Se­na­tor at de­bate gut-punched Biden, and now she’s his run­ning mate

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - lsweet@sun­times.com LYNN SWEET D.C. DECODER | @lynnsweet

When the talk at a break­fast fundraiser in Glen­coe on March 6 turned to whom Joe Biden would tap as his vice pres­i­dent pick, head­liner Jill Biden of­fered up — and she didn’t have to — that Ka­mala Har­ris at­tack­ing her hus­band for his record on race dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial pri­mary de­bate was like a “punch to the gut.”

At that Biden cam­paign event in the north­ern sub­urb, it seemed that Jill Biden was still smol­der­ing over the Har­ris hit, be­cause while juicy, it didn’t seem ju­di­cious for her to com­ment about Har­ris that way, es­pe­cially be­cause the ju­nior se­na­tor from Cal­i­for­nia al­ready had quit her pres­i­den­tial bid.

Jill Biden told the donors she was sur­prised be­cause Har­ris had a very close “bond” with their late son, Beau. Beau Biden and Har­ris got to know each other when he was the Delaware at­tor­ney gen­eral and she was the Cal­i­for­nia at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Any re­main­ing an­i­mus from ei­ther Biden against Har­ris washed away as Biden whit­tled down his list of po­ten­tial run­ning mates — in­clud­ing Sen. Tammy Duck­worth, DIll. — tap­ping Har­ris on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Har­ris’ 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion run gave her ex­pe­ri­ence that Biden, I’m told, con­sid­ered im­por­tant. Biden’s failed 2008 White House pri­mary bid opened the door for for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to make Biden his vice pres­i­dent.

Har­ris is a his­toric se­lec­tion. She is the third fe­male to be on a ma­jor-party pres­i­den­tial ticket. The daugh­ter of im­mi­grants — her fa­ther is a Black man from Ja­maica and her mother from In­dia — Har­ris is the first Black and first Asian Amer­i­can to be tapped by a ma­jor party for the vice pres­i­dent slot.

With her blended back­ground, Har­ris is re­ferred to most of­ten as Black — the same

as Obama, the son of a Black man from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas. Obama said in a state­ment, the Har­ris “life story is one that I and so many oth­ers can see our­selves in: a story that says that no mat­ter where you come from, what you look like, how you wor­ship, or who you love, there’s a place for you here.”

Har­ris is the se­cond Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Se­nate, with ex-Sen. Carol Mose­ley Braun, D-Ill., the first.

The most loyal Democrats are Black fe­male vot­ers, and an enor­mous Black turnout in key swing states is a key to a Biden win. While Biden pledged to pick a woman for his part­ner — and made no prom­ise re­gard­ing race — his list of VP con­tenders in­cluded a string of Black women, high­light­ing the deep bench.

The Biden/Duck­worth VP inside story

Duck­worth made it to the fi­nal rounds in the Biden se­lec­tion process, with sources telling me Biden phoned her Tues­day af­ter­noon to let her know she would not be se­lected.

Duck­worth had been un­der­go­ing in­ten­sive vet­ting by the Biden team for some three months, meet­ing mul­ti­ple times with his four-per­son se­lec­tion com­mit­tee and var­i­ous top Biden staffers and lawyers. Ev­ery as­pect of the life of the wounded Iraq War vet went un­der the mi­cro­scope.

On Satur­day af­ter­noon, Duck­worth and Biden talked in an in­ter­view that lasted about an hour, sources said. Duck­worth has known Biden and Jill Biden for years, es­pe­cially through their mu­tual in­ter­ests in vet­er­ans af­fairs dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Biden will ac­cept the nom­i­na­tion at the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion on Thurs­day, Aug. 20, and Duck­worth has a prime speak­ing slot that night.

On Biden and Har­ris

We’ll see the new Biden/Har­ris ticket to­gether Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon from Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware. In the evening, Biden, 77, and Har­ris, 55, ap­pear at a vir­tual grass-roots fundraiser.

Asked about a po­ten­tial vice pres­i­den­tial pick in Glen­coe, Jill Biden said a pri­or­ity is to find a part­ner who is “com­pat­i­ble” with shared val­ues, much as the Bi­dens had with the Oba­mas. Har­ris must have passed the chem­istry test.

Dur­ing her pres­i­den­tial run, Har­ris showed a warm side, some doses of charisma and the abil­ity to de­liver a stemwinder, on par with the Oba­mas.

And like the Oba­mas, Har­ris is cul­tur­ally hip and has her dance moves. Google her playlists.

Har­ris can ap­peal to sub­ur­ban women who gave Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump the ben­e­fit of the doubt in 2016, with the swingstate sub­urbs con­tested turf. Take a look at the video she made with ac­tress Mindy Kal­ing about cook­ing the In­dian dish Masala Dosa.

Sheila Nix to ad­vise Har­ris team

For­mer Jill Biden Chief of Staff Sheila Nix, an Oak Park res­i­dent, will be a se­nior ad­viser to the team the Biden cam­paign put to­gether to staff Har­ris.

Nix has been a leader in the Illi­nois Biden cam­paign. Nix was Jill Biden’s chief of staff from April 2013 to the last day of the Obama/Biden ad­min­is­tra­tion, Jan. 20, 2017.

Jill Biden ASHLEE REZIN GAR­CIA/ SUN-TIMES FILE

KA­MALA HAR­RIS CAM­PAIGN PHO­TOS VIA AP

ABOVE: Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris with her mother, Shya­mala, at a pa­rade in 2007. RIGHT: Har­ris is held by her fa­ther, Don­ald Har­ris, in April 1965.

SUN-TIMES FILE

Sen. Tammy Duck­worth

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