While Trump has unleashed brutal attacks on some of the other front-runners for Biden’s running mate — most notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and former national security adviser Susan E. Rice — Harris is someone who has until now largely escaped his attention. Despite Harris almost instantly surfacing as a favorite for Biden’s VP nod, Trump has had relatively little to say about her.
To be sure, Trump has weighed in from time to time, but it has mostly been by retweeting GOP attacks on her. And he has even offered some unusual praise for her.
In June, Trump promoted a tweet which suggested Biden’s VP pick was coming down to Harris and Rice. “The Democrats have had 4 years since Trump won and that’s the best they could come up with. They’re doomed,” the tweet said. Trump also promoted another tweet saying, “When those are your choices, you know that the Democrat Party is DEAD!”
Trump also retweeted RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel’s attacks on Harris a few times. But apart from that, his previous remarks dated back to her presidential campaign.
“Too bad. We will miss you Kamala!” Trump said when she dropped out of the campaign in December, tying it to a tweet from former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Trump in October 2019 called her a “badly failing presidential candidate” and attacked her for boycotting an event at which he received an award.
The preceding August, he handicapped the presidential race on a couple of occasions, saying, “Kamala is falling.” The same month, he reviewed her debate performance by saying, “I think that Kamala did not do well last night. … I think Kamala had a bad night last night, I would say.”
In June 2019, Trump downplayed Harris’s chances of winning the nomination, saying, “They talk about Kamala. I don’t see Kamala.”
But apart from those relatively mild attacks — which, notably, often dealt with Harris’s electoral success rather than her personally — Trump hasn’t had much to say about the VP candidate his campaign is now pitted against. And, in fact, at times he has appeared to see some promise in her.
“I would say, the best opening so far would be Kamala Harris,” Trump said in January 2019 of Harris’s campaign launch (he mispronounced her first name at the time). “I would say, in terms of the opening act, I would say, would be her. … I just think she seemed to have a little better opening act than others. I think … a better crowd — better crowd, better enthusiasm. Some of the others were very flat.”
And even as Harris’s name rose to the top of the VP shortlist, Trump was asked about it and actually offered praise.
“How do you rate Kamala Harris as a VP? There’s a rumor it’s going to be her,” a reporter said two weeks ago.
Trump responded: “I think she’d be a fine choice, Kamala Harris. She’d be a fine choice.” Then the interview turned to other subjects.
That last exchange is instructive. Interviewers — many of them friendly — will often tee up Trump to weigh in on his opponents. Trump generally obliges, whacking them for insufficient praise of the federal coronavirus response (Whitmer), their claims to Native American ancestry (Warren), and the treatment of Michael Flynn and other Obama administration issues (Rice). On Harris, though, Trump doesn’t seem to have a ready-made attack.
Also worth noting: Trump was actually a donor to Harris’s campaign for California attorney general as recently as 2013, sending $6,000 her way in 2011 and 2013. His daughter Ivanka Trump also contributed $2,000 to Harris in 2014.
That could make it significantly more difficult to attack Harris — the idea that this was someone Trump saw fit to support financially, as recently as two years before he launched his 2016 campaign.
That doesn’t mean he won’t find something to attack; he most definitely will. The Trump campaign issued a statement on Harris shortly after her selection Tuesday, alleging that she had called Biden a racist (she had not) and that she would be a conduit for extremist liberal policies in a Biden administration.
Asked about Harris at a news conference shortly after her pick was announced, Trump called her my “No. 1 draft pick” -- apparently suggesting he wanted to be pitted against her -- and criticized her for wanting higher taxes and to cut the military budget, opposing fracking and being “nasty” to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“I was more surprised than anything else because she did so poorly,” Trump said. “Many people did much better than her in the primaries. She did very poorly in the primaries. And that’s like a poll. That’s like a poll.”
But it was mostly an enunciation of an argument the campaign was already making — conveniently tailored to the new pick -- while dwelling plenty on process.
There have been certain Democratic figures Trump has either declined to attack or doesn’t seem to know what to do with. The most notable among them has been former first lady Michelle Obama, whom Trump has largely and curiously avoided attacking for years despite his regular attacks on her husband.
We will have to see how Trump approaches Harris. But the lack of a defined attack thus far is certainly noteworthy.
Correction: This post initially attributed the Rice comments to Lewandowski. He was only responsible for the tweet which appears above.