“This is really me running against Kamala Harris,” Haley said on Fox News.
Now, other Republican presidential candidates have started following Haley. has helped make Harris a prime target, with aligned outside groups featuring grainy images of the vice president’s face in their ads and candidates using her name in fundraising solicitations. But none have attacked Harris this cycle with the ferocity of Haley, whose small donations soared in April when she first predicted that Biden would die before completing a second term and that Harris would replace him.
That provocative argument, which has no evidence behind it, and the spectacle of one ascendant Native American woman attacking another have drawn attention in a race where Haley had until recently struggled to gain attention. Some polls suggest a strong performance in last month’s Republican presidential debate boosted her support, but she remains far behind front-runner Donald Trump.
Trump has wide lead over Haley and others in South Carolina
In Harris, Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appears to have found the foil she wanted. His criticism implicitly draws voters’ attention to the fact that Haley, 51, is the only woman in the GOP race, while allowing her to underscore the central tenet of her candidacy: It’s time for Republican voters to embrace a younger generation of leaders like her.
Critics reflect age debate of Biden, 80, and Trump, 77. They also allowed Haley must demonstrate tenacity without directly attacking Trump while trying to avoid alienating his supporters. And unlike the men running, Haley can refute accusations that her criticism of Harris — the first woman of color to serve as vice president — is sexist or racist by pointing out that she, too, is a woman of color.
Kelly Dittmar, research director at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said some Republican candidates appear to have concluded that Harris is an easier target than Biden. The vice president is part of a long line of women of color who have been caricatured by the right as “dangerous” or “extreme,” Dittmar said.
“It’s harder to go up against Biden because there’s at least a sense that he’s appealing to a wider variety of groups,” Dittmar said. “Being white and being an older man, to some people, makes you seem less dangerous — even though that is definitely not true among voters of color. But the voters (Haley) is targeting are still overwhelmingly white, and that’s part of the story here.”
Haley’s allies reject the idea that her criticism of Harris has anything to do with race.
For Native American voters, who lean heavily Democratic, there is resonance in seeing two influential politicians of their ethnic heritage face off, said Neil Makhija, president of the advocacy group Indian American Impact.
“In a way, it’s fascinating and almost amusing, like, ‘Oh, wow, we’ve basically never been represented on the national stage, and now we might get to the point, in the near future, where it’s like desi versus desi,'” he said, using a term that refers to people from the Indian subcontinent.
The vice president’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Sen. Patty Murray (D-W.A.), a spokeswoman for the Biden-Harris campaign, said Haley’s approach was a desperate effort to “stay relevant.”
“She’s running against Donald Trump for the Republican nomination,” Murray said. “She’s in the single digits in the polls. She should focus on who her rival is if she wants to be the Republican nominee.
Until recently, Harris refused to participate in the attacks. But when asked about criticism of GOP contenders in an interview broadcast Sept. 10, the vice president said Republicans tried the same technique in 2020 (when Trump called Harris a “monster”). She added that while she is ready to lead the country as president if necessary, Biden “will be fine.”
“They feel the need to attack because they are afraid that we will win based on the merit of the work that Joe Biden and I and our administration have done,” Harris said on “Face the Nation.” from CBS News.
Haley’s series of attacks on Harris, along with the increased willingness of other Republican Party candidates to attack the vice president, have reignited the debate over gender and sexism in the presidential race. Some Democrats say Republicans would never target Harris in this way if she were a man.
But Republicans say their criticism of Harris is based on substance, not gender, and that she has failed to make progress on the tasks she accomplished as vice president, such as tackling the root causes of migration. Other controversial vice presidential candidates, like Dan Quayle in 1988, have also faced scrutiny, they say.
David Kochel, a Republican strategist, said Haley is “trying to make her case beyond Trump and Biden,” using her criticism of Harris to convey her central message that it’s time for the Republican Party to “turn the tide.” page » towards a new generation of leaders. .
“Seventy-five percent of voters in this country don’t want a rematch between Trump and Biden, and what she’s trying to do is insinuate herself into a contest with Kamala Harris,” Kochel said . “It’s good politics.”
Biden’s status as the oldest president in history gives Republican barbs an added edge, since Harris would enter the Oval Office if Biden is unable to do the job.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in July that he prays for Biden every night “not only because he’s our president, but also because of who our vice president is.” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s campaign wrote in an email this month that “having Kamala Harris as our next president would be a NIGHTMARE for America.”
A super-PAC affiliated with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign criticized Harris’ handling of issues at the U.S.-Mexico border in an ad, and DeSantis said in June that “as bad as Biden has done it, the situation would be worse” if Harris were president.
Jennifer Lawless, a political science professor at the University of Virginia who has studied women in politics, said that as a woman of color, Haley might be able to make stronger criticisms of Harris without alienate independent voters who would be put off by a white man. candidate doing the same thing.
“It’s easier to argue that this has nothing to do with race, this has nothing to do with gender, this is just a presidential candidate denigrating the vice president.” , Lawless said.
But Karen Finney, a Democratic political consultant who advised Hillary Clinton, said the attacks on the vice president — which began during the 2020 election — “relied on sexist and racist tropes.”
“There’s a misconception that if it comes from a woman it can’t be sexist, and if it comes from a person of color it can’t be racist. And that’s just not true,” Finney said.
Haley and her campaign advisers vehemently rejected complaints that her criticism of Harris was discriminatory. “This has nothing to do with Kamala’s gender or Kamala’s race,” Haley said, answering these questions on Fox. “It has everything to do with Kamala’s incompetence.”
Haley’s allies say she has a blunt style whether her target is a man or a woman, and they note that the concerns she raises about Biden’s age and mental acuity are shared by wide swaths voters, including many Democrats.
They also point to Harris’ approval ratings as evidence that many Americans agree with Haley’s fears about her. About 39 percent of registered voters viewed her favorably in a Fox News poll released last month and 56 percent viewed her unfavorably. (This does not differ dramatically from Biden, who was viewed favorably by 43 percent and unfavorably by 57 percent).
Questions about Biden’s age and mental acuity, warranted or not, have emerged as one of the biggest vulnerabilities in the president’s re-election campaign, polls suggest. Several Republican candidates, including Haley, Scott and DeSantis, are addressing this problem by arguing that it is time for a younger generation of leaders.
“Even voters who support his administration, the policies he supports, the things he’s done as president, are still very hesitant about the idea that he’s going to be the oldest president we’ve ever had, and four more years of this will make him even older,” Jennie Sweet-Cushman, a professor at Chatham University who studies women in politics, said of Biden. “Pairing that with concerns about this woman having even lower approval ratings being the backup plan is really the one-two punch of this strategy.”
Harris’ approval ratings have at times fallen below Biden’s, but several pollsters have noted that they generally trail the president’s, a trend shared by most vice presidents.
Political strategists say Republican candidates risk focusing too much on age, including the risk of alienating older Americans, who are the most reliable voters. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said she was concerned about Biden’s age guarantee that the vice president’s role will be more important to some voters this cycle than in some previous elections, but she cautioned that attacking Harris carries some risks for Haley.
“Any female candidate has to maintain sympathy more than men — it’s just a tougher fight,” Lake said, quoting the 2016 Democratic nominee. Hillary Clinton. “Haley mistakenly thinks that you can attack a progressive, pro-abortion woman of color – you will be able to be negative and not hurt your likeability as much as attacking a white man. That may be true in a primary, but it’s certainly not true in a general election.”