Democratic allies plan effort to defend Kamala Harris from Trump attacks

Kamala D. Harris’ cavalry is coming.

Democratic donors and strategists, alarmed by President Biden’s recent missteps, have launched an advertising and audience survey to create what one group is calling a “pro-Kamala surround-sound campaign” to improve public perception of the vice president.

Organizers say the effort is necessary regardless of whether Harris remains on the ticket as Biden’s running mate or replaces him later this summer, as concerns about Biden’s age have increased Harris’s stakes in the race. Leading the push is Way to Win, a donor strategy network closely tied to other liberal money networks like the Democracy Alliance and the Movement Voter Project.

“The reason to turn up the volume on Kamala’s promotion now is that Democrats cannot afford to stand still in this campaign moment when all the actors on Capitol Hill are engaged in internal conversations,” Way to Win President Tory Gavito said in an interview Wednesday. “We have to keep marching.”

A memo circulated by Way to Win calls for a sweeping social media strategy, influencers and content creators, paid advertising in key states and extensive research. The group released new polling in swing states on Tuesday that found Harris would get a significant boost from younger voters, voters who dislike Biden or Donald Trump and independents.

Way to Win has not yet taken a position on whether Biden should remain the nominee. But its leaders have encouraged an open Democratic conversation about the way forward. “It doesn’t have to be a war. It can be a discussion!” Way to Win co-founder Jenifer Fernandez Ancona posted on social media on Thursday.

Part of the effort will be funded by what Way to Win calls its “Black Swan Fund,” a pot of money set aside at the start of the cycle in case of unexpected developments. There were separate polls in the field Wednesday to test Harris’ potential negatives, according to a Democrat familiar with the effort.

“There is always a backlash against ‘new’ faces in the halls of power, and as the highest-ranking Black woman in American history, VP Harris is particularly susceptible to the prevailing narrative that denigrates women, particularly women of color,” the group’s memo said.

Those most excited about Harris’ nomination have remained quiet so far. Her extended team, however, has made it clear that they are fully behind Biden. Ultimately, it is Biden who can decide whether to stay in the race.

But that has not prevented research and communication planning in various places within and outside the party.

“The reality is that she is already under attack from Republicans, even without a change in the ticket,” said one Democrat sympathetic to Harris, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “So it would be very wise for there to be an outside effort to bolster her strengths and her accomplishments, just based on the fact that she is the running mate.”

The Republican National Committee has filled its social media channels with video montages of Harris repeating the same rhetoric in different speeches or laughing awkwardly. The Trump campaign on Wednesday called her “Low IQ Kamala.”

In a sign of things to come, the Trump campaign this week released an online ad called “Great Kamala Cover-Up,” which features clips of Harris testifying about Biden’s fitness for office and intellectual weight alongside footage of Biden looking lost.

“Kamala has lied to us about Biden for years,” the ad reads.

According to a Trump campaign adviser, there is little doubt about how Trump would approach Harris.

“We’re going to give her all the negatives of Biden and she has none of the positives of his independence,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.

Emily’s List, a group founded to support female Democratic candidates, announced in 2023 a $10 million plan to support Harris in the upcoming election. The group’s May research found that she has been particularly effective at communicating with voters on issues like abortion and gun violence.

“We have always believed that this election would be won on reproductive rights — and that Vice President Harris would play a critical role in victory by ensuring voters understood what was at stake for our fundamental freedoms,” the group’s president, Jessica Mackler, said in a statement. “She has long been a target of sexist and racist attacks, and EMILYS List is committed to supporting her.”

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