U.S.

What the Harris Pick Means

Bring on the hot takes, it’s finally over: Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s running mate. It’s Wednesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

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  • Joe Biden has made up his mind: Kamala Harris will join him on the ticket. They’ll appear together in Delaware today and deliver remarks.

  • Harris will be the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and only the fourth woman in history to be chosen for one of their presidential tickets. She was one of Biden’s fiercest critics during the Democratic primaries but has emerged as one of his most vocal supporters since ending her campaign.

  • Biden’s decision was groundbreaking, anointing a woman of color for vice president and, possibly, as a successor in the White House someday. Yet in some ways he made a conventional choice, elevating a senator who at 55 brings relative youth to the Democratic ticket and shares his moderate politics even as the party tilts left.

  • Indeed, his selection represents a decision to double down on his centrist instincts. And although both politicians have moved to the left on some issues, the Democratic ticket now appears more designed to deepen its appeal with some of Biden’s strongest constituencies — moderate Black voters, college-educated women and white suburbanites — than to engage younger, more progressive voters who have been reluctant to embrace him.

  • And Biden’s decision to pick a senator from maybe the bluest state in the union again shows that gender and race have outpaced geographic balance as priorities when campaigns consider a running mate.

  • Top Republicans, of course, were not so impressed. President Trump quickly assailed Harris, calling her “nasty” and (falsely) labeling her “just about the most liberal person in the U.S. Senate.” And echoing a line of attack frequently leveraged by the Trump campaign, Vice President Mike Pence asserted that Biden “and the Democratic Party have been overtaken by the radical left.”

  • There were also primaries and runoff elections in six states yesterday: Representative Ilhan Omar cruised past a well-funded Democratic challenger in Minnesota, and Georgia voters pushed a QAnon-supporting House candidate to the cusp of Congress in a deep-red district.

  • Omar’s victory was a big win for the progressive left, which can now rest safely knowing that all four members of “the Squad” will most likely return to Congress after general elections in Democratic-friendly districts.

  • Mainstream Republicans may have mixed feelings about the Georgia result. In addition to promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, the winner, Marjorie Taylor Greene, was rebuked by Republican congressional leaders this year after Facebook videos showed her making offensive remarks about Black people, Jews and Muslims. But she also earned a congratulatory Trump tweet at one point and raised money from several Republican Party mainstays.

  • At least three-quarters of all American voters will be eligible to receive ballots in the mail for the 2020 election — the most in U.S. history, according to a New York Times analysis. If recent election trends hold and turnout increases, as experts predict, roughly 80 million mail ballots will flood election offices this fall, more than double the number that were returned in 2016.


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Credit…Daniel Acker for The New York Times

You’ll be seeing a lot more of this senator in the news.


By Annie Karni and Thomas Kaplan

When President Trump announced that he was unilaterally deferring payroll taxes to bring economic relief to struggling Americans, he and his aides thought it would allow them to frame him as pro-worker.

But the move comes with political risks. Eliminating the payroll tax could jeopardize the funding stream for Social Security, which is one of the government’s most popular programs, providing benefits to about 65 million people.

The president has given Democrats an opening to raise Social Security cuts as an issue in the final months of an election in which his support among older voters already appears to be shaky.

On Monday, Joe Biden capitalized on the opportunity. “Donald Trump said that if he’s re-elected, he’ll defund Social Security,” he tweeted. “We can’t let that happen.”

The Democratic National Committee amplified the line of attack the next day, blasting out a statement that highlighted “At Least 7 Times Trump Said He Will Permanently Eliminate Funds To Social Security And Medicare.”

Beyond the complicated legal questions about whether Trump can circumvent Congress by using executive actions to create his own tax-and-spend policies, and the economic debate about whether a payroll tax even helps the right people (it does nothing for the unemployed), the proposal leaves Trump juggling political priorities.

He is now balancing the potential benefits of giving working people more money in their paychecks — at least temporarily — versus undercutting his own pledge from the 2016 campaign that he would protect entitlement programs.

His economic advisers have insisted that the temporary tax deferral, which Trump announced on Saturday, will have no effect on Social Security or Medicare. “The president in no way wants to harm those trust funds,” Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said on Sunday. “There would be no reduction to those benefits. And the president’s made that very clear.”

But many older Americans — a key base of support for Trump in the 2016 election — have already grown wary of him because of their anxiety over the coronavirus, and may not be convinced by those promises. Adding to the confusion is that Trump campaign advisers are saying that the president wants to go further and pass a permanent payroll tax cut if he is re-elected. The administration has not explained how Social Security would be funded if a tax dedicated to it evaporates.

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