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Harris doubles down on Biden ticket at Park City fundraiser

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Tribal Summit, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, at the Department of the Interior in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Tribal Summit, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, at the Department of the Interior in Washington.

The vice president’s Utah visit came as some called on President Joe Biden to drop out following the first presidential debate.

Attendee Lisa Grey told KPCW she came to the campaign fundraiser “distraught” after Biden’s debate performance facing President Donald Trump June 27.

But, she said Harris reassured her at the event in The Colony the afternoon of June 28.

Harris only briefly addressed the debate, saying the current president had “a slow start, but a good finish.”

“The president said that this was not his finest moment in terms of the debate,” Harris told the crowd of Utah donors the day after the debate. “He is a great and intelligent and profound thinker.”

It’s the same line she took in a post-debate interview with ABC News, where she also added that the election shouldn’t be decided on the basis of a single debate.

During the debate, the 81-year-old president’s speech was raspy and halting, and at times he appeared to lose his train of thought. That’s raised eyebrows among Democrats and political pundits, some of whom are now questioning whether he should step aside.

While the June 28 fundraiser was underway, The New York Times editorial board called on Biden to drop out.

But Harris reaffirmed her faith in their ticket.

“We’re gonna win,” she said, to cheers from the crowd of Utah donors.

The fundraiser’s hosts said people rallied around the campaign the night of the debate.

“Our phones rang off the hook,” they said, “with people asking, ‘Can we still donate?’ ‘Can we still come tomorrow?’”

Harris’ speech listed the Biden administration’s accomplishments.

She says they invested over $1 trillion in infrastructure and capped insulin prices, and she promised to fight for women’s reproductive rights.

She said Biden approaches his job with “care” and “concern.” Harris contrasted that with Trump, who she says coddles dictators, wants to weaponize the Department of Justice and attack abortion.

The vice president took the mic just after 5 p.m., after several minutes’ delay. Her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, took his planned remarks long to fill the time.

He said he was proud of his wife’s record as a prosecutor, senator and now vice president.

“I know it sounds hyperbolic, but it’s not: this is a binary election,” Emhoff told supporters. “Do you want freedom, or do you not?”

Around 200 people were booked to attend, according to caterers.

Alex Shapiro, executive director of the United Jewish Federation of Utah, said he was part of a delegation selected to discuss anti-semitism with Emhoff, who is himself Jewish.

Shapiro and a few other Jewish leaders got 45 minutes with the second gentleman before his and Harris’ speeches. Shapiro said Emhoff was receptive to their concerns, and Shapiro thinks both he and Emhoff are exhausted by what he sees as a recent rise in hate.

The vice president’s Utah stop marks the third time President Joe Biden’s reelection has appeared in the state over the past year; Biden himself was in Park City to fundraise in August 2023 and First Lady Jill Biden made a stopover here in January to meet with donors and visit a Salt Lake City high school.

In 2020, just 38% of Utah voters backed Biden in the election, while Trump won the state with 58% of voter support. Federal Elections Committee data shows that during this election cycle, Utahns have donated more than $1 million to Biden’s re-election campaign.

ABC News will host the second debate Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. Mountain Time. The location hasn’t been announced.

The general election is Nov. 5.