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Analysis

The reason Kamala Harris was a bad presidential candidate is the reason she could be a good vice presidential candidate

Senator Kamala Harris.
Senator Kamala Harris.Alex Wong/Associated Press

The knock on Kamala Harris, presidential candidate, is that she was all California flash and no substance: She was impressive on paper and had an inspiring background, but she lacked an ideological compass.

Critics point to many examples of political expediency that would make Mitt Romney blush, but the most high-profile one was on Medicare-for-All, the signature policy issue of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary season.

Preparing for a run for president, Harris became the first senator to co-sponsor Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill. Once she ran for president, she dropped her support and came up with her own bill that was such a mind-meld of moderate and progressive takes that even she struggled to explain it during debates.

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But that’s history. Now, what Biden requires in his running mate is someone who is politically flexible. And someone with whom he has few areas of fundamental disagreement that President Trump can exploit, the way there would have been if, say, Elizabeth Warren were the choice

Check.

He also needs someone who is charismatic.

Check.

And he needs a political street fighter.

Check.

Remember her powerful debate performance where she went after Biden? Picking someone who doesn’t pull punches is probably the right person to be a running mate, while Biden can float about it with lofty rhetoric.

Biden may well have picked Harris for other reasons. He already promised he would pick a woman. There was political pressure in the era of Black Lives Matter to pick a Black woman.

And Harris is thoroughly vetted in political campaigns, winning statewide in the largest state in the nation three times and running for president. She started out the obvious pick and then became the expected pick.

In fact, had he not picked her, there would have been a number of stories asking: Why not Harris?

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But now the story is why Harris. And the reason is clear: her lack of political ideology combined with her killer political instinct and high-wattage charisma.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.