The Slatest

Kamala Harris Is Reportedly Mulling a Biden Endorsement. So What?

Sen. Kamala Harris puts her hand on Sen. Bernie Sanders shoulder onstage with former Vice President Joe Biden
Sorry, Bernie?
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The New York Times reports that Sen. Kamala Harris, after bowing out of the nomination fight, is now “weighing an endorsement” of Joe Biden. This news trial balloon comes via “multiple Democratic officials familiar with her deliberations,” i.e. her staff. Is this a big deal? For Kamala Harris it certainly is. The former candidate whomped Biden square in the back of the head during the early debates on his not-aging-all-that-well record on issues of race, particularly school busing. Harris’ critique was an effective one that elevated (briefly) her candidacy and put Biden on the defensive.

An early endorsement would certainly go a long way in mending any bruised feelings lingering from Harris’ sharp debate elbows as she looked to crawl into the race, but does it affect the race now? Not really. Endorsements are a great news hit, but this early in the game where the endorsing candidate is generally backing a like-for-like candidate, it likely won’t move the needle. This isn’t exactly an out of left field endorsement after all. If Harris endorsed Andrew Yang or even Micheal Bloomberg or someone unexpected, then maybe it has more of an impact. Endorsements mean more, even when they’re a foregone conclusion, when it comes from someone commanding a large following or from someone that occupies an unexpected corner of the political world where people need reassurance to support someone outside the norm. That doesn’t really apply to Kamala Harris or her support when it comes to Biden. In fact, the main reason for her lack of endorsement juice: Harris didn’t command much of a following to start with, which is why she’s not running anymore.

The candidate with the most at stake in the Kamala Harris endorsement is Kamala Harris. It’s one thing to wage a tough campaign and then lose to the eventual party nominee. It’s a completely different thing to lose, turn around and endorse a rival who then gets trounced by the nominee, who takes over as the new de facto leader of the party. That’s a far chillier place to be politically. At 55 years old, Harris certainly wants to run again for something big and there have already been the prerequisite rumors percolating linking her with a possible VP spot on the Biden ticket. An endorsement might help make that happen. But there needs to be a Biden ticket first. And that happening likely has little to do with who Kamala Harris stumps for.