appeal that will shore up any
weaknesses with Black women, an anchor of the Democratic Party, and other
voters of color, while juicing turnout among white liberals and coaxing support
from independents and Republican-leaning white voters who have soured on Trump.