Vice President Kamala Harris said on Wednesday that a crucial aspect of her role is the fact that she "may have to take over" if President Biden cannot serve his full term while emphasizing that she is ready to do it. The Vice President discussed the worst-case scenario but said that President Biden is in good health and can continue for two terms until he is 86.
Harris was questioned about her preparedness for the presidency during an overseas trip, particularly in light of President Biden's age after she initially tried to redirect the conversation by highlighting his legislative achievements.
Ready for A New Role?
Harris, who has faced challenges with her approval ratings, defended President Biden's age in an interview with the Associated Press at the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia.
"Questions about the president's age often go hand in hand with questions about how you would step in the role if necessary. Do you feel prepared for that possibility? Has serving as vice president prepared you for that job?" Associated Press reporter Chris Megerian asked Harris.
"Yes," replied the 58-year-old vice president in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she is representing Biden at the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
"And how would you describe that process?" the reporter asked.
"Well, first of all, let's — I'm answering your hypothetical, but Joe Biden is going to be fine. So that is not going to come to fruition," Harris said.
"But let us also understand that every vice president — every vice president — understands that when they take the oath, that they must be very clear about the responsibility they may have to take over the job of being president. I am no different."
Out of the 45 men who have held the office of the President, eight of them died while in office-- four by assassination and four from natural causes. President Biden, who is already the oldest president in history, will turn 81 in November.
It is customary for politicians in Washington to avoid discussing hypothetical scenarios involving the potential passing of elderly leaders, as such discussions often invite criticism.
A Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday came up with similar results, with 73 percent of voters expressing the opinion that Biden is too old to seek re-election, including two-thirds of Democrats.
Vice President Harris, however, brushed aside these concerns and affirmed her belief that Biden is prepared to fulfill his presidential duties until January 2025.
"First of all, let me say that our president has been an extraordinary leader who has accomplished things that previous presidents hoped and dreamed and promised they would do and did not achieve," she said.
"So yes, I see him every day, a substantial amount of time we spend together is in the Oval Office, where I see how his ability to understand issues and weave through complex issues in a way that no one else can, to make smart and important decisions on behalf of the American people, have played out," she continued.
"And so I will say to you, that I think the American people ultimately want to know that their president delivers - and Joe Biden delivers," the VP added.
Harris Still Not in Favorable Position
Harris, however, currently holds lower favorability ratings than Biden, as indicated by the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. Approximately 40.7% of the public approves of her work, while 41.7% approve of President Biden's performance.
Biden has announced his intention to run for a second term in the upcoming election, even though he would be 86 years old upon completing that term in office.
He reportedly wasn't happy with Harris despite publicly complimenting her.
"A point of tension in their relationship is that I don't think that the president sees her as somebody who takes anything off of his plate" due to a "fear of messing up," a former White House official told Reuters in May.
Author Chris Whipple, known for his expertise on West Wing staffing, noted in his book "The Fight of His Life," which was published in January, that Biden viewed Harris as a "work in progress."
Biden raged to a friend about his second-in-command in 2021, after learning that her husband, Douglas Emhoff, was dissatisfied with the duties given to her, including reducing illegal immigration and promoting a federal voting rights law, Whipple wrote.
Biden was irritated, the book claims. "He hadn't asked Harris to do anything he hadn't done as vice president—and she'd begged him for the voting rights assignment."
Biden chose Harris, the first female and second non-white VP, as his running partner in 2020 despite a contentious contest in which she attacked him for opposing federally forced desegregation through student busing.
"That little girl was me!" Harris told Biden during a 2019 debate.
Reports suggest that First Lady Jill Biden was extremely upset about the exchange between President Biden and Vice President Harris, to the extent that she reportedly expressed strong frustration by saying that Harris should "go f–k" herself.
If Biden decides not to run for re-election in 2024, it is expected that Harris could face a challenging and contested Democratic primary, with potential challengers such as California Governor Gavin Newsom.
On the Republican side, the primary field is currently dominated by former President Donald Trump, who is 77 years old. Polls suggest that Trump would have a significant advantage over Harris if they were to face off in the general election.