Indian American Republican presidential aspirant Nikki Haley is picking on fellow Indian American Vice President Kamala Harris to project the 2024 White House race as an all desi affair.
Haley is warning voters that the 2024 election is about making sure Democratic President Joe Bidenâ€™s running mate Harris does not slip through a back door to the presidency, according to media reports.
Haley has been sounding the alarm on the stump, social media and television, saying Biden, 80, will not last a second four-year term and is poised to hand over the Oval Office keys to Ms. Harris, the Washington Times noted.
â€œI am not running against Joe Biden; I am running against Kamala Harris,â€ Haley said recently on Fox News. â€œThe idea we are going to have a president Kamala Harris is unthinkable.â€
Haley, the Times suggested is rolling into a broader argument that she is the more electable Republican in a general election matchup than former President Donald Trump, whom she called â€œthe most disliked politician in America.â€
According to her reasoning, a vote for Biden or Trump is a vote for Harris, who has scored the lowest approval rating of any vice president in recent history, it said.
A recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll found a whopping 77% of all voters, including 69% of Democrats, said Biden, will be 82 on Inauguration Day, is too old to be effective for four more years.
That fact has generated a storm of speculation over whether Biden should pull the rip cord on his campaign, whether Harris is ready to replace him and whether Democrats are comfortable with her as the Plan B, the Times said.
Everything from her laugh to her policy chops has faced intense scrutiny since she moved into the vice presidentâ€™s office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, it suggested.
â€œThere is nothing new about that,â€ Harris said about the criticism in a recent CBS interview. â€œThey feel the need to attack because they are scared that we will win based on the merit of the work that Joe Biden and I and our administration has done.â€
Asked whether she would be ready to serve as president if Biden could not, Harris did not miss a beat. â€œYes, I am, if necessary, but Joe Biden is going to be fine,â€ she said.
Voters disapprove of Harris by a 39.6% to 53.3% margin, according to a running tally of polls from the ABC News 538 website. Biden received similar marks.
Analysts cited by the Times say the attempts to make the 2024 race about Harris will not move the needle because voters donâ€™t cast ballots based on a candidateâ€™s running mate.
Haley, the first Indian American to serve in a presidential cabinet as US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, is out to test that theory, it suggested.
She is telling voters that the vice president matters more in the 2024 election than it has in years past and the idea of Harris inheriting the presidency is a real threat, the Times noted.
The Washington Post too took note of Haleyâ€™s â€œconstant refrain that a vote for Biden is a vote for Harris,â€ noting she has called the vice president incompetent and a failure and said she is not up for the job.
She has told voters that the thought of a President Harris â€œshould send a chill up every American spine.â€ And during the vice presidentâ€™s recent trip overseas, Haley recast the frame of the election to omit Biden altogether, the Post suggested.
Now some other Republican presidential contenders have begun to follow Haleyâ€™s lead in turning Harris into a prime target, with aligned outside groups featuring grainy images of the vice presidentâ€™s face in their ads and candidates using her name in fundraising solicitations, the Post noted.
â€œBut none has attacked Harris this cycle with the ferocity of Haley, whose small-dollar donations spiked in April when she first predicted that Biden would die before finishing a second term and Harris would replace him,â€ it said.
â€œThat provocative argument, which has no evidence behind it, and the spectacle of one ascendant Indian American woman attacking another has generated attention in a race where Haley had until recently struggled to attract the spotlight,â€ the Post said.
Some polls suggest that a strong performance in last monthâ€™s Republican presidential debate has boosted her support, but she still trails far behind front-runner Donald Trump, the Post noted.
â€œIn Harris, Haley seems to have found the foil she wants,â€ the Post said. â€œHer criticisms implicitly draw votersâ€™ attention to the fact that Haley, 51, is the only woman in the Republican race, while allowing her to highlight the central premise of her candidacy â€” that it is time for Republican voters to embrace a younger generation of leaders like her.â€
The criticisms reflect the debate about the ages of Biden, 80, and Trump, 77. They have also enabled Haley to demonstrate toughness without directly attacking Trump as she tries to avoid alienating his supporters, the Post said.
â€œAnd unlike the men in the race, Haley can rebuff accusations that her criticisms of Harris â€” the first woman of color to serve as vice president â€” are sexist or racist by pointing out that she, too, is a woman of color,â€ it said.
â€œFor Indian American voters, who lean strongly Democratic, there is a resonance to seeing two influential politicians of their ethnic heritage competing against each other,â€ the Post cited Neil Makhija, president of the advocacy group Indian American Impact, as saying.
â€œIn some ways itâ€™s fascinating and almost amusing, like, â€˜Oh, wow, weâ€™ve basically never been represented on the national stage, and now we could get to the point in the near future where itâ€™s like desi vs. desi,â€™â€ he was quoted as saying, using a term that refers to people from the Indian subcontinent.