The specter of a Kamala Harris presidency roils the 2024 ra…

Forget about President Biden, Nikki Haley is warning voters the 2024 election is about making sure his sidekick Kamala Harris does not slip through a backdoor to the presidency.

Mrs. Haley, a GOP presidential candidate, has been sounding the alarm on the stump and social media and in television appearances, saying the 80-year-old Biden will not last a full second four-year term and is poised to hand the keys over to Ms. Harris.

“I am not running against Joe Biden, I am running against Kamala Harris,” Mrs. Haley said recently on Fox News. “The idea we are going to have a president Kamala Harris is unthinkable.”

Mrs. Haley is rolling that warning into a broader argument that she is the more electable Republican in a general election matchup than former President Donald Trump, whom she called “the most disliked politician in America.” According to her reasoning, a vote for Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump is a vote for Ms. Harris.

The status of Ms. Harris, who has scored the lowest approval rating of any vice president in recent history, is a strong undercurrent in the race for the White House. 

Mr. Biden will be 82 years old on Inauguration Day if he wins a second term and voters are not thrilled with the idea.

A recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll found a whopping 77% of all voters, including 69% of Democrats, said Mr. Biden is too old to be effective for four more years.

That fact has generated a storm of speculation over whether Mr. Biden should pull the ripcord on his campaign, whether Ms. Harris is ready to replace him, and whether Democrats are comfortable with her being the Plan B.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fellow California, added fuel to the fire last week when she danced around questions about whether Ms. Harris was the best running mate for Mr. Biden. 

“He thinks so, and that’s what matters,” Mrs. Pelosi said on CNN, before adding, “She’s represented our country very well at home and abroad.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, left a similar impression after he passed on the chance to give a full-throated endorsement of Ms. Harris as the best person to run alongside Mr. Biden in 2024.

“That’s President Biden’s choice,” Mr. Raskin said in a separate CNN interview. “And I think she’s an excellent running mate for President Biden.”

The looming doubts about Ms. Harris were punctuated by the chatter in Democratic circles about Gov. Gavin Newsom stepping in as the top of the 2024 ticket. The talk got so loud that Mr. Newsom came forward to declare he was not running for president or thinking about leapfrogging over Ms. Harris for the top spot.

Ms. Harris is used to having naysayers.

She came from behind in the polls to win runs for both San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general, and she later won a U.S. Senate seat. But she struggled in presidential politics.

After a promising launch of her 2020 presidential bid, Ms. Harris dropped out before the first votes were cast in the Democratic nomination race, her run doomed by uneven performances on the stump, messaging shifts that failed to excite voters and a campaign marred by disorganization and staff complaints of mistreatment.

Similar problems plagued her as vice president.

Everything from her laugh to her policy chops has faced intense scrutiny since she moved into the vice president’s office inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington.

“There is nothing new about that,” Ms. Harris about the criticism in a recent CBS Interview. “They 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.”

Asked if she would be ready to serve if Mr. Biden, Ms. Harris did not miss a beat. “Yes, I am, if necessary, but Joe Biden is going to be fine,” she said.

As it stands, voters disapprove of Ms. Harris by a 39.6% to 53.3% margin, according to a running tally of polls from the ABC News 538 website. Mr. Biden received similar marks.

Despite the blowback, the White House is leaning on Ms. Harris to jumpstart the ticket’s fortunes by focusing on issues that animate the Democratic base, particularly young voters. 

The 58-year-old launched a college tour that will hit about a dozen schools in swing states and delve into topics such as abortion, climate change and gun violence.

“We are counting on you. We need you. we need your ambitions, your aspirations for yourself and your country,” Ms. Harris told students last week at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro.

Her allies, meanwhile, continue to claim the attacks against her tend to be driven by her being a female and a minority. 

Other political analysts say that whoever sits in the position of vice president has always been a target of ridicule. Just ask Dan Quayle, the much-maligned right-hand man of former President George W. Bush, who could never seem to catch a break.

They say the attempts to make the 2024 race about Ms. Harris will not move the needle because voters don’t cast their votes based on a candidate’s running mate.

Mrs. Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and before that governor of South Carolina, is out to test that theory.

She is telling voters the vice president matters more this go around than it has in years past and the idea of Ms. Harris inheriting the presidency is a real threat.

Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University, said it is an “excellent” track for Mrs. Haley to take in a race where she is trailing by double-digits.

“Harris is the scary bogeywoman of Republicans and even many independents,” Mr. Schmidt said. “The story goes like this, ‘If you vote for Biden, he may be disabled or die, and then Kamala Harris will become president and she’s a radical.’”

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