Harris, 55, was long considered the front-runner for the job. She is already known nationally and was tested on the campaign trail and in the media during her own presidential bid last year.
Biden called her “a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants” in a tweet Tuesday.
She also seemed to be an obvious fit for three key criteria that Biden publicly laid out for his running mate ― accomplished enough to be “ready to be president,” a similar mindset on key issues, and a woman.
Biden and Harris are scheduled to deliver their first public remarks together Wednesday in Delaware.
President Barack Obama praised the announcement, saying, “Joe Biden nailed this decision.”
“I’ve known Senator Harris for a long time,” Obama said in a statement. “She is more than prepared for the job. ... Her own life story is one that I and so many others can see ourselves in: a story that says that no matter where you come from, what you look like, how you worship, or who you love, there’s a place for you here. It’s a fundamentally American perspective, one that’s led us out of the hardest times before. And it’s a perspective we can all rally behind right now.”
The Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee made clear early on that he was going to pick a woman, and as the racial justice protests picked up over the summer, he was under increased pressure to choose a Black woman.
Even before then, Biden and his team recognized the value of having a Black woman on the ticket. Pundits were writing off his presidential bid after his poor showings in the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire. But then South Carolina, whose Democratic Party is largely powered by Black voters, delivered an overwhelming victory to Biden, turning around his campaign.
If elected, Harris would be the first Black and first female vice president in U.S. history.
Charismatic and youthful compared to the 77-year-old former vice president, Harris will also provide something of a contrast to Biden.
She had attracted national attention and was considered a rising star as attorney general of California, even before her election to the Senate in 2016.
Biden’s pick for his running mate is particularly important due to his age. If elected, he would be the oldest president ever at the time of inauguration. During the primary, Politico reported that Biden had signaled he might seek only one term, although he subsequently said he had no such plan.
Being chosen for the vice presidential slot immediately makes Harris a leader of the Democratic Party and a likely front-runner for the nomination after Biden.
The two grew close during his time as vice president, due to her working relationship with his son Beau, who died in 2015. Harris and the younger Biden served as state attorneys general at the same time.
Biden had made clear that he wanted a running mate who was “simpatico with me philosophically.”
“Agrees with me. Now if you’re not, that’s OK, I have great respect,” he said in August 2019. “But you’ve got to be able to turn and say to your vice president, ‘This is your responsibility.’ Because the job is too big anymore for any one man or woman.”
Harris dropped her presidential bid in December after her campaign failed to bring in enough money. At the time, Biden said that he deeply respected the senator and that she could “be the president one day herself.”
In early March, Harris endorsed the former vice president’s bid, saying there was “no one better prepared than Joe to steer our nation through these turbulent times and restore truth, honor, and decency to the Oval Office.”
But Harris and Biden also had one of the most memorable arguments during the primary debates.
During the first Democratic debates in June of last year, Harris challenged Biden over his praise of segregationist senators’ “civility” ― which she called “very hurtful” ― and his opposition to busing in the 1970s.
“There was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day,” she told him. “And that little girl was me.”
The moment was biting. Biden performed poorly during the debate, raising questions about his ability to handle the pressures of the campaign and whether many of his old positions were too out-of-step for the current party. It also stung for Biden, who didn’t expect Harris to go after him so aggressively because of her relationship with his late son.
“I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn’t prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me,” Biden told CNN after the debate. “She knew Beau. She knows me.”
Former Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), who led the vetting process in Biden’s running mate search, was reportedly skeptical of Harris in part because of that debate performance, questioning whether she would be loyal to Biden.
Harris’ record as California’s attorney general (2011-2017) and San Francisco’s district attorney (2004-2011) came under scrutiny from progressives and some activists during the primary, particularly for not doing enough on criminal justice reform and for pursuing policies that disproportionately harmed Black and brown communities.
But she has made no apologies for her time as a prosecutor, saying last year that there was a “lot about what I did ... that I’m proud of.”
Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, brought up the old debate moment and called Harris a “phony” for now standing with Biden.
“Not long ago, Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received,” she said. “Clearly, Phony Kamala will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party.”
The Trump campaign has been trying to portray Biden as a radical under the influence of the left wing of the party, and it immediately tried to do so with Harris as well.
“In her failed attempt at running for president, Kamala Harris gleefully embraced the left’s radical manifesto, calling for trillions of dollars in new taxes and backing Bernie Sanders’ government takeover of healthcare,” Pierson added. “She is proof that Joe Biden is an empty shell being filled with the extreme agenda of the radicals on the left.”
The “radical” attack was expected. Even before Biden announced, the Trump campaign was making clear it was prepared to attack whoever it was as too far to the left.
“The Trump campaign has already discredited their attacks before we’re even out of the gate by announcing that regardless of who Joe Biden nominates, they’ll strain to depict the VP candidate as ‘radical’ ― just like they’ve tried and failed to do with Biden himself for months,” said Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates. “In other words, they’ve flat out admitted they will lie.”
Speculation about Harris picked up after an Associated Press photographer snapped pictures of Biden’s written talking points at a recent press conference, which included notes about the California senator. “Do not hold grudges,” it read. “Campaigned with me & Jill.” “Talented.” “Great help to campaign.” “Great respect for her.”