Joe Biden said Sen. Kamala Harris is “very much in contention” to be his running mate on the 2020 Democratic ticket, clarifying that he doesn’t hold a grudge against the California lawmaker for attacking him in an early primary debate.
The presumptive Democratic nominee’s conciliatory tone toward Harris comes after senior members of Biden’s vetting team had thrown cold water on her vice presidential bid in the final stretch of Biden’s search.
In late July, POLITICO reported that former Sen. Chris Dodd, who is part of Biden’s vice presidential search committee, told a longtime Biden supporter that Harris had “no remorse” when asked about her confrontation with Biden at the first Democratic primary debate.
CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett asked Biden about those reports during an interview that aired Thursday morning as part of the virtual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
“No, he didn’t say that to the press, he was talking to somebody offline, and it was repeated,” Biden said, referring to Dodd’s comments. “Now, I don’t hold grudges. I’ve made it really clear that I don’t hold grudges. I think it was a debate, it was as simple as that. And she’s very much in contention.”
Harris sharply criticized Biden at a June 2019 Democratic presidential debate over his previous stance on federally mandated busing to integrate public schools, raising her personal experience as one of the first children to integrate her own school in California. The then-presidential contender also ripped Biden’s warm recollection of segregationist senators as well as the former vice president’s record on race.
The exchange, punctuated by Biden cutting his response short and saying, “Anyway, my time is up,” led to a short-lived boost in the polls for Harris and created one of the primary cycle’s early defining moments But the momentum for Harris did not last and Biden maintained his status as the Democratic frontrunner.
The debate attack has nonetheless irked Biden allies, who were surprised that Harris would go after the former vice president given her close relationship with Biden’s late son, Beau.
While Harris rose to the top tier of Biden’s running mate shortlist, POLITICO reported members of Biden’s search committee expressed trust issues with the California senator. But after the POLITICO report of Dodd’s comments, Harris allies met with the Biden campaign to advocate for her as a potential running mate.
Biden’s hold-no-grudge messaging this week is in line with his past comments about Harris. During a press conference last week, an Associated Press photographer captured Biden’s handwritten notes.
“Do not hold grudges,” “Campaigned with me & Jill,” “Talented,” “Great help to campaign” and “Great respect for her,” Biden wrote under a section labeled “Kamala Harris.”