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The Reintroduction of Kamala Harris

Originally published by Erica L. Green for the New York Times

By early this year, around the time a prosecutor called President Biden a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” Vice President Kamala Harris already knew something had to change.

It was up to her, she had told allies, to finally distinguish herself in her job — something she had been struggling to do for more than two years — and reassure American voters that the Biden-Harris ticket was still a safe bet. She had been feeling sidelined in the early stages of the campaign, one adviser said, and she wanted a bigger role.

She fled the Washington bubble and embarked on an ambitious travel schedule, making more than 60 trips this year alone. She tossed talking points to speak out more forcefully on abortion rights, the war in Gaza and race. She invoked her personal story more often, from her mother’s influence on her life to her inspiration for becoming a prosecutor.

Her allies emphasize that she has been taking on a bigger role for some time, notably after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago and during high-profile foreign assignments. But even before the questions about Mr. Biden’s age and acuity burst into the open, people close to her say, she was looking for more powerful ways to support the ticket.

Now, the effort to reintroduce herself has reached its most critical moment, with Mr. Biden’s candidacy plunged into crisis after a devastating debate performance in Atlanta and Democrats seriously weighing the prospect that she could become the nominee.

And while Ms. Harris, 59, has shown steadfast support for Mr. Biden in the frenzied week since the debate, her allies insist she is the only logical choice to lead the ticket if he steps aside.

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