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What Kamala Harris offers the Biden campaign as VP nominee

The choice of Senator Kamala Harris as former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate answers a question that has dominated the race for weeks. For analysis of what Harris will bring to the ticket, Judy Woodruff talks to Ian Sams, press secretary for Harris’ own presidential campaign, and Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, an organization that advocates for women of color in politics.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For more on what the choice of Kamala Harris means for Joe Biden, I'm joined now by Ian Sams. He served during this current election cycle as the campaign press secretary for Senator Kamala Harris' presidential campaign. And Aimee Allison, she's the founder of She the People, an organization that advocates for women of color in politics.

    And we welcome both of you back to the "NewsHour."

    Aimee Allison, to you first.

    What does Kamala Harris bring to this ticket, to this campaign?

  • Aimee Allison:

    I can't say enough about how exciting and historic this moment is.

    It is a spark of hope, and it is a strong indication that the Democrats are poised to win the White House in November. I think, for millions of women of color, who had for generations fought to make this country better, for decades have been the backbone vote for Democrats, and the organizations on the ground, this is quite a moment for us.

    We have never been here before, where a woman of color is on the ticket. And it's what women of color, we hear in battleground states, places like Arizona, Texas, Georgia and Florida were looking for two deepen enthusiasm and to really dig in.

    I think this is a really amazing moment, and really thanking the godmothers of our movement, people like Shirley Chisholm, who laid the way, and women of color all over the country who fought for not only a recognition of the power of women of color, some 38 million — that's an impressive political force as voters — but our readiness to govern.

    And that's what today's announcement means to us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ian Sams, tell us, as someone who has worked behind the scenes — you have worked with Kamala Harris very closely — what is it about her that you think is going to be a boost to Joe Biden in this campaign?

  • Ian Sams:

    Well, look, what Vice President Biden had to do in this process was look for the best partner to both win this campaign and serve as the next president and vice president of the United States.

    Those are two very vast sets of qualifications that you're looking for in a candidate. And, really, on both fronts, Kamala Harris checks — strikes — is a home run on every mark, really. I'm sorry.

    In the campaign, she is tough, she is dogged. You can imagine her in a debate with Mike Pence really effectively making the case against this administration and the way that they have governed the country.

    But, at the same time, she is a really empathetic leader. I was standing by side on the trail over and over and over again in the course in 2019. And kids would come up to her, and she would talk to them as if they were adults, talk to them about their problems, talk to them about what they want from leaders.

    That's a trait she shares with Joe Biden. I think there's a lot of overlap in the characteristics that both Vice President Biden and Senator Harris have that's really going to make them a very dynamic and successful ticket.

    And I think that she brings to the table what Aimee was just talking about, a lived experience that really represents so many people in this country for, honestly, too long have been left out in positions of leadership and left away from the table of decision-making.

    And so it really speaks to Vice President Biden's commitment to not just bring the party together, but represent the entire country, by picking someone who has the background and life experience that Senator Harris does.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Aimee Allison, the Republicans are already coming after her, saying she's going to bring Joe Biden even further to the left, that she's taken extreme positions on a number of things. They're looking at her record as a prosecutor, talking about her position Medicare for all, which, by the way, is different from Joe Biden's.

    But what about that? What about her record that could make her vulnerable?

  • Aimee Allison:

    Well, you're talking about two different things.

    One is that we saw, as Joe Biden was vetting an historic number of black women and women of color, racist and sexist attacks that were coming left, right and center. And Trump set the tone.

    I mean, his whole — the whole time in the White House, he's been specifically named-calling and attacking the leadership and the voice of women of color and black women. And so what the Republicans are saying is born from that.

    I want to point out that, since the pandemic began, quarantines began, people started falling ill and dying, people started losing their job, Senator Harris has showed up in really important ways. She's been an advocate for cash payments, $2,000 a month, to help people through this difficult time.

    She's been an advocate for essential workers who are risking their lives to make sure that services continue like health care. She's advocated to increase spending on health care that's — and health issues that impact, say, black women, for example, fibroids, and that kind of research.

    These things make a difference, how she's showing up now. So, the Republicans are going to call names. They are going to denigrate women of color, like they have been. But the — really, the truth of the matter is — and we hear it all across the country — is that a woman of color on the ticket is deepening enthusiasm, it's motivating, and we have got more voters than them. This is a turnout operation from here on out.

    What the Republicans say doesn't matter to us.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I want you to pick up on that, Ian, because we hear it from the Republicans already.

    They are saying, if you go chapter and verse on her positions, she is taking this ticket to the left, and they're going to continue to harp on that. How will she handle that?

  • Ian Sams:

    She's faced attacks before, and she's come out just fine.

    What's remarkable about these attacks by Trump and the Republicans, they're so logically inconsistent. And the voters just aren't buying them already. They have been trying to paint Joe Biden as something he's not for the last three months, and all that's happened in that same period of time is Joe Biden building his lead.

    This is going to be an election where I think voters are going to go to the polls thinking about the coronavirus pandemic, which at this point is raging across this country with reckless abandon. And they're going to be thinking about the economic circumstances that their families and they live in.

    On both of these fronts, you have a terrible record in the president of the United States and an administration that has completely failed to get the pandemic under control and whose decisions are making the economy worse.

    I'd love to see them try to brand the Democratic ticket as somehow out of touch with everyday people's experiences and struggles in a moment like this. I don't think it's going to be successful.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Ian, just quickly, while I have you, remind us why she dropped out when she did last December. I mean, she was in the campaign. She was letting Joe Biden have it in that debate, as we remember very well, when she went after him on his busing position back in the '70s.

    But then her campaign faded away. What happened?

  • Ian Sams:

    Look, as you know, and everybody will remember, even though it seems like a million years ago at this point, given everything that we have been through as a country in 2020, it was a historically large and crowded primary campaign.

    And from the very beginning, Kamala Harris was in that race to win it. And when it became apparent that she wasn't going to be able to win the contest, she didn't want to continue on just for the sake of being a candidate for president.

    I think that she knew that the path was narrow and decided to leave the race. And, ultimately, Vice President Biden won this primary handily, in a real blowout. And I think, ever since those early days of March, when he secured the nomination, she's been such an enthusiastic supporter of his campaign, doing events for his campaign, and really trying to do everything that she can to ensure the Democratic ticket is going to be successful, even if she wasn't picked to be on it.

    And so I think what came out of that primary was a really strong, unified Democratic Party. And any of the candidates who went through that primary process, there could only be one winner. And it was Joe Biden. And now — and now we see them joining together as a ticket, which I think is a huge testament to Joe Biden's values as a leader, to be willing to turn yesterday's rivals into today's allies.

    That's a really rare characteristic and character trait. And it's such a — such a difference from the other side that we have right now, which is basically just the cult of Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we are going to have to leave it there.

    But we thank both of you so much for joining us, literally on the spur of the moment. This is an announcement that just came out a couple of hours ago.

    Aimee Allison, thank you so much. Ian Sams, thank you.

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