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Harris campaigns for Biden in Las Vegas. Many Democrats agree, but some want her to run against Trump – Longmont Times-Call

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a campaign rally at Resorts World Las Vegas on July 9, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Harris announced the launch of the Biden-Harris Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) national organizing program, which is designed to mobilize Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander voters and communities across the country. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS)

Faith E. Pinho | (TNS) Los Angeles Times

LAS VEGAS – Vice President Kamala Harris officially appeared in Las Vegas on Tuesday to launch a Biden campaign initiative aimed at reaching Asian American, Pacific Islander and Hawaiian voters.

But what underpinned the event in a resort ballroom was the vice president’s firm support for President Biden, even as some Democratic officials – and some supporters in the room – expressed hope that he would step down and Harris would emerge as the party’s new leader.

Harris’ visit to Las Vegas coincides with the president’s defiant assertion that he will stay in the race, despite some calls for him to withdraw following his disastrous debate performance against former President Trump last month.

Biden, who appeared listless and confused during the debate, has been trying to win the support of his Democratic counterparts, even as some cracks appeared in his once-solid base over the weekend. Democratic members of Congress returned to Washington, DC, this week after a holiday break, and a central topic of discussion was Biden’s prospects for success as a presidential candidate.

The stakes are high in Nevada, where Biden narrowly won in 2020 but the state now leans Republican, according to the Cook Political Report. But the mood in the Las Vegas ballroom on Tuesday was high, as a crowd of several hundred people repeatedly chanted “Four more years!”

In her roughly 15-minute speech, Harris made only fleeting mention of the debate debacle and the circulating questions about Biden’s suitability for re-election.

“The last few days have reminded us that running for president is never easy,” she said. “But we know one thing about our President Joe Biden: He is a fighter.”

The crowd roared in response. But in conversations before and after the rally, even some of their supporters expressed doubts about whether the president could continue.

“He should probably resign,” said Alyse Sobosan, a student counselor at a charter school in Las Vegas. Talks about Biden’s health would hurt the campaign’s effectiveness, she said: “We can’t even talk about the issues or his stance on things because all the conversation is just about him and his health.”

The 36-year-old said she would support Harris as a “strong candidate” to succeed Biden if he drops out of the race. However, the vice president needs to do more to raise her national profile.

“I have a neutral to positive attitude toward her,” Sobosan said. “I just don’t know much about her.”

Abraham Camejo, 41, brought his four children to the event. They ate rice cakes and sausage skewers, a traditional Korean dish, while he explained why he was supporting Biden and said it was “too late in the game” to change candidates.

“Can we have a younger Biden? That would be very nice. But unfortunately, we tend to get old,” Camejo said, joking that the 81-year-old president might get some energy with “a little Red Bull.”

“We just have to understand that he’s not a young man anymore,” he said. “But can he do the job? And I honestly believe he can.”

The Las Vegas event was the kickoff for the campaign, which targets Asian American, Pacific Islander and Hawaiian voters. The Nevada for Biden-Harris campaign announced it would launch a barrage of paid media campaigns in the state to coincide with the rally, including ads in several Asian-language publications.

Padma Lakshmi, cookbook author and host and executive producer of the Hulu show “Taste the Nation,” helped introduce Harris as the first Asian American and woman to become U.S. vice president.

“I thought about how much it would have meant to me as a young girl to see an Asian American woman leading our country,” Lakshmi said.

Vivienne Bailey-Reid, 61, a consultant in Las Vegas, said she left Harris’ speech inspired and with renewed vigor to support the Democratic administration.

“We need to focus and stop worrying about President Biden’s age,” Bailey-Reid said. “I think she gave us hope: ‘Wait a minute, we’re still in charge.'”

Her friend Linn Hummel, 62, agreed, but added that Harris failed to deliver a succinct message on Tuesday, instead peppering herself with statistics and facts. Democrats need to have a simple message for undecided voters, Hummel said, adding that while Harris may attract some voters, such as women, “she needs to focus that message a little more.”

“As Democrats … we have to show the same zeal as Republicans,” she continued. “It used to be that in our political system, whether good or bad, the candidate you voted for was who you were behind. And the fact that he may have done poorly in a debate is that moment. It’s not his total personality.”

Hummel said while she understands why the media and Democratic pundits continued to focus on Biden’s performance at the debate, she would like them to move on to the next point.

“It’s this vicious cycle. Once you ask that question – ‘Is he viable?’ – you can’t think about anything else,” she said, adding: “I don’t need to know what time (Biden) goes to bed.”

The most compelling message Harris conveyed, the two friends agreed, was the importance of defeating Trump.

In her speech, Harris condemned, among other things, the Supreme Court’s recent decision to grant presidents immunity from prosecution for official acts. She said: “Trump wants to turn our democracy into a dictatorship. And the Supreme Court basically just declared that he can get away with it.”

She outlined “Project 2025,” a plan drawn up by close Trump allies to restructure the federal government in the event of his election in November.

The goal of defeating Trump motivated Arlene and Joel Williams, a couple who moved from San Jose to Las Vegas two years ago, to begin writing letters in support of the Democratic Party a few months ago.

The two 74-year-olds say they would support any Democrat – including Harris, whom they have known since her time as a politician in San Francisco.

“We don’t want Trump. That’s scary,” said Arlene Williams.

Her husband added: “We are in the camp of those who are for everyone but Trump.”

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