Governor Harris?

[ Posted Monday, December 4th, 2023 – 16:41 UTC ]

I read a rather interesting article in my local paper this weekend which put forth an idea that has the possibility of injecting some excitement into President Joe Biden's re-election campaign. The idea's a pretty simple one: Vice President Kamala Harris should voluntarily announce she will not run for her office again on Biden's ticket, and instead will be returning to California to run for the governor's seat in 2026. This would free Biden up so he could name a new running mate, which could indeed generate some enthusiasm among the Democratic voting base.

I'm not going to quote from the article, since it was written in awfully dismissive and snide terms (I am not familiar with the author and know nothing about his politics, but I assume they lean a lot more rightward than mine do). But the ideas contained within the snark are still interesting nonetheless.

Biden is not very popular right now, and the idea he's running for re-election isn't very popular either. Harris does not boost Biden's popularity, since her own isn't all that great either (on a national level). Harris has had both successes and failures at her job, but her unpopularity is actually a talking point right now for Republicans. They are warning everyone that a vote for President Biden will eventually (inevitably, according to them) be a vote for "President Harris," since they don't expect Biden to make it all the way through another term. Her unpopularity makes this a more potent argument than it would for a more popular veep.

While normally stepping down from the vice president's office might be seen as the end of a political career, the move to governor of California should be seen as more of a lateral move than a step down. California has the biggest economy in the United States and it also has an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature for any new governor to work with. This means Harris could get a lot of very positive things done and by doing so accomplish a lot more as governor than she would in a second term as vice president. And it would even leave open the possibility of her making a 2028 run for the presidency as well.

This is rather anecdotal, but a lot of Democrats I talk to about Harris don't actively dislike her -- but they don't have much confidence in her political style or her political persona. If Joe Biden had stepped down and 2024 was an open race on the Democratic side, a lot of people don't think Harris would have had an easy time winning the party's nomination. They'd vote for her, but they wonder if enough other Democrats would, to state the problem in a nutshell.

But that is less pronounced within California. Harris won her 2016 Senate race with an impressive 60 percent of the vote, for starters. Since Gavin Newsom is term-limited out, the 2026 governor's race would be wide open. Harris wouldn't be an automatic shoo-in, but I would bet that she'd easily be one of the top two candidates (which you have to be to make it to the general election ballot). Winning wouldn't be a cakewalk for her, but it also wouldn't be all that difficult.

Becoming California governor would give Harris some unfiltered executive experience, instead of being the stand-in for the real executive and merely carrying out his agenda. She could work with the legislature to pass some good legislation and be seen managing whatever crisis crops up (this is California, so she'd be almost guaranteed to face some sort of natural disaster while in office -- fires, floods, earthquakes, etc.).

For Biden, this could provide a real boost to his campaign. There'd be a period when a whole lot of Democrats jockeyed and lobbied to get on the ticket with Joe. Endless ink would be spilled in the media covering the ins and outs of each of them. Prospective candidates could appear on the campaign trail, either alongside Biden or standing in for him as a surrogate.

In the end, of course, it'd be Joe's decision to make, and his alone. He could (and almost certainly would) choose someone a lot younger than him. He would be faced with pressure from a whole bunch of identity-politics movements, who would want to see one of their own on the ticket. Harris, of course, was a historic choice for a number of reasons (being a Black/Asian woman most prominent). Biden would almost certainly choose someone who would break some sort of new glass ceiling(s) as well.

Biden might hold off until the convention next summer to announce his choice (which is the traditional way of doing it). This could indeed interject some excitement into the campaign up until that point, as well as the convention itself. As things currently stand, this excitement will not exist.

It would take a monumental amount of self-confidence for Harris to make such an unexpected move, of course. Both she and Biden would have to be crystal-clear that this was her voluntary decision and Biden was in no way "pushing her out." She'd be able to complete her term, leave office in January of 2025, and then immediately begin campaigning for the 2026 governor's race. And she'd have to reassure her own supporters that she saw this as a step up, not a step down. If both Biden and Harris sell the concept that this was a good thing for everyone concerned, then Democratic voters will likely accept this.

In all honesty, I have to end with the admission that this probably isn't going to happen. But it certainly was an interesting idea to contemplate. Biden currently has a rather large enthusiasm problem, both within his own party and in the general public. This could serve to generate some enthusiasm for his campaign, as well as some excitement for the supporters of the candidate Biden eventually names. If both Biden and Harris won their respective races, it would look like a brilliant move on both their parts, as well.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


17 Comments on “Governor Harris?”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I think Kamala Harris lost her chance for the oval office the moment she decided to leave the US senate to run for president in the 2020 cycle. I don't think she has a snowball's chance in Hell of succeeding Biden in 2028 or beyond, in other words and given all the obvious assumptions.

    So, yeah, she would have to take on a big role of some sort in a second Biden administration or as California governor in order to slide out of the veep slot in 2024. I don't find that prospect at all out of the question.

    The question remains, though ... who would Biden choose as his new running mate?

    It would have to be someone who would be immediately able and capable of stepping into the role of president and someone who is of Biden's equal in terms of political gravitas, both domestically and internationally.

    I don't think the new veep candidate needs to be a lot younger than Biden but certainly needs to display a sure vigor and high energy level.

    And, I think it would be a mistake to name someone who necessarily breaks some sort of glass ceiling. I mean, that was the problem in a nutshell the first time around!

    Does it have to be a woman or a person of colour? Does gender identity have to be involved? Absolutely, positively, unequivocally NOT. It just needs to be a choice that is written in the stars!

    Anybody here know anyone who might fit that bill?

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Did I miss the part where you explained why Dems should dump Kamala? Why should wanting to be President disqualify her? It’s not like she wasn’t considerably more qualified than Trump, no?

    Please elaborate.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Harris could have accomplished quite a lot as Governor of California and, with the fifth or fourth largest economy in the world only behind the US, Japan, UK and possibly Germany, been a leader on the world stage if she would have taken the opportunity of spending time in the US senate to hone her craft.

    I don't know how she does that now or even how she takes on a big role in the next Biden administration outside of the vice presidency.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Are you talkin' to me!?

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Did I miss the part where you explained why Dems should dump Kamala?

    I guess so.

    Why should wanting to be President disqualify her?

    On it's own, it doesn't, silly.

    It's not like she wasn’t considerably more qualified than Trump, no?

    That's not saying much for her. ;)

    Please elaborate.


  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Biden would almost certainly choose someone who would break some sort of new glass ceiling(s) as well.

    Not only would that defeat the whole purpose of the exercise, it would only repeat the first mistake.

    If this actually happens - and, I agree with you that, sadly, it is highly unlikely - Biden would have to make a serious choice based solely on what and who he believes would be necessary.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If both Biden and Harris sell the concept that this was a good thing for everyone concerned, then Democratic voters will likely accept this.

    And, they are both SUCH phenomenal salespeople. ;)

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Personally I think Biden would be much more successful running as the pro-pie candidate.

    Surprised not to see any commentary on the historic expulsion of the gentleman from New York.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You mean pleasantly surprised, right?

  10. [10] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Gavin Newsom for Veep!

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Naw ... I've already crossed him off the list.

  12. [12] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Bear in mind, I am out of the US and may miss some news although I try to keep up. I read comments that people are unhappy with Harris, but rarely read exactly why. What are some concrete examples? Other than having run against Biden, or being a woman of color.

  13. [13] 
    Bleyd wrote:


    Can't speak for anyone else, but I feel like Kamala Harris has a similar problem to Ron Desantis, she can be lacking in charisma and rub people the wrong way, so people just generally don't like her. A lot of voters would probably support her policy goals and even much of her record, but she just turns people off at a personal level.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    What are some concrete examples? Other than having run against Biden, or being a woman of color.

    Not sure where you're getting your information but the current conversation has zero to do with Harris having run against Biden or being a woman of colour.

    Try to keep up.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    My problem with Harris is that she has demonstrated over the course of Biden's first term that she has a lot to learn and being vice president - or even being Governor of the big state of California with an economy ranked as the fourth largest in the WORLD - is not exactly the best place from which to increase your base of knowledge or gravitas, both of which are needed from the get-go in both roles, never mind thinking you know enough to be POTUS.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm beginning to conclude that changing up Biden's number two is not the most important question going forward.

    I think the question that needs to be addressed is the constitutional requirement that POTUS be born in the US. For obvious reasons.

  17. [17] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Elizabeth, I believe my question is pertinent, and Bleyd has given a reasonable answer.

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