Harris and Buttigieg unite amid reports of rivalry
The trip took place as talks in Washington intensified over the possibility that Buttigieg could be positioned as the future Democratic Party standard-bearer instead of vice president, if President Joe Biden does not stand for re-election in 2024. The idea sparked reports of a phantom rivalry between the two men that hovered over their joint trip to North Carolina to tout the new infrastructure law and its effects on the nation’s public transit.
“The whole point of campaigns and elections is that when they’re going well, you can govern. And we’re completely focused on the job at hand,” Buttigieg told reporters during a mid-air group. aboard Air Force Two.
Before taking off, Buttigieg left Air Force Two to greet Harris upon landing at Joint Base Andrews. Alongside Democratic Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina, he and Harris shared a quick hug that Harris initiated.
While visiting a bus depot in Charlotte, Harris turned to Buttigieg before boarding a new electric bus, saying, âSecretary, will you join me? Inside, Harris joked that the vehicle “smells like a new bus,” which made the secretary laugh. And when she sat at the wheel of the bus and honked her horn, Buttigieg was right next to her.
The couple’s goodwill seemed to reach a crescendo when Buttigieg devoted part of his remarks to praising the hours Harris saved to help turn the bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law, recounting a time when she spoke “just at the right time” in the Oval Office, explaining to lawmakers “the need to think big, not to get lost in the details of politics.”
“She was absolutely right,” he said. Harris then thanked Buttigieg for his “amazing job” as secretary.
Buttigieg, 39, and Harris, 57, were once rivals, along with a group of more than a dozen others, when they competed for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. Since then, the couple’s husbands, Chasten Buttigieg and Doug Emhoff, have bragged about their friendship and posted on social media about their walks in the nation’s capital.
But Thursday’s not-so-easy broadcast of a cheerful relationship in front of network cameras and on-the-go print journalists comes as guessing games about who might take Biden’s place are underway among Democrats.
Biden informed his allies privately and publicly announced that he intended to launch a re-election campaign. But her confidence hasn’t completely stifled skeptics, and Harris’ role as second-in-command – a heartbeat from the presidency – would apparently put her in pole position to be the next Democratic presidential candidate.
The role of the Transport Secretary in the future of Democratic politics has been closely watched. Harris loyalists told CNN they saw an unfair standard at play after West Wing aides covered Buttigieg when he was attacked from the right, while Harris was not given similar protection after multiple missteps that drew similar criticism.
But on Thursday, Harris’ allies sought to downplay the lingering tensions.
On Air Force Two, Buttigieg did the same.
“As transport secretary, I am the face of many of the investments we are making, but we would not be here without the leadership of the vice president,” added the president and others Buttigieg.
CNN’s Isaac Dovere and Donald Judd contributed to this report.