Biden, Harris appear for first time as a team

Biden, Harris appear for first time as a team

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WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris delivered a one-two punch on the character and performance of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, as they made their election case for the first time as running mates.

Biden, a 77-year-old white man, named the first Black woman to a major party’s presidential ticket Tuesday. He hailed the California senator, the 55-year-old former prosecutor who a year ago excoriated Biden on a primary debate stage, as the right woman to help him defeat Trump and then lead a nation facing crises in triplicate: a pandemic, wounded economy and racial division.

In a small gym at Alexis I. duPont High School in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., Biden declared Harris is “smart, she’s tough, she’s experienced, she’s a proven fighter for the backbone of this country.”

“Kamala knows how to govern. She knows how to make the hard calls. She’s ready to do this job on day one,” he said.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV-s3lUmTuw]

As a former vice president, Biden also outlined the type of working relationship he wants with Harris, one modeled after the close partnership he had with former President Barack Obama.

“I asked Kamala to be the last voice in the room, to always tell me the truth, which she will, to challenge my assumptions if she disagrees, to ask the hard questions.”

Both candidates appeared onstage wearing masks before an audience consisting of journalists and campaign staff members wearing masks and practicing social distancing, not in a hall filled with cheering supporters as would normally be the case. Both spoke without masks and did not embrace.

Applause lines in the speeches were greeted with silence, and when the candidates’ spouses joined them after the event, they posed for photos more than 6 feet apart. Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, waved with their arms high in the air, as if searching for a back row that wasn’t there.

Biden praised Harris’ experience in questioning Trump administration officials in the Senate and highlighted the historic nature of picking her, noting that she’s the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica.

“This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up — especially little Black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities. But today, today, just maybe, they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way,” Biden said.

Harris sat feet away from Biden, listening with her mask off.

Taking the stage after him, she noted some of the gender critiques she’d faced throughout the Democratic primary, saying she was “mindful of all the ambitious women before me, whose sacrifice, determination and resilience makes my presence here today even possible.” She then launched into an attack on Trump, lambasting him for a lack of leadership on the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a moment of real consequence for America. Everything we care about — our economy, our health, our children, the kind of country we live in — it’s all on the line,” she said.

“This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up for the job,” she said about Trump. “Our country ends up in tatters and so does our reputation around the world.”

Recalling her work as a prosecutor, she added: “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.”

Biden and Harris showed affection toward each other, with Biden calling her an “honorary Biden,” and Harris offering an emotional tribute to his son, Beau, whom she was friends with when both served as attorneys general.

Gallery: Biden with Harris: ‘It’s a great day for America’

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She reflected on her close relationship with Beau Biden, calling him the “kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves” as Joe Biden fought back tears. Biden said it was through his son that he first knew Harris, and Beau Biden’s respect for her “mattered a lot” as he made his decision.

She signaled that she’ll offer a vigorous defense of Biden’s qualifications on issues of race and civil rights, though she made headlines for assailing him for his past opposition to federally mandated busing during a primary debate last year.

She said he “takes his place in the ongoing story of America’s march towards equality and justice” as the only person “who’s served alongside the first Black president and has chosen the first Black woman as his running mate.”

ALTERED TRADITION

Historic or not, the event was not without its challenges. It started an hour late, and the high school gymnasium in which the candidates spoke lost its air conditioning after a power failure hit the area. While most of the cable news networks carried the event live, the online livestream cut out just a few minutes into Biden’s remarks.

Masked reporters nearly outnumbered campaign aides and the candidates’ families in a grim reminder of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more 165,000 Americans, while yielding Depression-level unemployment and World War II-level national deficits.

In any other presidential election, vice presidential picks are greeted with adoring throngs. On Wednesday, about 100 supporters stood outside the gymnasium waving signs before her arrival, with no hope of being allowed inside.

The event was the first in a rollout that Biden aides say blends the historic nature of Harris’ selection with the realities of the 2020 campaign and the gravity of the nation’s circumstances. They will continue campaigning together through the Democrats’ virtual convention that runs next Monday through Thursday.

Harris was considered a favorite throughout Biden’s search, and she’s been a regular surrogate campaigner and fundraiser for him since he became the presumptive nominee.

They’ll nonetheless have to paper over differences exposed during the primary campaign, from Harris’ initial support for a single-payer health insurance system and the Green New Deal to her deeply personal debate-stage broadside against Biden over his opposition to federally mandated busing to integrate public schools in the 1970s.

Trump has seized on those dynamics, tagging Harris as “Phony Kamala” and casting her as the latest evidence that Biden, a five-decade veteran of the Democratic establishment, is captive to his party’s left flank.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday insisted that Harris is “very much part of the radical left” and suggested that the senator will have a hard time not outshining Biden, whose age and fitness for office Conway frequently mentions. “He’s overshadowed basically by almost everyone he comes in contact with,” she said.

Biden’s campaign seemed prepared for the counteroffensive, noting that just weeks ago, Trump said Harris would be a “fine choice.” And campaign-finance records show that Trump contributed as a private citizen to Harris’ attorney general campaigns in California. Harris was elected to the Senate in 2016.

INSURANCE STANCE

Harris no longer supports a single-payer health insurance system, aligning instead with Biden’s proposal to add a public insurance option to compete alongside private plans. Still, Harris memorably raised her hand during one Democratic primary debate when candidates were asked whether they could back a system that scrapped private health insurance altogether.

She has endorsed the Green New Deal, progressives’ most ambitious set of proposals to combat the climate crisis. Biden has moved left on his climate proposals during the 2020 campaign but has not fully embraced the Green New Deal.

In Washington, Harris has advocated for overhauling the criminal justice system, intensifying her efforts since George Floyd died while in police custody in May. And she’s called for sweeping domestic programs to benefit the working and middle class. But she has taken heat for some of her aggressive stances as a local prosecutor in the San Francisco area and for not prosecuting bank executives in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.

That mixed record could have unpredictable effects in a national campaign.

Biden bets that, on balance, Harris has broad appeal that will shore up any weaknesses with Black women, an anchor of the Democratic Party, and other voters of color, while juicing turnout among white liberals and coaxing support from independents and Republican-leaning white voters who may have soured on Trump.

After their speeches, Biden and Harris appeared at a virtual grassroots fundraiser, at which Biden announced that the campaign had raised $26 million in the 24 hours since Harris had been selected as vice president.

Information for this article will be contributed by Bill Barrow, Alexandra Jaffe, Will Weissert and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press; and by Jennifer Epstein and Tyler Pager of Bloomberg News.

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event with his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrive to speak at a news conference at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and her husband Douglas Emhoff greet Jill Biden, wife of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, after a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden retrieves his face mask from the podium as his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., prepares to speak at a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, make a socially distanced appearance Wednesday with Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, after the event introducing Harris as Biden’s running mate at Alexis duPont High School in Wilmington, Del.
(AP/Carolyn Kaster)

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Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and her husband Douglas Emhoff, right, applaud to Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden after a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event with his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and her husband Douglas Emhoff look over to Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden after a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks after Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden introduced her as his running mate during a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)



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