Donald Trump allies intensify Kamala Harris attacks as Joe Biden replacement talk builds (2024)

WASHINGTON, July 4 (Reuters)-DonaldTrump's campaign and some of hisallieshave launched a pre-emptive political strike on Vice President KamalaHarris, moving swiftly to try to discredit her amidtalkamong some of her fellow Democrats that she might replacePresident JoeBidenatop the party's 2024 presidential ticket.

On social media and in a flurry of statements over the past 48 hours,Trump's campaign and his Republicanalliesappear to be laying the groundwork for an all-out assault onHarrisshould the 81-year-oldBidendecide to end his re-election bidfollowing his feeble debate performancelast week.

WhileBidenhas insisted he is not quitting the race four months before theNov. 5 election, andHarrishas stood firmly behind him, theTrumpcampaign has little to lose by attacking the vice president now, so that ifHarrisdoes emerge as the nominee, she might do so in a weakened state.

Republicans have regularly criticizedHarris, 59, duringBiden's term in office, but theattacksthis week represented a sharp and seemingly coordinated escalation that appeared to be linked to increasedtalkabout her possiblyreplacingBidenas the Democratic presidential candidate.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which oversees House Republican races, called herBiden's "enabler in chief."

MAGA Inc., a fundraising super PAC supportingTrump, meanwhile released a statement calling her the "invasion czar." In March 2021BidensaidHarriswould lead efforts with Mexico and Central American nations to address illegal immigration.

Republicans have since seized on that to accuse her of failing to stem the flow of millions of migrants crossing illegally into the United States, although she was never directly responsible for securing the southern border.

"KamalaHarrisis incompetent. She's proven to be the weakest, worst vice president in history, and she has 100% supported JoeBidenin every single disastrous policy that he has implemented over the last four years," said Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for theTrumpcampaign.

TheBidencampaign pushed back against the escalating Republican criticism without addressing the question of whether the vice president is waiting in the wings.

"Vice PresidentHarrisis proud to be PresidentBiden's running mate," said Rhyan Lake, a campaign spokesperson forHarris. "No matter what falseattacksTrumpand his extremealliesmake, she will continue to defend theBiden-Harrisrecord and prosecute the case against DonaldTrump."

The swipes atHarrisbyTrump's camp were reminiscent of a similar tactic that the RepublicanTrump, president from 2017-2021, used to successfully undermine Ron DeSantis, his main Republican rival, before the Florida governor jumped into their party's 2024 election primary race last year.

Corey Lewandowski, a longtimeTrumpadviser, told ReutersHarriswas politically vulnerable given her role in addressing illegal immigration, among other issues that are part of extensive research the party has gathered on her record.

Trump's unusual silence

A former senior staffer in theTrumpWhite House who is still in contact with theTrumpcampaign said the newfound emphasis onHarrismade sense.

"If JoeBidenstays on top of the ticket, given what we've seen, she takes on even more importance. But if he does step aside, she's the potential candidate. This is about defining her," the staffer said, pointing to her low approval ratings in public opinion polls.

Despite her consistently low approval ratings, a Reuters/Ipsos poll earlier this week showedHarristo be as formidable an opponent toTrumpasBiden. In a hypothetical matchup,TrumpledHarrisby a single percentage point, 43% to 42%.

The clamor byTrump'salliesis in stark contrast with the unusual silence from the normally voluble former president. SinceBiden's poor debate performance,Trumphas laid low, making few public appearances or public statements.

"This shows a maturation of the candidate himself. You can teach an old dog new tricks. He's showing increased discipline and message control," said a senior adviser to theTrumpcampaign familiar with internal discussions.

Even before the June 27 debate, theTrumpcampaign was beginning to turn its attention toHarris, releasing an attack ad online that mocked her for repeating lines in her speeches.

An online meme promoted by Republicans showedHarrisrepeating the same phrase "unburdened by what has been" again and again in remarks.

Harris' defenders say she has become more of a target because of her leading role in attackingTrumpover abortion rights and her vigorous defense ofBidenon the campaign trail.

IfBidenwere to exit the race before the Democratic National Convention in August, there is no guaranteeHarriswould be the nominee. But as vice president, she likely would be first in line. She would benefit fromBiden's immense campaign war chest and likely see a large segment of Democrats rally around her in a bid to avoid a bitter intra-party battle.

And as the first Black vice president in U.S. history, she provides a bridge to the party's most dependable voting bloc. Her background and relative youth would make for a sharp contrast withTrump, 78.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne, Tim Reid and Alexandra Ulmer. Additional reporting by Helen Coster, Jason Lange and James Oliphant; Writing by James Oliphant; Editing by Ross Colvin and Howard Goller)

Donald Trump allies intensify Kamala Harris attacks as Joe Biden replacement talk builds (2024)

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