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Kamala Harris’ Chances of Beating Donald Trump

Kamala Harris would likely face an uphill battle to convince voters in a hypothetical matchup against Donald Trump.

Questions from voters around President Joe Biden’s age have increased pressure on the White House incumbent, who responded angrily to a special counsel’s report questioning his memory skills.

Biden suddenly dropping out of the race in another “LBJ moment,” akin to when fellow Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not seek re-election in 1968, is unlikely. Biden and his campaign have remained publicly steadfast in their commitment to be on a ballot that also features Trump in November this year.

A sudden exit from the race would also problems with the Democratic primaries that are already underway.

Were Biden to step aside, the conventional successor would be the vice president, but Harris performs poorly in polling against Trump.

Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a ‘First In The Nation’ campaign rally at South Carolina State University on February 2, 2024 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Harris currently has a low approval rating among American… BRANDON BELL/GETTY IMAGES

Her approval ratings have been negative since late 2021, similar to that of Biden’s. An average of polls taken by analysis website FiveThirtyEight shows she currently has a 37.5 percent approval rating. A total of 53.5 percent of American voters disapprove of the 49th president.

Harris’ best result in a nationally recorded poll was during a survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies released on January 18 that said her net approval rating was -6 percent.

Hypothetical matchups with Trump are not good reading for Harris either. A McLaughlin & Associates poll of 1,000 likely voters taken from January 25 to January 31 showed that 42 percent thought Harris was the preferred choice over Trump, who scored 50 percent.

Previous polls yielded similar results, including a Harvard-Harris poll of 2,851 registered voters taken from November 15-16 last year. This poll showed Harris at 40 percent with Trump clear at 52 percent.

Trump was also ahead at 50 percent in a Fox News poll of 1,001 registered voters nationwide taken from November 10-13, 2023. The former president was five points ahead of Harris.

Biden’s results in head-to-head polling against Trump are mixed, with most of the recent polls showing Trump in the lead. In the last month, Biden’s best result in a matchup with Trump was recorded by a Quinnipiac University survey from January 25 to 29 that had Biden six points ahead.

The polls do not indicate if Harris would experience a bump if she had the full weight of the Democratic party behind her in a head-to-head against Trump.

Some surveys also suggest she is the likely favorite among party voters if Biden were to drop out.

A CBS News/YouGov survey of 2,335 U.S. adult residents from September 5-8 last year said that just 10 percent of Republicans, 31 percent of independent voters approved of Harris, but she had the support of 78 percent of her own party.

Pressure on Biden

Polls suggest voters were already concerned about Biden’s age and a Gallup poll released on February 2 says just 38 percent of voters believe he deserves a second term. A poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released in August said 77 percent of voters thought Biden, 81, was too old for a second term.

This was a view shared among 69 percent of Democrats who responded to the poll.

A report by Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Hur into Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents said the president “appeared to have significant limitations” concerning his memory.

The report said Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.”

It did not, however, recommend charges against the former president. The president’s attorney had notified authorities after documents were found in Biden’s Delaware home and at his office in the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., in late 2022 and early 2023.

But the special counsel also said the president wouldn’t be convicted of allegedly mishandling documents because he “would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

The Biden camp strongly disagreed and Biden said his “memory is fine” and “has not gotten worse.”

Biden’s lawyers also wrote in a letter attached to the report that the language used was “highly prejudicial” and that there was “ample evidence from your interview that the president did well in answering your questions about years-old events over the course of five hours.”

Biden added he was pleased there were no charges brought and now considers the matter closed, but was clearly angry at part of the report that said he had forgotten when his son Beau died.

In an angry retort during a February 8 press conference at the White House, Biden asked: “How the hell dare [Hur] raise that?”

He added: “Frankly, when I was asked the question I thought to myself it wasn’t any of their damn business.”

It isn’t just Biden who has appeared to make blunders, however. Trump has slipped up on the campaign trail including mixing up Biden and former President Barack Obama’s names several times.

The 45th president said he was being “sarcastic.”

Republican Congressman Ronny Jackson, the former White House doctor, said on Fox News in November last year that Trump was “incredibly sharp.”

Trump also appeared to forget briefly that Jackson was no longer the White House doctor. Trump did this while saying he is “a lot sharper than” GOP presidential rival Nikki Haley.

Trump did appear to realize his mistake, adding that Jackson was “a fantastic, uh, congressman from Texas.”

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