Vice President Kamala Harris has been noticeably absent from the public eye — a move analysts say could be helping her poll numbers, as President Joe Biden grapples with the fallout from his disastrous policies.
“My instinct is to say that so much fire has been aimed at Biden, Harris’s numbers have gone up by sheer virtue of being out of the spotlight,” Democratic strategist Christy Setzer told the Hill in a Thursday report. “She’s not giving anyone fresh reason to dislike her, so her polling numbers revert to the mean, with the country about evenly divided on the Black woman in the No. 2 spot.”
The Hill report cited a recent poll from Gallup, in which Harris garnered a 49 percent approval rating — “6 points higher than Biden’s 43 percent approval rating.”
“The president fell 6 points since August and 13 points since June. Harris’s current approval rating is the same as Biden’s in 2009, when he served as Barack Obama’s vice president,” according to the report.
Notably, Harris has not had one official solo press conference since she became vice president — save for occasional comments to reporters and television appearances. Last week on ABC’s “The View,” she said images of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents apprehending Haitian migrants on horseback at the U.S.-Mexico border evoked images of slavery. The image, some argued, appeared to show an agent whipping a migrant, though the photographer who took the picture debunked the claim.
In contrast, Harris’ predecessor former Vice President Mike Pence held dozens of press conferences while heading the White House coronavirus task force. Harris has also maintained her distance from Biden, and the two rarely make appearances together.
When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in early August, Harris was in Vietnam and Singapore. After that trip, she visited Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, only to block press from the event — most likely anticipating a barrage of questions about Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) August 27, 2021
Commentary from Harris on the crisis at the border has also been patchy at best, which could be considered odd since she has been tasked with finding the “root causes” of migration from Central America. According to the report, Harris “got off to a rocky start” with her “botched response on why she hadn’t traveled to the Mexican border, when she said she hadn’t been to Europe either.”
.@LesterHoltNBC in NBC News Exclusive: “You haven’t been to the border.”
Vice President Kamala Harris: “And I haven’t been to Europe.” pic.twitter.com/ryjkhb69GX
— The Recount (@therecount) June 8, 2021
Her absence is also a stark departure from the initial messaging coming out of the White House, which insisted the incoming administration be called the “Biden-Harris Administration.”
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) March 23, 2021
According to the report:
It’s unclear why Harris’s numbers have risen higher than Biden’s in some surveys, though Biden in the last two months has gone through the most difficult phase of his presidency so far. Biden has received bipartisan criticism related to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and has also taken some hits over the prolonged coronavirus pandemic.
The same poll did show Harris with a 49 percent disapproval rating, and other polls show her with support in the low or mid-40s, which the Hill called “not spectacular.” Some August polls even showed her landing in the upper 30s.
The report continues:
Most Democratic strategists and observers say Harris hasn’t had a singular moment or two that has boosted her in the public realm.
“Nothing specific,” said Basil Smikle, the Democratic strategist and former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, when asked if there has been a standout moment for the vice president.
He told the publication he thinks the White House could actually benefit from doing more with Harris, “the White House could bring her in more closely — as other administrations have — but they seem to keep her at a little distance, which may have been helpful to her in the long run.”