Kamala Harris appeared happy to be back again at her alma mater, Howard College in Washington. “The first workplace I ever ran for was likely the most complicated campaign I have ever been in,” she recalled with laughter, “and that was freshman class representative of what was then termed the liberal arts student council.”

The US vice-president experienced returned to this historically Black university on Thursday for a complicated campaign of a diverse character: shielding voting rights from a Republican onslaught. It is just a single examination for a prospective future president burdened by heavy anticipations and previously gaining detractors inside and exterior the White Property.

As the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, Harris, 56, is the 1st girl and very first female of color to serve as vice-president. She is also deputy to the oldest president in American historical past – Joe Biden is 78 – developing a heightened perception that she is heir apparent. That puts her every single shift less than the microscope.

“She’s keeping up and is fired up about all of the issues forward,” said Donna Brazile, previous interim chair of the Democratic Countrywide Committee (DNC), who gave Harris what she referred to as a “big sister” hug at the Howard occasion. “The simple fact that we have, in 245 years, the 1st ever feminine vice-president, I’m not stunned that she is going through a larger stage of scrutiny and distinctive benchmarks from preceding vice-presidents.”

Kamala Harris speaks at Howard College in July. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photos

Numerous vice-presidents have taken on distinct and distinct portfolios but Harris commenced with a additional nebulous quick. Asked in an interview in February what her major challenge of focus is, she shot again: “Making positive Joe Biden is a good results.”

Biden, himself a previous vice-president, has been at pains to incorporate Harris at countless set pieces and speeches and guarantee officers make frequent references to the “Biden-Harris administration”. But not like her predecessor Mike Pence, she was not assigned to be the place human being on the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whilst Biden was after a helpful interlocutor among the Barack Obama White Household and Congress, Harris has not been similarly deployed for significant negotiations on legislation. She served only four decades in the Senate, so she does not have deep contacts, even though her responsibility in casting the tie-breaking vote in an evenly and bitterly divided Senate complicates items even further.

As a substitute Harris was handed what some noticed as a poisoned chalice of major the administration’s reaction to an enhance in the circulation of migrants at the southern border. Headlines anointing her a “border tsar” prompted swift pushback from her workforce that her concentration was only on the root triggers in Central America’s northern triangle.

Republicans and conservative media hammered away at the query of when Harris would visit the border. Nevertheless she appeared surprisingly unprepared when, during a journey to Guatemala, NBC News host Lester Holt pointed out “You haven’t been to the border,” presenting the jarring riposte: “And I have not been to Europe.”

She did then go to the border. Harris manufactured the journey to El Paso, Texas – declaring “We have noticed excessive progress more than these very last couple months” – 5 times in advance of Donald Trump staged a border stunt, prompting further more criticism that she was scrambling to steer clear of becoming upstaged.

Kamla Harris tours the El Paso border patrol station in Texas in June.
Kamla Harris tours the El Paso border patrol station in Texas in June. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Harris volunteered to get on another hard mission: combating restrictive voting principles passed by Republican-led legislatures in some states. The scale of the problem was laid bare when Republicans thwarted a landmark voting legal rights invoice in the Senate. On Thursday, at Howard, she introduced that Democrats will devote $25m in voter registration and schooling efforts.

She has also had her share of destructive headlines. Final thirty day period the Politico web site revealed a report primarily based on interviews with 22 existing and former aides, administration officials and associates of Harris and Biden who described reduced morale, bad conversation and “a tense and at instances dour workplace atmosphere”.

The posting singled out Tina Flournoy, Harris’s chief of team, whom sources said “created an insular ecosystem in which tips are dismissed or achieved with harsh dismissals and choices are dragged out. Usually, they reported, she refuses to consider obligation for delicate difficulties and blames staffers for the detrimental success that ensue.”

Then Axios documented tensions in between Biden and Harris’s teams, quoting a number of West Wing officials as calling the vice-president’s office a “shitshow”. It explained: “Some Democrats close to the White Dwelling are increasingly anxious about Harris’s handling of large-profile challenges and political tone deafness.”

The White House dismissed the accounts and supporters of Harris explained it as a whispering campaign. Some cite it as the most current instance of woman politicians becoming held to a distinctive and sexist regular.

Brazile, nonetheless an at-big member of the DNC, explained: “She has around 70 people in her office environment and when one or two men and women complain for the reason that they never have the form of access they didn’t commonly have, I connect with that palace intrigue.

“It’s not deserving of an write-up but it’s deserving of what I like to connect with gossip. It’s unhappy when you study an article that suggests that the chief of personnel is guarding the vice-president that’s why you hire anyone who is difficult, an individual who’s decisive and another person who is aware how to make selections.”

But the report, which stated Biden’s staff are involved about the way Harris’s employees are taken care of, echoed stories of infighting that plagued Harris’s presidential marketing campaign, which started with fanfare but fell apart in December 2019.

Symone Sanders, senior adviser and chief spokesperson for the vice-president, acknowledged that Harris’s status as the initial female and woman of color in the function “does carry along criticism. But I have to convey to you this: she is targeted on the operate and I assume her do the job and the points do discuss for themselves.”

Sanders denied that Harris is getting established up to are unsuccessful with un-winnable triggers.

“Look, the uncomplicated challenges do not make it to the president’s or the vice-president’s desk,” she claimed. “The hardest problems, the most intricate problems, the most pertinent challenges to our country is what tends to make it to their desks. I imagine that the president has shown his have faith in in the vice-president by possessing her oversee some of the most complicated concerns we encounter.”

But Lawrence Haas, former communications director for Vice-President Al Gore, told the Guardian’s Politics Weekly Added podcast: “Kamala Harris, 1st of all, does are likely to have employees operations that are not what you would connect with easy.

“Her campaign for president was famously riven by controversy. I understood anyone who worked on the marketing campaign and verified every little thing that we browse in the newspaper. So I cannot say that I’m terribly surprised to listen to that she’s bought a dysfunctional and tension-loaded operation as vice-president.”

Republicans have seized on the accounts.

They recommend that the previous California senator has lengthy been overhyped and the perceived rocky excursion to Guatemala and Mexico was indicative of someone struggling to obtain their footing. They also suspect that getting on immigration and voting rights puts her in no-gain conditions.

Kamala Harris listens as Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House in May.
Kamala Harris listens as Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Yard at the White Home in May perhaps. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Monthly bill Whalen, a media specialist for California politicians including the ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, said: “The problem listed here is really: is Kamala terribly good at the job she is accomplishing? It’s really quick to drive back and say any time you criticize her, you’re performing so mainly because you are a racist or you are a sexist. I’m sorry but which is a lazy critique. It’s not objectively wanting.

“First of all, this White House has not completed her pretty quite a few favors. They have given her two concerns that they knew were being political losers. The border is the worst area that Biden himself polls in and it is a shedding region due to the fact in essence they’re using an problem in which the roof of the house is on hearth and her technique, the president’s technique, is to converse about the root causes of hearth, not about how to extinguish the hearth. So she’s likely to get burned on that. In some regards, they’re nearly location her up to fall short.”

To Whalen, a exploration fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford College in Palo Alto, it is far from specified that Harris is serving an apprenticeship for the top rated work. “Let’s suppose that Biden is not operating in 2024. Each individual time they give her a job in which she is nearly guaranteed to fail, they’re just guaranteeing it is likely to be a competitive race in 2024.

“In other text, it is not truly producing a wonderful legacy for her, it is not building this formidable issue and the much more that you fellas generate about her probably performing a shaky position or not living up to the hype, it’s just an invitation for some aspiring Democrat to say, ‘You know, I could just take her down. She has a glass jaw.’”

But Democrats contend that, if Biden experienced offered Harris minimal roles or tasks, he would have been criticised for not allowing for her to do the similar variety of tough career that he did when he was vice-president.

Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in the governance scientific studies system at the Brookings Institution thinktank, said: “Biden is carrying out particularly the correct matter in not sidelining her, but offering her big initiatives. He’s supplying her the hard stuff to do and that is specifically what you must do if you want a vice-president to be all set to acquire above.”

Brazile was in the same way upbeat after Thursday’s voting rights event at Howard. “I consider she is honored to provide and also grateful to be a portion of this administration. When I still left her, she said, ‘I’ve got to get again to the White Household, we have obtained a civil legal rights conference.’ I mentioned, ‘Oh my God, you never ever cease.’ She under no circumstances stops.

“One 12 months in the past, when lots of of my colleagues and I sat down to talk about getting a Black female on the ticket, we knew that whoever he [Biden] chosen would confront one of a kind hurdles, the double expectations that we normally see in American media. The reality that she has not only shattered the glass, but she’s strolling above the glass, no 1 should really be stunned.”