Kamala Harris Has A Bigger Problem Than Forced Busing By Warren Henry for The Federalist
If the debate exchange on busing damaged Joe Biden more from creating the perception he has lost a step, it may damage Kamala Harris by highlighting that she tends to bluff and folds when called.
In the viral moment of the first Democratic presidential debates, Sen. Kamala Harris attacked former vice president Joe Biden over his opposition to forced busing to integrate public schools. The Harris campaign is now waffling on the issue. Over time, we may look back on that as a moment revealing Harris’s underlying weakness as a candidate.
Immediately after the debate, while clips rolled of Harris touting how she personally benefited from busing, Harris surged in the polls and Biden sagged a bit. It is less clear that Harris successfully cracked Biden’s appeal with black voters, which is likely key to the success of both candidates.
In live dial-tests during the debate, Stanley Greenberg found Biden’s favorability with black voters increased 18 percent as a result of perceived attacks on the Obama-Biden legacy. The ABC News/Washington Post poll indicates Biden scoring with 41 percent of black voters and Harris only 11 percent.
In the latest YouGov poll, black voters are split 36-13 between Biden and Harris. On the other hand, the Quinnipiac poll has Biden narrowly leading Harris 31 to 27 percent with black voters, while CNN found a 25 to 19 percent split with nonwhite respondents. Reuters/Ispos found Biden’s black support was cut in half. The question will take time to settle.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Harris is having trouble with her position on busing. At first, Harris leaned into her debate position: “Listen, the schools of America are as segregated if not more segregated today than they were when I was in elementary school. And we need to put every effort including busing into play to desegregate the schools.”
By last Wednesday, Harris reversed her emphasis. When asked whether she supports federally mandated busing, she replied: “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.” The Biden campaign wasted no time pouncing on the shift, with Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield tweeting: “It’s disappointing that Senator Harris chose to distort Vice President Biden’s position on busing — particularly now that she is tying herself in knots trying not to answer the very question she posed to him!”