Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to return to her hometown of San Francisco on Thursday to emphasize her long-standing focus on maternal health, closing a quiet week in California as the White House grapples with how to sell its policies. ahead of a bloody midterm election season.
The long stretch from Washington may be a welcome reprieve for Harris, but it risks being disconnected from the bleak outlook in the White House, which struggles to deal with rising inflation and high gas prices, issues at the heart of it. for voters.
Still, the visit to California provides some political benefit to Harris, as well as an opportunity to talk about something that resonates with the Democratic base.
“We should talk more about healthcare. It’s our best economic issue,” said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster. “It’s in people’s minds, not just as rising costs, but also in terms of access, price push, cancer… There are many different angles.”
Vice presidents have had trouble establishing an independent identity in the past while supporting presidential policies. Harris is no exception, and she has taken on two arduous tasks: addressing the root causes of migration in Central America and pushing back voting restrictions in Republican-controlled states. The White House has not made much progress in either attempt, and Harris has tried to get involved in other policy areas she is familiar with, such as maternal health.
Throughout her political career, Harris has advocated improving health care for expectant mothers. As a senator, she sponsored bills that would provide incentives for improving maternal outcomes and educating doctors about implicit racial bias, contributing to higher death rates for women of color during pregnancy and childbirth. Last week, Harris held the government’s first cabinet-level meeting on efforts to improve outcomes for pregnant women.
For the vice president, who sometimes appears in the script during public appearances, the chance to discuss the government’s work on maternal mortality rates is a low-risk opportunity to demonstrate policy fluency on a topic of particular interest. for democratic core voters such as black women.
“It’s an initiative where she has a significant amount of history, a tremendous amount of personal interest,” said Nathan Barankin, who served as Harris’s chief of staff when she was a California senator and attorney general. So are her other engagements, he said, but “the distinguishing feature of this one…this isn’t one that’s been embroiled in decades of partisan combat.”
Thursday’s maternal health care event will feature a speech from Harris after she visits a UC San Francisco health center and meets with expectant families and health professionals. According to a White House official, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the mayor of San Francisco and the mayor of London Breed will join her.
Unlike President Biden, who makes frequent trips to his native Delaware, Harris also seems to be seeking the comforts of home. The vice president arrived in California on Monday and delivered a speech at Vandenberg Space Force Base before attending a political fundraiser in Los Angeles. Harris enjoyed two days off from public events in Los Angeles. The vice president, who grew up in the Bay Area, and her husband, second Mr. Douglas Emhoff, have a home in Brentwood.
However, at a time when Americans are frustrated with rising prices and concerned about crime, Harris’ trip to California with a focus on maternal health could be seen as a missed opportunity to talk about the issues at the forefront. of the voters.
“I think it’s more like playing not to lose than to win,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “Sending her to places she knows well, dealing with issues she knows well but may not be voting issues, while ignoring parts of her wallet that are an open bleeding wound for Democrats, like the border right now.”
Biden and members of his administration have fanned out across the country to convince voters that he has made enough progress on infrastructure and the COVID-19 pandemic, despite failing to deliver on bigger domestic promises. Harris has also toured the country highlighting the government’s programs and legislative achievements.
Despite those efforts, they are being cheated in the polls — even in her own deep-blue California. A new poll from the UC Berkley Institute of Governmental Studies found that respondents still view Harris more negatively than positively, with 35% of voters approving her performance and 45% disapproving. In the same survey, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, 50% of California voters approved of Biden while 46% disapproved of it, a small improvement for the president since February, when the previous IGS poll was conducted.
However, Democratic pollsters argue that maternal health care and related issues are good campaigning campaigns. Lake, the Democratic pollster, pointed to the 2018 midterm elections, when a focus on health care helped Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives.
Healthcare is the top issue for Democratic voters ahead of the midterm elections, with 74% saying it’s very important to their vote, according to a Pew Research Center poll released last month. Only 44% of Republicans said the same. Healthcare is the third most important problem for all voters.
Maternal health care, Lake said, touches on three aspects of a key Democratic formula for approaching midterms: gaining more women than men lose, targeting women over 50 — a key swing vote — and mobilizing the grassroots.