During an overseas trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, where she represented President Biden at the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, Harris faced questions about her readiness for the Oval Office. Associated Press reporter Chris Megerian asked her directly about her preparedness for the presidency given President Biden’s age.
Harris responded affirmatively, stating, “Yes.” She elaborated on her readiness by emphasizing that while she was addressing a hypothetical scenario, she had confidence in President Biden’s well-being. She stated, “Well, first of all, let’s — I’m answering your hypothetical, but Joe Biden is going to be fine. So that is not going to come to fruition.”
Addressing the responsibilities of her role as vice president, Harris pointed out that every vice president understands the solemnity of taking the oath of office, recognizing the potential duty of assuming the presidency if the need arises. She stated, “But let us also understand that every vice president — every vice president — understands that when they take the oath, that they must be very clear about the responsibility they may have to take over the job of being president. I am no different.”
In American history, eight out of the 45 individuals who have served as president passed away while in office, with causes ranging from assassination to natural causes. Given President Biden’s status as the oldest-ever president, turning 81 in November, questions about presidential succession are raised more frequently.
It’s worth noting that discussions involving hypothetical scenarios regarding the potential death or incapacity of elderly figures in Washington are typically met with caution and reticence, as they can be viewed as inconsiderate or opportunistic.
In recent polling, Vice President Harris’s favorability ratings are slightly lower than those of President Biden, with 40.7% of the public approving of her work, compared to 41.7% who approve of the president’s performance.
President Biden, who is currently serving his first term, is seeking re-election in the upcoming 2024 election. However, he would reach the age of 86 upon leaving office if re-elected, raising questions about his potential successors.
Reports have indicated some tensions in the relationship between President Biden and Vice President Harris. Observers have noted that the president may not view Harris as someone who can alleviate his workload, potentially due to concerns about errors or missteps. In Chris Whipple’s book “The Fight of His Life,” released in January, it was revealed that President Biden considered Harris a “work in progress” and expressed annoyance when her husband, Douglas Emhoff, complained about her assigned tasks.
Harris was selected as Vice President Biden’s running mate in 2020, despite a contentious primary where she criticized him for opposing federally mandated desegregation through busing students to different school districts, famously stating during a 2019 debate, “That little girl was me!” The exchange between Harris and Biden left lasting impressions, and reports even surfaced that First Lady Jill Biden expressed frustration, saying Harris should “go f–k” herself.
Should President Biden decide not to run in the 2024 campaign, it is expected that Harris’s vulnerability may lead to a contested Democratic primary, with potential challengers including California Governor Gavin Newsom. On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump, aged 77, currently dominates the primary field, and polls suggest he would outperform Harris in a potential matchup.