The vice-president is ready to step into Joe Biden's shoes as concerns ramp up about the president's age and mental acuity
: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Kamala Harris has said she is “ready to serve” amid growing questions over the age and health of Joe Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
The vice-president, 59, insisted she would be ready to step into the 81-year-old president’s shoes should the need arise.
“I am ready to serve. There’s no question about that,” she told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Air Force Two.
The comments will add fuel to the debate raging in the US about what the Democrats would do if Mr Biden was forced to step down ahead of this year’s election for health reasons.
Longstanding concerns over Mr Biden’s age and mental acuity were brought into sharp focus last week after the president was described as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” in an independent report into mishandling of classified documents.
Special counsel Robert Hur said Mr Biden’s memory was so poor that he struggled to remember when he was vice-president or when his son Beau had died. The Biden administration has rejected the description of the president.
Interviewed two days before the publication of the Hur report, Ms Harris told the WSJ that anyone who sees her at work “walks away fully aware of my capacity to lead”.
Democrat officials said there was no discussion about replacing Mr Biden as a candidate to lead the party into the election in November. If Mr Biden did withdraw, Ms Harris would have to gain delegates through the primary election system or enough support for a presidential ticket through the party’s national committee.
However, her own approval rating has been struggling.
According to FiveThirtyEight, 53.5 per cent of voters disapprove of the vice-president, suggesting she is more unpopular than Mr Biden.
Her tenure has been difficult; in 2023 an NBC survey found she was the most unpopular vice-president since polling began.
There were reports of tension between Ms Harris and the president and her image was further hit by a raft of high-profile departures during her first year in office.
Ms Harris also faced criticism over her handling of the border crisis, with Eric Adams, New York’s mayor, complaining she had too much in her portfolio.
In recent months the White House has sought to boost her profile. In particular she has led the administration’s defence of abortion rights, an issue identified by Democrat strategists as a vote winner after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.
It was an issue she raised in the WSJ interview, saying: “I do believe that the majority of people have an empathy gene,” she said.
‘I get why people are protesting’
“And the more they realise what has actually been happening since the Dobbs decision came down, the more open they are to consider the fundamental point, which is should the government be telling a woman what to do?”
She has also had to run the gauntlet of pro-Palestine protesters who have been out in force at her meetings since the Gaza war erupted.
“I get why people are protesting,” she said in the interview. “We are working around the clock to end this conflict.”
More from Politics
More from The Telegraph