2020 Election Live Updates: What Do Biden and Harris Need to Do Now?

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Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

WILMINGTON, Del. — The Democratic ticket is finally complete. After months of an unusually public search process, in which Joseph R. Biden Jr. detailed his criteria for a running mate and the contenders participated in virtual campaign events, Mr. Biden settled on a former primary rival, Senator Kamala Harris of California.

The two Democrats, from opposite coasts and different generations, are expected to make their first public appearance together as running mates in Wilmington on Wednesday afternoon, a debut certain to be closely watched. Here are four tasks that face the new ticket:

Show they are simpatico. Mr. Biden was fond of saying that he wanted a vice president with whom he was “simpatico” on how to confront the major challenges facing the nation. Now is the chance for him and Ms. Harris to demonstrate that.

After all, it was less than 14 months ago that Ms. Harris unleashed a scorching debate-stage attack on Mr. Biden, and some Biden allies harbored hard feelings toward her throughout the search process. How will they show that they are truly on the same page on the central issues of the campaign?

Demonstrate how they will take it to Trump. Ms. Harris, a former state attorney general and district attorney known on Capitol Hill for her pointed questioning style, liked to talk about prosecuting the case against President Trump. Now she will have her biggest platform yet. How will she be deployed to make that argument, and how will it differ from Mr. Biden’s approach?

Team up on selling an agenda that can win. Neither Mr. Biden nor Ms. Harris ran primary campaigns that revolved around policy plans, but they still will need to get on the same page. Some differences are evident, such as their split on health care, and Ms. Harris has appeared more comfortable speaking the language of the left than Mr. Biden has (though progressive activists have often viewed her skeptically).

But they are now joining forces in a radically changed political environment compared with when they were primary rivals, with the coronavirus and the economic recovery as dominant issues, as well as an intensified national focus on racial justice after the killing of George Floyd. Can Ms. Harris engage new constituencies around their shared agenda — and if so, which voters?

Figure out Harris’s role in the campaign. One big unknown is what the final months of the campaign will look like given the pandemic. Mr. Biden has made in-person appearances rather infrequently, and his critics sneer about how he is running for president from his basement. It remains to be seen how often and where Ms. Harris will campaign.

Mr. Biden has said he wanted a running mate who “has some qualities that I don’t possess.” How will the campaign use Ms. Harris’s strengths — as a historic candidate, a skilled public speaker and someone who represents the generational and racial diversity of the Democratic Party — to add fresh value to the ticket?

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

By choosing Ms. Harris as his running mate, Mr. Biden opted for a time-honored model in which running mates are not just governing partners but political understudies of sorts.

Pegged as a rising star for a decade, but with less than four years of experience in the Senate — she was 8 years old when Mr. Biden was first elected to the chamber — Ms. Harris, 55, reflects a traditional archetype in an election year that has been anything but normal.

She is also a thoroughly establishment-friendly figure, as is Mr. Biden: Both have hewed closely to their party’s mainstream for years, shifting left with the times but always with an eye on the broader electorate and higher office.

Progressive Democrats now find themselves led by two moderates with relatively cautious political instincts, even as activist energy courses through the party and left-wing challengers unseat some incumbents. The party establishment is hoping that the mostly young protesters filling the streets of nearly every American city to denounce police brutality and Mr. Trump will rally behind two figures who have offered sympathetic words and proposals but whose careers have been shaped by their relationship with law enforcement.

“She’s not of the far left of the party, she’s a former prosecutor,” Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor and Homeland Security secretary, said of Ms. Harris. “And when you’re a prosecutor, you have to make some tough calls.”

Mr. Biden also chose Ms. Harris to help inject excitement into his campaign. He is leading in the polls, but mostly because he’s the genial alternative to the most divisive president in modern history, who is presiding over a pandemic and economic collapse.

Mr. Biden also turned to Ms. Harris to bring a fresh perspective to the West Wing should they win — a similar calculation, but with the roles reversed between ticketmates, that propelled him to the vice presidency 12 years ago.

Mr. Biden spurned those progressives who wanted their consensus-oriented standard-bearer to elevate a liberal like Senator Elizabeth Warren, instead picking a prominent leader from the demographic that resurrected his campaign in the Democratic primary. By doing what Hillary Clinton did not do four years ago and choosing a Black running mate, he may give the party’s most loyal voters a reason, beyond animus toward Mr. Trump, to work for and elect the ticket.

Gender and race have now surpassed geographic balance when it comes to building a ticket for the White House.

By selecting Ms. Harris, a Californian who represents a state that Democrats have captured in every presidential election since 1992, Mr. Biden embraced the modern imperatives of Democratic coalition building that have made the days of choosing running mates because they could deliver their home states a relic.

Ms. Harris, who is half Black and half Indian-American, is not expected to scramble the electoral map, nor was the Biden campaign looking to do so. The former vice president leads in polls of most of the crucial battlegrounds.

Instead, ever since Black voters resurrected his primary candidacy in South Carolina, Mr. Biden and his campaign team have made the pursuit of Black voters in November a centerpiece of his bid for the White House. And he had said from the start of the process that he would chose a woman as his running mate.

“She is going to be a great motivator for this ticket,” declared Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, a key Biden endorser.

If Ms. Harris does not put any particular new state into play, Democratic strategists and Biden allies were hoping her spot on the ticket could increase turnout and Mr. Biden’s margins across the map and strengthen his position in states that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, in no small part because of a drop in voting by African-Americans.

Credit…Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota fended off a well-funded primary challenger on Tuesday, ensuring a clean sweep of re-election fights for the group of first-term Democratic congresswomen of color known as the Squad and sending a message to Washington about the staying power of the party’s new progressive voices.

Ms. Omar, who made history in 2018 by becoming the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress, as well as the first naturalized citizen of African birth and the first woman of color from Minnesota to do so, secured the victory after spending her first two years in the Washington spotlight.

Her unabashed embrace of left-wing politics has won her loyal followers, both in Minnesota and across the country. She has, however, become a lightning rod for conservatives and has faced criticism from some Democrats, particularly after several episodes in 2019 in which she was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.

In the deep-blue district, Ms. Omar’s primary success on Tuesday virtually assures she will serve a second term in Congress. As of Wednesday morning, she led her chief opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, by 18 percentage points.

“In Minnesota, we know that organized people will always beat organized money,” Ms. Omar wrote on Twitter. “Tonight, our movement didn’t just win. We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown.”

Credit…Mike Stewart/Associated Press

Conspiracy theorists won a major victory on Tuesday as Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican supporter of the convoluted pro-Trump movement QAnon, triumphed in her House primary runoff election in Georgia, all but ensuring that she will represent a deep-red district in Congress.

The ascension of Ms. Greene, who embraces a conspiracy theory that the F.B.I. has labeled a potential domestic terrorism threat, is likely to unsettle mainstream Republicans, who have sought to publicly distance themselves from QAnon supporters running for congressional office this cycle even as they quietly support some of them.

Ms. Greene defeated John Cowan, a neurosurgeon who is no less conservative or pro-Trump, in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, one of the most Republican in the country. As of Wednesday morning, she led by 14 percentage points.

The president congratulated her in a tweet Wednesday morning, calling her a “future Republican star” who is “strong on everything.”

QAnon, a conspiracy theory that has attracted a fervent following since it emerged from the troll-infested fringes of the internet nearly three years ago, has already inspired real-world violence, including the killing of a mob boss. Its supporters are slowly becoming a political force that some Republicans feel they cannot afford to alienate, even as the party struggles to distance itself from racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

More than a dozen candidates who have expressed some degree of support for QAnon have run this year for Congress as Republicans, their path cleared by Mr. Trump’s own espousal of conspiracy theories.

Most are going to lose. But a few, Ms. Greene foremost among them, have managed to win primaries against Republicans whose only real ideological difference was that they don’t believe in QAnon.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

When Mr. Trump announced that he was unilaterally deferring payroll taxes to bring economic relief to struggling Americans, he and his aides thought it would allow them to frame him as pro-worker.

But the move comes with political risks. Eliminating the payroll tax could jeopardize the funding stream for Social Security, which is one of the government’s most popular programs, providing benefits to about 65 million people.

The president has given Democrats an opening to raise Social Security cuts as an issue in the final months of an election in which his support among older voters already appears to be shaky.

On Monday, Mr. Biden capitalized on the opportunity. “Donald Trump said that if he’s re-elected, he’ll defund Social Security,” he tweeted. “We can’t let that happen.”

The Democratic National Committee amplified the line of attack the next day, blasting out a statement that highlighted “At Least 7 Times Trump Said He Will Permanently Eliminate Funds To Social Security And Medicare.”

Beyond the complicated legal questions about whether Mr. Trump can circumvent Congress by using executive actions to create his own tax-and-spend policies, and the economic debate about whether a payroll tax even helps the right people (it does nothing for the unemployed), the proposal leaves Mr. Trump juggling political priorities.

He is now balancing the potential benefits of giving working people more money in their paychecks — at least temporarily — versus undercutting his own pledge from the 2016 campaign that he would protect entitlement programs.

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