Harris Heads to Nevada Once More, With an Intense Spotlight Following Her

Vice President Kamala Harris is returning to Nevada on Tuesday for her sixth visit to the battleground state this year, her 14th since taking office and her first since some prominent Democrats began openly discussing whether she should replace her running mate at the top of the ticket.

Against that extraordinary backdrop, Ms. Harris is expected to keep the focus on the race as it stands, laying out the stakes in the election between President Biden, 81, and former President Donald J. Trump, 78, during a speech on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

But as some Democrats — horrified by Mr. Biden’s disastrous performance on the debate stage last month — urge him to not seek re-election or question his ability to serve a second term, the spotlight on Ms. Harris is perhaps at its most intense since she became vice president.

“It’s going to be a microscope or magnifying glass,” former Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada, a Democrat who supports Mr. Biden’s re-election, said in an interview. “People are looking for some indication from her, some signal, if there were one, that something might change.”

Mr. Biden, who had trailed in polling in swing states even before the debate, has been increasingly adamant that he is not leaving the presidential race, and some key Democrats have highlighted their support for him this week. Ms. Harris has backed him at every turn, making a crisp case for his candidacy and relentlessly promoting the administration’s record at events and in media appearances since.

But that has not stopped intraparty wrangling over the future of the ticket less than four months before Election Day.

A number of Democrats, including members of the Democratic National Committee, have already said that if Mr. Biden were to step aside, there should be an open and competitive process to determine the party’s nominee. Others have said the party should rapidly unite behind Ms. Harris in that scenario.

“I don’t want to see an open convention — that drags it out longer, puts the Democrats in disarray,” said Representative Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat whose district includes parts of Las Vegas. “Let’s get it resolved. And having her step up would be the easiest way to go. But for now, I’m hoping that the ticket remains Biden-Harris.”

Ms. Harris is expected to promote that ticket on Tuesday, while seeking to turn the nation’s focus back to Mr. Trump.

She is scheduled to speak at a campaign event focused on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. Ms. Harris, the first woman and the first woman of color to hold the vice presidency, has been playing a vital role in trying to shore up support among key Democratic constituencies, including young people, women and Black voters, that have lagged in enthusiasm.

As she begins her three-state tour to energize voters in Nevada, Texas and North Carolina, Ms. Harris is in a peculiar position.

An increasing number of Democrats have come around to backing her as a potential leader of the party if Mr. Biden were to step down. They believe she is crucial to energizing their base. But each time she delivers a speech contrasting Mr. Biden with Mr. Trump, she also in effect contrasts her messaging ability with the president.

Stefanie Brown James, co-founder of the Collective PAC, an organization dedicated to electing Black officials, said Ms. Harris should not be concerned with whether her performance this week would spotlight Mr. Biden’s limitations.

“We need her to shine her light. She should not dim her light because people feel it will overshadow his. She is who she is,” Ms. James said. “Quite frankly, it is a woman thing. It’s a Black woman thing. We are often asked to dim our light because it will diminish someone else.”

“She’s been very clear: I am the vice president to President Biden,” Ms. James added. “I am his partner in this. This is not about me. I don’t think that’s going to change. I think she will quite frankly continue to be the best surrogate for this administration.”

Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, a founder of the national progressive network Way to Win, said that lifting Ms. Harris’s profile in this moment would be crucial for her party, regardless of Mr. Biden’s future.

“We’re not advocating for Biden to step down, but our position is that no matter the outcome to boost Vice President Harris because she is part of the ticket,” she said. Putting focus on her helps with the voters that we are struggling with writ large.”

Ms. Harris has her work cut out for her in Nevada, where Mr. Trump has generally had a polling advantage in recent surveys.

“She plays well in the Hispanic community and with young people,” Ms. Titus said. But, she added, “she’s here to support the ticket, not to run on her own. And I think that’s how she’ll be seen.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.



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