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I didn’t think we’d reach the “PUPPET SHOW AND KAMALA HARRIS” stage of her vice presidency this soon, but here we are.

“No vice-president since Dan Quayle has made less of an impact in their first year of office than Harris,” said one Democratic operative recently to the New Statesman. “We are now at the point that you can talk about politics for hours without her name coming up.” Even Biden doesn’t want to be seen with her, it seems.

Although he did at least task her with a good photo op recently instead of continuing his habit of piling thankless sh*t-work on her, like trying to solve the border crisis.

I wonder how his calculations about running again would have been affected by having a popular VP who’s widely viewed as a future leader of the party. Realistically it’s impossible for a vice president to have high approval when the president himself doesn’t, but you can imagine an alternate universe in which Biden has a young charismatic veep who comes off polished and ready for primetime in his or her public appearances. In that situation, party chieftains might already be leaning on Sleepy Joe to pass the baton and be the “bridge” to the next generation of Democratic leaders, as he once described himself.

As it is, with Harris below 40 percent favorability, how eager can they be to see him step aside? Even an elderly, badly politically wounded Joe Biden might be a stronger play in 2024 than she is. Biden may see himself as having a duty to run in those circumstances, even if he privately doesn’t feel up to it. Tara Palmeri reports that his staff is getting ready for a reelection announcement in the spring but they’re not sure if he intends to follow through or if the preparations are a just-in-case thing. Either way, everyone’s hoping for a decision soon — a steep ask of a politician who’s infamous for dithering.

The prospect of the incoming congressional Republican majority going after the Bidens hammer-and-tongs is also reportedly weighing on him:

Biden is intently focused on his family, who have become an “unhelpful, distraction” to the White House, as the senior official put it, and a huge consideration for the president. People close to Biden have told me that he is genuinely wondering whether he wants to put himself and his family through the excessive scrutiny that would accompany re-election. Hunter Biden is now under federal investigation, and the White House has been preparing for the reality that Republicans, once they retake the House, could mount a scorched-earth inquisition with the aim of scrutinizing his alleged nefarious political activity and trying to tie it to the president. A Washington Post article reported that senior officials are already strategizing how the White House counsel’s office can be restructured to deal with the “onslaught of investigative requests.” That could mean a war room responding to daily subpoenas. Whatever privacy Biden’s family has preserved over the years, through its many heartbreaking tragedies, could be exposed to the mainstream media through congressional hearings…

Biden also won’t have the luxury of running a campaign from his basement, thanks to Covid restrictions, this time around. He’ll likely have to get his hands dirty, too. “Is he going to play by the rules as he wishes they were, the rules of the past when there was civility? Or is he going to play by the rules that Trump has made, which is a blood bath,” the senior White House official asked rhetorically. “And does he even want to?”

Announcing that he’s not running in 2024 won’t completely deter Republicans from investigating Hunter Biden and other family members but it’ll drain some of the zealousness from them in doing so. If the GOP is no longer wounding the presumptive Democratic nominee by airing his dirty laundry, why bend over backwards to do so? Some voters might even find it off-putting, going after a feeble old guy who’s already halfway out the door.

One overlooked factor in whether Harris succeeds Biden is the fact that Democrats’ primary calendar is in flux. For years, Iowa has led, then New Hampshire, then Nevada, and then South Carolina. But the fiasco in Iowa two years ago has led them to look anew at which primaries should be first, particularly given that Iowa isn’t representative of a party which now relies heavily on urban voters and minorities for its margins. If Biden ends up retiring and Harris gets a primary challenger (or several) to succeed him, the order of the primaries could matter greatly in deciding who ends up being the nominee. For instance, one recent poll found her approval among African-Americans at 73 percent, and South Carolina kingmaker James Clyburn recently told the WSJ that Biden and Harris are “one and two on the ticket, but that’s one and two in my heart as well.”

She was warmly received during a trip to South Carolina recently too:

If the first states to vote in 2024 have large black populations, Harris could sweep them and in so doing build enough early momentum to assure her nomination. And so the DNC can put a thumb on the scale for her — or against her — depending on how they schedule the 2024 primaries. FiveThirtyEight recently tried to game out how they might do so, weighing factors like a state’s diversity, its union membership, its swing-state status, and whether it holds a primary or a caucus. Result:

Nevada was won handily by Bernie Sanders in 2020, albeit via a caucus rather than a primary. The early states mentioned here also have large Hispanic populations, which is good for the party inasmuch as they badly need to find candidates who can win back voters from that group. But I’m not so sure it’s good for Harris given her association with a president who’s suffered a catastrophic decline in popularity among Latinos. Can’t wait to see what the DNC ends up doing. I’ll leave you with this.