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Harris and Buttigieg jostle for limelight in preview of future primary fight

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 6/30/2021 Naomi Lim
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President Joe Biden may be touring battleground states, but it is Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's 2024 White House hopes that have been on display of late.

The split-screen news media coverage last week with Harris's highly anticipated southern border trip to Texas on one side and Buttigieg's Pride Month East Room event at the White House on the other event previewed a rematch of the 2020 Democratic primary — either in 2024 if Biden opts against seeking a fourth term or four years after that.

Despite headlining the Pride event and continuing to be a central voice in the administration's infrastructure sales pitch, Buttigieg's climb will likely be a steep one, experts say.

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Harris may outrank Buttigieg, but the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor is not letting hierarchy prevent him from preparing for his future, according to Republican strategist and Prime Policy Group Founding Chairman Charlie Black.

"He did better than the VP last year. He is young enough to wait if 2024 does not look like his year," Black told the Washington Examiner of the 39-year-old secretary.

The open 2024 Republican White House primary field is whipping up more interest, thanks to intrigue surrounding former President Donald Trump. But observers should watch Harris and Buttigieg, even if they do not vie for higher office next cycle, said Joel Goldstein, a St. Louis University School of Law professor and vice presidential expert.

"Vice presidents and Cabinet members are prominent among those who run for president or are considered for vice president, so just as former VP Pence, former Secretary of State Pompeo, and former U.N. Ambassador Haley are among those reportedly interested in running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, one might expect VP Harris and Secretary Buttigieg to be among those who would be considered the next time there is an opening on the Democratic ticket for president or vice president," he said.

But Goldstein cautioned against speculating so early in Biden's administration. After all, the Biden has indicated he will seek reelection, he said.

Christopher Devine, a University of Dayton professor who co-wrote The VP Advantage, agreed Biden will presumably contest the White House again. But if he does not, Devine predicted Buttigieg would face stiff competition from Harris and might delay his own bid.

"When he does someday — and he is a young man — I think he’ll be glad he took the opportunity to serve as transportation secretary," he said.

"Chances are, he wasn’t going to get elected in Indiana in the meantime. And if this infrastructure plan, in whatever form, ends up passing, he will have a leading role in implementing it through at least early 2025," Devine added.

Buttigieg is a high-profile politician in the traditionally lower-key transportation post. He is being dispatched as a member of Biden's so-called "jobs cabinet" to sell the president's $1.2 trillion bipartisan "hard" infrastructure deal and a possible $6 trillion "soft" infrastructure reconciliation bill. And Buttigieg is being boosted by his husband, Chasten, who has booked TV appearances after his to promote gay rights and his memoir, I Have Something to Tell You.

Meanwhile, Harris has generated negative headlines as she spearheads some of Biden's most challenging priorities. Aside from voting rights, her appointment as one of Biden's border czars has pegged her as an easy target for conservatives. And botched trips to the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala and Mexico, as well as Texas, where she seemed ill-prepared, provided her detractors with even more fodder.

For Penn State University professor Nichola Gutgold, Harris is being "extremely active" as vice president.

"I think it bodes well for her political future, and criticism and rivalries are natural," she said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has defended Biden from the scrutiny that he has not set up his 2024 campaign apparatus. As his top spokeswoman, she has claimed that the president is more preoccupied with his COVID-19 response than politics. But as the virus case rate and death count slows, she will come under pressure to offer a better response, particularly as he flies to three battleground states this week.

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"It should be noted that a range of members of Congress who may be facing reelections are eager to have the president travel to parts of their districts and parts of their states because of his work on an economic agenda that works for all people, whether they live in red states, or blue states, or purple states, and whomever they may have voted for the last time around," she said of Biden's trip to a conservative region of Wisconsin.

Tags: News, Biden, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, White House

Original Author: Naomi Lim

Original Location: Harris and Buttigieg jostle for limelight in preview of future primary fight

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