As questions about Biden mount, Kamala Harris sports better polls, more appearances, puff pieces

President Biden’s lackluster debate performance has turned the spotlight to Vice President Kamala Harris, who has started to show off a more visible campaign role as November approaches.

Harris suddenly figures to play a defining role in the campaign down the stretch, a turnaround for a vice president that many critics have panned as a potential liability for Democrats in November.

The negativity surrounding Harris even garnered calls for the vice president to step away from the campaign as recently as March, and one Washington Post column called on Harris to "step aside" for "the country’s sake."

Now, some have speculated Harris could take over at the top of the ticket after Biden’s debate performance. The vice president’s visibility already started to increase before last week. 

Media outlets have taken notice, leading to an avalanche of positive press for the vice president in recent months. Harris was called "Biden’s secret weapon in North Carolina" in a report in The Hill, which noted the vice president made her fifth trip to the battleground state last month and has led the outreach to Black communities, a largely Democratic demographic Biden has struggled to court in his rematch with former President Trump.

"She’s one of the administration’s best spokespeople to the Black community," Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons told The Hill. "The president has been making the case to the Black community as well, but obviously the VP has a different kind of appeal." 

A February report in the Los Angeles Times declared that Harris had finally "found her groove," citing the vice president’s appeal to younger voters and her voice on issues such as abortion.

"She’s become a top fundraiser for Democrats, an emissary to groups that are lukewarm toward President Biden — in particular Black and younger voters — and emerged as the administration’s most forceful voice on abortion, women’s health and, as Harris frames it, the threat Trump poses to freedom and individual choice," the story said.

A few months later, a New York Times report declared the "Harris moment has arrived," calling her the "perfect messenger" for the campaign for issues such as "reproductive rights."

Some polls have seemingly caught on to the vice president’s strengthening position, with a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted last month finding the vice president gaining strength with key demographics, including a 67% favorable rating among Black voters.

The poll represented a turnaround for Harris, who had trailed Biden with Black voters going back to the 2020 primary. But she now leads the president in the crucial Democratic voting bloc by four points.

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