The Note: Harris makes history, as Biden builds his 'bridge'

Biden called himself a “bridge” to a generation of leaders that includes Harris.

August 12, 2020, 6:13 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The safest choice made history.

Former Vice President Joe Biden may have landed where he started, but he ends his running-mate process having traveled a far-reaching distance -- for his campaign and perhaps for a country that has never before had a woman of color on a presidential ticket.

Sen. Kamala Harris was in many ways the obvious choice for Biden in a campaign shaping up like this one. Still, her selection wasn't inevitable, and the way it was handled could have gone astray far more than in ways that leave grumbling about oppo dumps and blown deadlines.

On Wednesday -- three years to the date after Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, -- the Biden-Harris team debuts with an event in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

PHOTO: Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during a town hall at the Eastern State Penitentiary, Oct. 28, 2019, in Philadelphia.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during a town hall at the Eastern State Penitentiary, Oct. 28, 2019, in Philadelphia.
Mark Makela/Getty Images

They will share the stage and the ticket. Yet the moment belongs to Harris -- the first Black woman and first Asian American to make it this far in the electoral process.

Harris was right behind Biden at his final campaign event before COVID-19 brought the trail to an end. Biden memorably called himself a "bridge" to a new generation of leaders that includes Harris, who is 55.

Her debate moments with Biden are getting plenty of air. President Donald Trump called her his "No. 1 draft pick," jumping on some of her more progressive positions, though the GOP playbook on her is not as clear as it might have been against some other contenders.

Biden's challenge since the primaries wound down has been to show that he can connect with this moment in history. Now it will fall to Harris to live a piece of that history, during the most turbulent of national circumstances.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Republicans first negative attack ad about Harris, which landed immediately after Biden announced her as his running mate, was full of inaccurate buzz words and even featured dark silhouettes of other notable female Democrats of color with little more than innuendo.

If anything, the move demonstrated how hard it will likely be for the president and vice president to campaign against Harris for the next three months. Do you throw the kitchen sink, if you know what will stick?

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden talks with Senator Kamala Harris after the conclusion of the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Sept. 12, 2019.
Former Vice President Joe Biden talks with Senator Kamala Harris after the conclusion of the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Sept. 12, 2019.
Mike Blake/Reuters, FILE

Big picture, it will be harder to court the women who have run away from the GOP, when Pence, with his history as a staunch advocate against reproductive and gay rights, is standing next to Harris.

And while her career in law enforcement may frustrate some young Democrats, the fact is it could be harder for Republicans to repeat the falsehood that Biden and all Democrats want to defund the police if Harris, as a former prosecutor, can talk about her record, reforms and manage to add nuance to the issue.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The outpouring of support for Harris seemed to span all wings of the Democratic Party -- including those who fall farther left on the political spectrum, like her former presidential primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, and fellow vice presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren. While both progressives highlighted Harris' historic achievement on Tuesday, their statements also outlined policies their own supporters would likely want to see the newly established Biden ticket address in the months to come.

"She understands what it takes to stand up for working people, fight for health care for all, and take down the most corrupt administration in history," Sanders said in a tweet that felt reminiscent of his own campaign trail priorities. Similarly, Warren -- who branded herself as an advocate for "big, structural change" -- issued a lengthier statement and highlighted her belief that Harris "will be a great partner to Joe Biden in making our government a powerful force for good in the fight for social, racial, and economic justice."

PHOTO: Presidential candidates appear on stage at the start of the Democratic presidential debate at Tyler Perry Studios, Nov. 20, 2019, in Atlanta.
Presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) appear on stage at the start of the Democratic presidential debate at Tyler Perry Studios, Nov. 20, 2019, in Atlanta.
Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The careful nudge from two progressive powerhouses could indicate that Republicans won't be the only ones carefully watching Harris' time on the campaign trail ahead of November -- members of her own party will be doing the same.

On the heels of Tuesday's announcement, a few Sanders delegates indicated that they were reluctantly accepting Harris' addition to the ticket. One Sanders delegate said the selection was "tough to swallow," and those who favored Rep. Karen Bass or Warren to be Biden's running mate, told ABC News that Harris needs to do more to address her prosecutorial past.

ONE MORE THING

Our colleagues at FiveThirtyEight launched their 2020 presidential election forecast Wednesday morning, which uses polls and other data to project President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden's chances of winning in November. Check it out at fivethirtyeight.com.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Wednesday morning's episode features a conversation with ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks, former senator and ABC News contributor Heidi Heitkamp and Harvard professor Leah Wright Rigueur -- they discuss former Vice President Joe Biden's decision to tap Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. Then, FiveThirtyEight Politics Editor Sarah Frostenson explains what the sites' newly unveiled election forecast tells us about the race. And, ABC News Foreign Editor Kirit Radia explains how Russia's claim about having the world's first coronavirus vaccine is about more than just medical science. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. Former communications director for the Obama administration, Jen Psaki, and Democracy for America CEO and ABC News Contributor Yvette Simpson, talk with ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl about former Vice President Joe Biden picking Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. https://bit.ly/2w091jE

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast. After months of speculation, Joe Biden announced California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday. In this emergency edition of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Perry Bacon Jr. and Sarah Frostenson break down what the choice means for Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party. https://apple.co/23r5y7w

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Democracy for America CEO and ABC News Contributor Yvettte Simpson, appear on ABC's "Good Morning America".
  • President Donald Trump participates in back-to-school event at 3 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will deliver remarks in Wilmington, Delaware in the afternoon and then attend a virtual finance event in the evening.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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