Politics

Some Biden allies wage a shadow campaign to stop Kamala Harris from becoming vice president

Key Points
  • A group of Biden allies, including a few of his top donors, initiated a campaign against Harris close to a month ago, just weeks before a decision is expected. 
  • The concerns focus on her attacks on Biden during a primary debate last year, bringing into question her loyalty to the former vice president.
  • Some also argue that she's too ambitious and that she will be solely focused on eventually becoming president. 
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) attends the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine Customs and Border Protection, focusing on evolving challenges facing the agency, in Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 25, 2020.
Tom Williams | Pool via Reuters

Some of Joe Biden's allies are waging a campaign behind the scenes to stop Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., from becoming his vice president.

This disgruntled group of at least a dozen Biden backers, including a few of his top donors, initiated the move against Harris close to a month ago, just weeks before a decision is expected, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. Many who spoke to CNBC declined to be named as these efforts have been made in private. 

In some cases, her foes have taken their concerns directly to members of Biden's VP search committee, led by former Sen. Chris Dodd, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Cynthia Hogan, who previously served as counsel to the presumptive Democratic nominee when he was vice president under President Barack Obama. 

Although none of these actions signify that Biden will drop Harris from the list, the movement gives a glimpse into the effort being waged to derail her candidacy. 

Some remain bitter about her attacks on Biden during primary debates last year, saying they bring into question her loyalty to the former vice president. Others argue that she's too ambitious and that she will be solely focused on becoming president herself. Many of these Biden associates have been pushing alternatives to Harris, such as Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., former U.S. ambassador Susan Rice, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. 

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A group of donors tried similar tactics earlier this year against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has openly said she would accept the offer to be Biden's vice president. 

Representatives for Biden and Harris did not respond to requests for comment. 

Biden said at a press conference on Tuesday that he will be making his final decision next week. At the time of his remarks, he was holding a set of notes that appeared to vouch for Harris. The document was captured in a photograph taken by the Associated Press. His apparent decision to stand with Harris came after Politico detailed some of the concerns Biden's supporters have expressed about her becoming VP, including Dodd himself, who reportedly told a donor he was taken aback when she appeared to have no remorse about attacking Biden's previous stance on integrated busing at last year's debate. 

John Morgan, a Florida businessman and bundler, admitted to CNBC that he's privately voiced his concern about Harris to those trying to guide Biden about his eventual selection. 

"She would be running for president the day of the inauguration," Morgan said on Wednesday. "For me loyalty and friendship should mean something. But as Bill Clinton once told me, the No. 1 cause of Alzheimer's is ambition," he added, while noting he's in favor of Demings. 

"I think a good number of people closest to Joe are pushing against Kamala, including me," a Chicago-based businessman backing Biden told CNBC. "I don't like her, and I don't like the way she campaigned. She seems not loyal at all and very opportunistic." 

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A California-based political operative who was previously raising money for Harris' presidential campaign explained the move to upend her VP chances are even being made by Biden allies in her home state. 

"Lots of people here are relishing the chance to take potshots," this person said. 

But, despite the efforts, Harris still appears to be in the top tier of candidates for the job. 

Predict It, a prediction betting site that tracks political events, shows Harris ahead of all the other VP choices. 

In Biden's notes appearing to defend her, he described Harris as "talented," "great help to the campaign" and that he has "great respect for her." 

Harris also has been a key voice when it comes to fighting the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a recent op-ed published in USA Today, Harris criticized President Donald Trump and Republicans for their response to Covid-19. 

"People across the country are begging the president and his Republican boosters in Congress to approach these crises with the seriousness they deserve, recognize their missteps and work on behalf of the people who sent them to Washington," she said. "If they can't, it's time for them to move aside and let real leaders lead." 

Trump himself on Wednesday told reporters he believed Harris would be a "fine choice" to be Biden's running mate. 

The notes of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden reference Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., among other things as he speaks at a campaign event at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, July 28, 2020.
Andrew Harnik | AP