Sep 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

VP Harris ramps up midterms travel to focus on young voters

Vice President Harris in a navy blue suit standing behind a podium with the American flag behind her.

Vice President Kamala Harris during a rally at the UIC campus. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris is ramping up campaign road trips to turn out young voters and voters of color for the midterms — stopping this week in Wisconsin and South Carolina but so far without scheduled appearances with key Democratic nominees on the ballot.

Driving the news: On Thursday, Harris is set to appear in Milwaukee at an event for the Democratic Attorneys General Association. She has not announced any joint appearances with Gov. Tony Evers, who is up for re-election, or Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the Democratic nominee challenging GOP Sen. Ron Johnson.

  • On Tuesday, Harris is scheduled to speak at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C., her sixth visit this year to a historically black college or university.
  • She will also participate in a roundtable discussion with student leaders at Claflin University that day.

Why it matters: The White House is seeking to deploy Harris in ways she can be most helpful. That's meant engaging targeted constituencies around issues like reproductive rights, student loan relief and climate change.

  • She told students at the University at Buffalo in New York last week that the administration acted on clean energy legislation because "we heard you" demand that leaders "take action on the climate crisis like the crisis it is."
  • She also held a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago last week, and recently addressed a gathering of interns and young Hill professionals at an event for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
  • Harris' approval rating is underwater in the latest RealClearPolitics polling average (36% favorable / 51.2% unfavorable)

Turning out Latino voters will be critical to Democrats' longterm success beyond November.

  • A White House official told Axios that the VP is also taking time to meet with local Latino elected officials and community leaders while in Milwaukee — hoping her engagements will help shore up Democrats' otherwise waning support from this constituency. 

The state of play: There are several marquee races in Wisconsin, but no real competitive contests or pickups for Democrats in South Carolina this cycle.

  • Former Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham is running for governor in South Carolina against Republican incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster.
  • Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) beat a Trump-backed challenger in her June primary.
  • But Democratic candidates in competitive statewide races, like Barnes in Wisconsin, face a dilemma over whether it's politically advantageous to campaign with either the president or vice president — both of whom suffer low approval in many battleground states.
  • Barnes didn't appear with President Biden when he visited the state on Labor Day, but Gov. Evers did.
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