Harris to join Biden in first event as running mates

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US Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), with her husband Douglas Emhoff at her side, greets audience members during a campaign stop at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire, U.S., April 23, 2019Image copyright

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Kamala Harris will be formally introduced as Joe Biden’s running mate in Delaware

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will make their first joint appearance as running mates in Delaware later on Wednesday.

Mr Biden, who will face President Donald Trump in the election on 3 November, named Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential pick on Tuesday.

He is expected to formally introduce Ms Harris as his choice for vice-president and both are expected to speak.

Senator Harris is the first black woman and South Asian American in the role.

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Media captionKamala Harris’ childhood home reacts to Biden pick

Mr Biden and Ms Harris will deliver remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, later on Wednesday on “working together to restore the soul of the nation and fight for working families to move the country forward”, the Biden campaign said.

Who is Kamala Harris?

Ms Harris, 55, was born in Oakland, California, to two immigrant parents – an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father.

She went on to attend Howard University, one of the nation’s preeminent historically black colleges and universities. She has described her time there as among the most formative experiences of her life.

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Media captionWho is Kamala Harris? A look at her life and political career

Ms Harris says she has always been comfortable with her identity and simply describes herself as “an American”.

In 2019, she told the Washington Post that politicians should not have to fit into compartments because of their colour or background. “My point was: I am who I am. I’m good with it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it,” she said.

How did she become Biden’s running mate?

Ms Harris ran for the Democratic nomination for presidential candidate but dropped out in December after failing to make headway.

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After the announcement, the Biden-Harris campaign released this photo of the two together

She had long been considered the front-runner for the number two slot even though she repeatedly clashed with Mr Biden during the primary election debates. In one of their clashes, she criticised Mr Biden’s praise for the “civil” working relationship he had with former senators who favoured racial segregation.

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Media captionHarris and Biden clash over his race record

Mr Biden pledged in March to name a woman on the ticket. He had faced mounting calls to pick a black woman in recent months as the nation has been convulsed by social unrest over police brutality against African Americans, a key voting bloc for the Democratic Party.

A woman of colour has never been appointed to a presidential ticket by either of the two main American political parties. No woman has won the US presidency either.

On Tuesday, Mr Biden announced by text message and in an email to his followers that he had chosen the 55-year-old senator as his number two. He described her as “a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants”.

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Adam Schultz

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Mr Biden tells Ms Harris she will be his running mate on Tuesday

He also noted how she had worked closely with his late son, Beau, when she was California’s attorney general. “I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse,” he tweeted.

“I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.” Ms Harris said she was “honoured to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President”.

What has the reaction been?

President Donald Trump quickly attacked Ms Harris after Mr Biden made his announcement. The president told reporters: “She’s a person that’s told many, many stories that weren’t true.”

He also said that he thought Ms Harris was “one of the meanest, most horrible” people in the US Senate and praised his pick for vice-president, Mike Pence.

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Media captionPresident Trump calls Kamala Harris “meanest” US senator

Ms Harris will take part in a debate with Mr Trump’s running mate, Vice-President Mike Pence, on 7 October in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In last year’s race to be the Democratic nominee, Kamala Harris showed herself to be a forceful speaker, launching blistering attacks on Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton, who lost to Mr Trump in the 2016 election, said she was “thrilled to welcome [Ms Harris] to a historic Democratic ticket”. “She’s already proven herself to be an incredible public servant and leader,” she added.

Former US President Barack Obama – whom Mr Biden served as vice-president for eight years – tweeted: “She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake.

“This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing.”

What does a running mate do?

The role of a vice-presidential running mate is not always clearly defined.

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One of the traditional roles is to go on the offensive in exposing the opposition’s weaknesses, while the presidential nominee focuses on communicating the party’s message, says the BBC’s North America reporter Anthony Zurcher.

Constitutionally, the vice-president steps in to the top job should the president die or leave office during his or her term.

Mr Biden will turn 78 in November, meaning should he be elected he will be the oldest US president in history (Ronald Reagan was 77 when he left office).

His age means Mr Biden’s vice-presidential choice may come under extra scrutiny.

Only two other women have been nominated as vice-presidential candidates for a major party – Sarah Palin by the Republican party in 2008 and Geraldine Ferraro by the Democrats in 1984. Neither were on the winning ticket.

Women VP candidates

  • Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman who ever ran for vice-president on a major-party ticket
  • Time magazine’s cover story at the time featured a photo of Ms Ferraro with the headline “A Historic Choice”
  • But much of the subsequent coverage was sexist with Ms Ferraro attacked for being a working mother
  • Sarah Palin is the only woman to have run for vice-president on a Republican ticket
  • The Alaska governor also complained about the media’s coverage of her, in particular a Newsweek cover that used a photo of her in running gear

Sarah Palin congratulated Ms Harris on being the third woman to become a running mate for a major party and also offered plenty of advice on her Instagram account, including “trust no-one new” and “don’t get muzzled – connect with the media and voters in your own unique way”.

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