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Will Kamala Harris make the difference?

Will Kamala Harris make the difference?

You've probably heard a lot in the past three days about Senator Kamala Harris, her background, and the ground-breaking nature of her candidacy for US vice president.

But now that the cheering crowds have logged off and the virtual confetti has been swept away, we're left with a basic question: will Kamala Harris make a difference — on the campaign trial and maybe in the White House — for Joe Biden?


There are three ways to answer that question.

Can she help Biden unseat President Donald Trump? Early evidence suggests Biden's choice of Harris is fairly popular. As the first black woman and first person of Asian descent on a presidential ticket, she might boost Biden's appeal at the margins with black voters, women, and Indian-Americans, though Biden is already popular with the first two groups.

Less tangibly, but perhaps more importantly, Harris' considerable energy and charisma can boost public excitement for a campaign led by the 77-year-old Biden, a man who has been active in US politics for half a century. On the other hand, her record as a San Francisco prosecutor and California attorney general will trouble some voters on the progressive left who want substantial reform of policing across the United States.

All that said, the historical evidence shows that voters don't care very much whose name appears second on the party ticket.

Can she serve as president on a moment's notice? The vice president's most important constitutional role is to become president if the boss can't continue. Gerald Ford (1974), Lyndon Johnson (1963), and Harry Truman (1945) are the most recent examples.

Senator Harris does have executive experience. As California Attorney General, she ran the second largest justice department in the United States, an organization with 5,000 employees.

She was much less successful, however, at the head of her own 2020 presidential campaign, a mysteriously dysfunctional operation that broke down before the first votes were cast in Democratic primaries.

If Biden wins, can she help him govern? When Biden introduced her on Wednesday as his campaign partner, he said he wants Harris to be the "last voice in the room" after other advisors are gone and someone who will "challenge my assumptions if she disagrees."

The prosecutorial precision with which Harris has questioned witnesses during Senate hearings, and her willingness to go after Biden on the debate stage while she was still a presidential candidate, suggest Harris has more than enough toughness and poise to fill that role. Also important: Biden's trust in Harris is boosted by her longstanding friendship with his late son Beau.

Here's a bonus question....

Is Kamala Harris the future of the Democratic Party? Not so fast. Ask a voter enthusiastic about Senator Harris what they like about her, and you're more likely to hear about her personal strengths and professional achievements than about policy positions.

Progressive voters, increasingly important for the future of the Democratic Party, know what Senator Bernie Sanders believes. They know that Senator Elizabeth Warren has "a plan for that," and they associate emerging star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with the "Green New Deal."

If Kamala Harris is to become the dominant voice in her party, she'll have to develop a brand that makes it easier for voters to identify her — and easier for rivals to attack her.

Bottom line: Harris has obvious value for Biden as a respected and trusted policy advisor. Her broader political appeal remains untested.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Now that millions of high-priority Americans have been vaccinated, many people in low-risk groups are starting to ask the same question: when's my turn? Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, has an answer, but probably not the one they're hoping for: "It probably won't be until May or June before we can at least start to get the normal non-prioritized person vaccinated." On GZERO World, Dr. Fauci also addresses another burning question: why aren't schools reopening faster? And while Dr. Fauci acknowledges that reopening schools must be a top priority, he has no quick fixes there, either. In fact, that's kind of a theme of the interview.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Dr. Fauci's Pandemic Prognosis

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

I thought I would talk today, I haven't spoken much about former President Trump since he's no longer president and I intend to continue that practice. But given this weekend and the big speech at CPAC and the fact that in the straw poll, Trump won and won by a long margin. I mean, DeSantis came in number two, but he's the Governor of Florida, CPAC was in Orlando, so that's a home court bias. In reality, it's Trump's party. And I think given all of that, it's worth spending a little bit of time reflecting on what that means, how I think about these things.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

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