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VP Harris defends Joe Biden in Las Vegas campaign stop

Updated July 9, 2024 - 6:59 pm

Vice President Kamala Harris rallied support for President Joe Biden on Tuesday in an appearance before a gathering of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in Las Vegas, as more eyes focus on her as a possible nominee to replace Biden on the Democratic ticket.

“We all knew this election would be tough, and the past few days have been a reminder that running for president of the United States is never easy,” Harris told the supportive crowd. “But the one thing we know about our president, Joe Biden, is that he is a fighter. He is a fighter. And he is the first to say, ‘When you get knocked down you get back up.’ We all know, many of us, know what that is. So we continue to fight, and we will continue to organize. And in November, we will win.”

The vice president’s sixth visit to Las Vegas came as the debate over Biden’s fitness for another term continues — following his poor debate performance and calls from some Democrats to have him step down. Harris, an obvious choice, has risen to the center of conversations as a potential replacement, although Biden has doubled down on his commitment to run and Harris has remained loyal to him. Nevada Democrats have also gathered around Biden in support of him as the nominee.

Polls show a tight race between Trump and Biden and in a match-up between Trump and Harris. A poll released Tuesday and taken by the Democratic pollster Bendixen & Amandi Inc. shows Harris in a statistical tie with Donald Trump in November, with her ahead by one point and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

An Emerson College Polling survey released Tuesday finds Trump leading Biden 46 to 43 with 11 percent undecided. In a match-up with Harris, Trump leads 49 to 43 percent. The margin of error in the Emerson College poll is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

‘Last line of defense’

At Resorts World on Tuesday, Harris highlighted the Biden-Harris administration’s record — including forgiving student loan debt for nearly 5 million Americans, capping the cost of insulin at $35 for seniors and passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to address the increase in violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic — while contrasting it with Trump’s.

“Someone who vilified immigrants, who promotes xenophobia, someone who stokes hate, should never again have the chance to stand behind a microphone and the seal of the president of the United States,” Harris said, receiving a loud applause from the crowd of a few hundred.

The vice president painted a picture of an overreach of power if Trump were to be re-elected. She discussed the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding presidential immunity and said Trump will weaponize the Department of Justice against his political enemies, a similar criticism Republicans have made of Biden regarding Trump’s felony convictions.

“Donald Trump wants to turn our democracy into a dictatorship,” she said. “And the Supreme Court basically just declared he can get away with it.”

She also highlighted concerns about Project 2025, a conservative blueprint of policy proposals to take under a Republican president, that she said includes a plan to cut Social Security and eliminate the Department of Education.

Harris continued to reiterate the stakes with abortion — a winning strategy for Democrats in 2022 — and said Trump would sign a national abortion ban if he gets the chance. Trump, however, has said the issue belongs to the states and that he will not sign a law banning abortion.

“If the Supreme Court says the laws do not apply to Donald Trump, if people like Mike Pence are not around to stand up to him and if extremists in Congress continue to bow down to him, our last defense, our last line of defense is the ballot box,” she said. “Our vote. Our vote.”

“Do we believe in freedom?” she asked the crowd as she closed out her 14-minute speech. “Do we believe in opportunity? Do we believe in the promise of America? And are we ready to fight for it? If we fight, we win!”

Harris was cheered by the enthusiastic crowd, which chanted “four more years!” as she left the stage.

The Biden campaign launched AANHPI for Biden-Harris, a national organizing and engagement program aiming to mobilize Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. The campaign also announced the endorsements of a coalition of 15 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander-owned businesses, including Xiao Long Dumpling.

Halee Dobbins, the RNC’s Nevada state communications director, said Harris has chosen to visit Las Vegas despite poor poll numbers that spell disaster for Biden following the debate. She cited out-of-control spending from the administration, soaring prices and wages that have not kept up with the pace of inflation.

“Nevada voters know Joe Biden and Kamala can’t handle the economy or our immigration system and are ready for a return to President Trump’s pro-growth, pro-border security, low-tax agenda.”

‘If something happens to him, she’ll be there’

Cindy De Los Santos, 70, said she will vote for Biden in November, though she thinks he should be replaced because of his age.

“I think that he won’t be that effective anymore,” she said. “I believe they should have somebody else run. It can be anybody but Trump.”

Janet Charlton, a Henderson resident, thinks concerns of Biden’s mental fitness have been “blown out of proportion.”

“I understand concerns, but I don’t understand the hysteria,” Charlton said. The 76-year-old said she thinks there’s a lot of ageism involved in the concerns about Biden.

“If you watch him putting together NATO, taking care of Ukraine and all the things that he does, I think it sort of shows that he is pretty cognitive,” she said.

Charlton thinks Harris could also do the job, but she agrees with Biden — who on Monday sent a letter to House Democrats asking for support — that he won the primaries, and it’s not fair to the voters to replace him.

“If something happens to him, she’ll be there,” Charlton said.

Katelin Wu, 17, will vote for the first in November, and she is undecided on who to vote for. She thinks Trump had a lot of controversies, but didn’t do anything “significantly really bad or significantly good” in office, and she thinks the same thing of Biden.

She said it would be interesting if Harris were to take over.

“I think you should be open,” the Las Vegas local said. “Change is inevitable.”

‘He’s not what he was 20 years ago, but none of us are’

Former Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, attended the event, where he said in an interview that Biden is committed to staying in the race, and the dialogue needs to change.

“I mean, he’s made it clear that he’s not stepping aside, he’s not stepping back,” Sisolak said. “We’re stepping up. There’s a lot of support in the community.”

Harris has done a great job in terms of showing her loyalty to Biden, Sisolak said.

“Her time will come, hopefully in four years as Biden serves on his second term,” he said.

Sisolak said he sees the president every time he comes to town and has a chance to talk with him.

“He’s not what he was 20 years ago, but none of us are,” he said, adding that Biden’s mental and cognitive ability is strong, and he needs to keep displaying that to the public.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

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