The first day of the Biden-Harris ticket kicked off like many Biden events this year: late. It’s Thursday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Where things stand
Yesterday offered the first look at the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket, and we learned a lot about how they’ll approach the next 82 days.
A presidential running mate often has two distinct jobs: as a vociferous defender of the top of the ticket, and as the lead attacker against the other side. Yesterday, Harris provided a glimpse of how she’ll take on both tasks. She praised Biden’s character, speaking in emotional terms about him as a father through her friendship with his son Beau, who died in 2015. “I learned quickly that Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves,” Harris said. “And when I would ask him: ‘Where did you get that? Where did this come from?’ — he would always talk about his dad.”
On the attack side of things, Harris, a former California attorney general, began her criticism with a line we’ll probably hear often: “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.” In a prosecutorial manner, she laid the failures and crises wrought by the coronavirus at the feet of the Trump administration. It is their fault, she said, that the United States has had one of the world’s worst outbreaks. It is the Trump administration, she argued, that is “the reason an American dies of Covid-19 every 80 seconds,” “why countless businesses have shut their doors,” and “Trump is the reason millions of Americans are unemployed.”
But the overarching message of the first Biden-Harris event, as my colleagues Katie Glueck and Thomas Kaplan reported from Delaware, was a path forward, out of the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse. And to do that, Harris declared, “we need a mandate that proves that the past few years do not represent who we are or who we aspire to be.”
It appears that some elements of Harris’s own presidential campaign will live on in her ticket with Biden. As the former vice president introduced her, he referred to her “3 a.m. agenda,” language she used to talk about the issues that wake American families up “in the middle of the night.”
The combination of their two platforms — both moderate in the eyes of progressives when compared with that of Senator Bernie Sanders — was expected to bring some criticism from the party’s left wing. But many progressive activists and elected officials immediately snuffed out their criticisms and instead proclaimed their support.
In his opening remarks, Biden made note of the historic nature of Harris’s place on the ticket, and, as my colleagues Jennifer Medina and Evan Nicole Brown wrote, how some women of color around the country were looking at the selection of Harris. “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,” he said. “But today — just maybe — they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way, as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents.”
Trump and his allies, meanwhile, struggled on a cohesive line of criticism against Harris. Late Tuesday, the Republican National Committee sent out an email to reporters with the subject line “liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket” featuring tweets from loud progressive voices on Twitter who expressed their disappointment with the selection.
Less than 24 hours later, the Trump campaign was painting Harris as one of those very progressive “liberals” who were “revolting” against her just the day before. Her selection, the Trump campaign said in a statement, “completes the radical, leftist takeover of Joe Biden and the entire Democrat Party.”
The dueling messages from the Trump campaign mixed with a host of sexist and racist messages being cast on conservative media, as popular pundits and Fox News hosts intentionally mispronounced her name and questioned whether she could truly claim she was Black. As for Trump, The Times’s Katie Rogers sums it up: The reaction to Harris crystallizes Trump’s view of women: they’re “nasty” or housewives.
Away from the candidates but central to the campaign, Facebook, Google and other major tech companies said yesterday that they were forming a coalition to promote discussions with government agencies to secure the November election. As officials keep obliquely warning of catastrophic threats to our election system, the coalition plans to serve as a clearinghouse for data about disinformation campaigns.
Photo of the day
The two members of the Democratic ticket made their first appearance together yesterday in Wilmington, Del.
Will big-time college football cancellations cause a political backlash?
CENTER OF THE WORLD, Ohio — As he stood outside a Dollar General store, loading groceries into his pickup, Dennis Kuchta pondered what it will mean not to have an Ohio State football season this fall because of the coronavirus.
“It’s a huge loss, and I don’t think people realize that yet,” he said.
With a pillar of autumn Saturdays now missing, Kuchta and others in this football-mad corner of the state were looking for someone to blame.
“Trump just blew it,” Kuchta said. “He just didn’t handle it. He could have shut things down for five or six weeks and figured out what he was doing, but he never had a plan.”
That points to a big potential problem for Trump, whose re-election efforts may well hinge on an earlier-than-expected return to normalcy across America — a feeling that will be much harder to achieve after the recent cancellation of big-time college football across the Midwest and the West.
In crucial battleground states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where college football serves as an autumn religion, losing football may be a political stain that the president is unable to blame on his enemies in the Democratic Party or on the media.
“As great as politics is — it’s a sport that so many people enjoy watching — it’s not as important as college football in Ohio, in Georgia, in Alabama,” said Paul Finebaum, who hosts a nationally syndicated college football radio show for ESPN. “And without it, people will be lost and people will be angry. There are layers of blame to go around, and in the end, this transcends sports.”
Finebaum predicted that the loss of the college football season would damage Trump even among his most faithful supporters.
“I’ve always tried desperately to keep politics out of our program, and this summer I’ve failed miserably,” he said. “We don’t have a day that doesn’t pass where someone doesn’t call up and blame the president. Even from the South, I’ve heard more anger directed at the president than I thought.”