Democratic allies plot effort to defend Kamala Harris against Trump attacks

The Kamala D. Harris cavalry is coming.

Democratic donors and strategists, alarmed by the recent stumbles of President Biden, have launched an advertising and public research effort to create what one group calls a “pro-Kamala surround-sound campaign” to improve public perceptions of the vice president.

Organizers say the effort is needed regardless of whether Harris remains on the ticket as Biden’s running mate or replaces him later this summer, since concerns over Biden’s age have raised Harris’s importance in the race. At the forefront of the push is Way to Win, a donor-strategy network closely affiliated with other liberal-money networks such as the Democracy Alliance and the Movement Voter Project.

“The reason for turning the volume up on boosting Kamala now is that Democrats cannot afford to stay still in this campaign moment as all of the actors on the Hill are in internal conversations,” Way to Win’s president, Tory Gavito, said in an interview Wednesday. “We have to continue marching forward.”

A memo circulated by Way to Win calls for an expanded social media, influencer and content creator strategy, paid advertising in key states and expanded research. The group released new battleground state polling on Tuesday that argued Harris would get a significant boost from younger voters, voters who don’t like Biden or Donald Trump and independents.

Way to Win has not taken a position on whether Biden should continue as the nominee. But its leaders have encouraged an open Democratic conversation about the right way forward. “It doesn’t have to be a war. It could be a discussion!” Way to Win co-founder Jenifer Fernandez Ancona posted on social media Thursday.

Some of the effort will be funded by what Way to Win calls its “Black Swan Fund,” a pot of money set aside at the start of the cycle in case of unexpected developments. There were separate polls in the field on Wednesday testing Harris’s potential negatives, according to a Democrat familiar with the effort.

“There’s always backlash to ‘new’ faces in the halls of power, and as the highest-ranking Black woman in American history, VP Harris is particularly susceptible to the mainstream narrative that tears women, particularly women of color, down,” the group’s memo says.

Those most enthusiastic about Harris taking over the top of the ticket have been quiet so far, as signals have gone out from her expanded team that she is standing fully behind Biden, who ultimately has the ability to decide whether he stays in the race.

But that has not stopped research and communication planning from moving forward in multiple pockets inside and outside the party.

“The reality is she is already coming under attack from Republicans even without a change in the ticket being at all imminent,” said one Democrat sympathetic to Harris, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. “So it would be quite sensible for there to be an outside effort to support her strengths and accomplishments simply on the premise of her being the running mate.”

The Republican National Committee has been filling its social media channels with video montages of Harris repeating the same rhetoric at different speeches or laughing awkwardly. The Trump campaign referred to her as “Low IQ Kamala” on Wednesday.

In one sign of things to come, the Trump campaign released an online ad this week called the “Great Kamala Cover-Up” that shows clips of Harris testifying to Biden’s fitness for office and intellectual heft, alongside images of Biden looking lost.

“Kamala lied to us for years about Biden,” the ad says.

A Trump campaign adviser said there is little doubt about how Trump would go after Harris.

“We are going to give her all of Biden’s negatives and she doesn’t have any of his positives of being independent,” this person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.

Emily’s List, a group founded to support female Democratic candidates, announced in 2023 a $10 million plan to support Harris in the coming election. The group’s research in May found that she is particularly effective in communicating with voters about issues like abortion and gun violence.

“We have always believed that this election would be won on reproductive rights — and that Vice President Harris would play a critical role in victory by ensuring that voters understood what’s at stake with our fundamental freedoms,” the group’s president, Jessica Mackler, said in a statement. “She has long been a target of sexist and racist attacks and EMILYS List is committed to having her back.”


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