“When I made the decision to run, I fully appreciated that it will not be easy,” she said in an interview with the Associated Press this past weekend in New Orleans, where she spoke at the Essence Festival. “But I know if I’m not on the stage, there’s a certain voice that will not be present on that stage. Knowing that there is a perspective, there is a life experience, there is a vision that must be heard and seen and present on that stage, and that I have an ability to do that.”
Headed into the 2020 election, many Democrats and opponents of Trump have argued that the most important trait that anyone hoping to remove him from the Oval Office must possess is electability.
What that term means isn’t always clear, but in many cases, it has been interpreted as “able to win enough Trump supporters (especially white, working-class voters) to defeat Trump.” In short, that often means having the characteristics — white, male and moderate — that do not exacerbate the cultural and economic anxieties that led those individuals to back Trump.
The electability question is one of the reasons Biden has occupied the top spot in polls of Democratic presidential contenders since entering the race. The former senator is seen by many as the type of Democrat that former Trump supporters could get behind, and that’s a message Biden himself has been pushing. Biden has even gotten the attention of Trump, who according to many media reports believes that enough people who chose him last time could end up backing Biden and cause the president’s defeat.
But Harris has consistently pushed back on this idea. This past May, she told those attending the NAACP convention in Detroit:
There has been a lot of conversation by pundits about “electability” and who can speak to the Midwest. But when they say that, they usually put the Midwest in a simplistic box and a narrow narrative. And too often their definition of the Midwest leaves people out. It leaves out people in this room who helped build cities like Detroit. It leaves out working women who are on their feet all day — many of them working without equal pay. And the conversation too often suggests certain voters will only vote for certain candidates regardless of whether their ideas will lift up all our families. It’s shortsighted. It’s wrong. And voters deserve better.
Now polls conducted since that first debate show Harris on the rise. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, Harris is among the four candidates whom at least 20 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents choose as their first or second choice to be the nominee. The others were Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In the CNN/SSRS poll released after the debate, Harris was listed as one of the top three Democrats with the most support from voters.
Seeing her rise and Biden’s dip in polling, it stands to reason some voters decided she was, in fact, electable.
“Sometimes it takes a while to get people to see that this is possible,” Harris said in that AP interview.
For some, it seemed to become possible when Harris confronted Biden about his past position on busing, an attack Biden clearly didn’t see coming. Her assertive argument and willingness to stand up to one of the Democratic Party’s elder statesmen defined the first debate.
Just how electable voters deem a woman of color born to immigrants with a nontraditional family is still not yet clear. In the most recent Post poll, Biden is the only Democratic candidate with a solid lead over Trump among registered voters (53 percent to 43 percent). But with more than a year out before the general election, Harris still has time to make voters give more thought to how they determine who is presidential material.