Harris and Buttigieg offer a united front among competing reports

That was the official line from Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday as he tried to tone down the chatter about his political future, which has become increasingly entwined with Vice President Kamala Harris, his companion on Thursday’s infrastructure-themed tour.

The trip comes as discussions have heated up in Washington about the possibility that Buttigieg could be positioned as the Democratic Party’s future standard-bearer instead of vice president, if President Joe Biden does not run for re-election in November. 2024. The idea sparked reports of a shadow rivalry between the couple who hung around during their joint trip to North Carolina to advertise newly passed infrastructure legislation and photos. its effect on the country’s transit.

“The whole point of campaigns and elections is, when they go well, you’re in charge. And we’re focusing entirely on the work right now,” Buttigieg told reporters in a news conference. mid-flight fun on Air Force Two.

While it’s not clear whether the joint event was intended to quell the quiet rivalry – a White House official told CNN the trip was planned “in time again,” as was the vice president’s trip. the president is different from the Cabinet secretaries – but both Harris and Buttigieg seem to have gone to great lengths to demonstrate that all was good with the Democratic Party stars breaking barriers.

Before takeoff, Buttigieg left Air Force 2 to greet Harris as she landed at Joint Base Andrews. Standing with Democratic Representative Alma Adams of North Carolina, he and Harris had a quick hug that Harris initiated.

Touring a bus stop in Charlotte, Harris turned to Buttigieg before boarding a new electric bus, saying, “Secretary, will you come with me?” Inside, Harris joked the car “smells that new bus,” causing the secretary to laugh. And when she sat down on the wheel of the bus and honked, Buttigieg was right beside her.

The pair’s goodwill appeared to peak as Buttigieg dedicated part of his remarks to praising the hours that Harris recorded helped turn the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law. law, recounts when she spoke at the “right time” in the Oval. The office, told lawmakers of “the need to think big, not get lost in the details of politics.”

“She was exactly right,” he said. Harris later thanked Buttigieg for his “extraordinary work” as secretary.

Buttigieg, 39, and Harris, 57, had been rivals, along with a group of more than a dozen others, as they competed for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Since then, the couple’s husbands, Chasten Buttigieg and Doug Emhoff, have celebrated their friendship and posted on social media about walks around the country’s capital.

“Interviewed a new babysitter today,” Chasten Buttigieg wrote on Instagram The same day as the couple’s trip, took a picture with Emhoff, who was pushing the Buttigieg twins’ stroller.

But Thursday’s effortless broadcast of a jovial relationship in front of network cameras and traveling print journalists comes as the guessing game of who can take Biden’s place unfolds between Democratic Party members.

Biden has spoken to allies privately and stated publicly that he intends to hold a re-election campaign. But his reassurances didn’t completely stifle doubters, and Harris’s second-in-command role – just a heartbeat away from the president – seems to put her in the key position to run as a candidate. the next Democratic president.

However, CNN reported last month that many in the vice president’s orbit expressed frustration that Harris was not adequately prepared or positioned by The White House and is instead being pushed aside.

The role of the Secretary of Transportation in the future of Democratic politics is one that has been closely watched. Harris loyalists told CNN they saw an unfair standard in the game after West Wing aides sheltered Buttigieg when he was attacked by rights, while Harris received no protection. the same after many mistakes lead to the same criticism.

But on Thursday, Harris’s allies sought to ease lingering tensions.

“The only people thinking about 2024 are the DC bubble and Donald Trump,” a former assistant told CNN. “As far as I can tell, it’s been a pretty good ride, where two Democratic stars are highlighting the administration’s performance on the battlefield in 2022 and 24.”

On Air Force Two, Buttigieg did the same.

“As Minister of Transport, I could be the face of many of the investments we are making, but we would not be here without the leadership of our deputy. president,” added Chairman and others, Buttigieg added.

CNN’s Isaac Dovere and Donald Judd contributed to this report.


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