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No way Biden finds another VP

I remain skeptical that the winning coalition of voters that polling suggests is coalescing around Donald Trump — reliable Republican voters, working-class converts, disaffected young people, and a sizeable percentage of the minority vote — will materialize in November. But no one should summarily dismiss the mountain of surveys indicating as much. Indeed, those who take the polls at face value and dread the prospect of Trump’s reelection are seeking a deus ex machina that might deliver the nation from the fate voters seem to have in store for us.

In his latest piece for the New York Times opinion pages, conservative columnist Bret Stephens gives voice to what plugged-in Democrats are willing to say only in private and in hushed tones. Biden needs a “win,” Stephens writes, but the avenues that might produce American success abroad have been closed off by the president’s dithering and risk aversion. His “biggest” opportunity to change the trajectory of this race is, therefore, on the home front. And there is a “win” available to the president here, but only if Biden can summon the requisite courage to eject Kamala Harris from the ticket.

As Stephens concedes, “it won’t be finding a way to offload Kamala Harris.” That fraught maneuver would frustrate and discourage identitarian Democrats, and it would communicate to everyone else that the Biden campaign has reached the “break glass” stage of its descent into panic. But it would ease the “apprehension many voters have about a feeble president being succeeded by his unpopular and unconvincing vice president,” he writes. Perhaps. No doubt, a display of dynamism like that would thrill professional political observers and the Democratic donor class. But there seems to be no audience for Stephens’s advice in the broader universe of Democratic voters.

In a Politico / Morning Consult poll published on Wednesday, Democrats were asked whom the party should nominate to the presidency if Biden were to disappear from the scene. Harris emerges as the consensus candidate in that scenario, for understandable reasons. While only 34 percent of all respondents said that they believe Harris would be likely to defeat Trump in November as the Democratic presidential nominee, around 60 percent of Democratic respondents said she would emerge victorious. About three-quarters of the Democrats surveyed said they would describe Harris as a “strong leader,” and only 23 percent said they thought Biden should remove her from the vice presidency.

Democratic partisans are not exactly satisfied with the Biden-Harris ticket, but they seem to have convinced themselves that its alternatives are just as undesirable. They have no appetite for shuttling Harris off to the sides, and most have convinced themselves that she’d make a fine president with better than even odds of winning in November. All told, when it comes to Kamala Harris, rank-and-file Democrats are rapidly divorcing themselves from the national consensus. Stephens’s admonition may be good advice, but Democrats aren’t taking it.

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