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GOP struggles to figure out its message about Kamala Harris

Republicans had months to come up with a plan of attack against Kamala Harris. But following the historic announcement, the GOP's message was a mess.
Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Attend Forum On Wages And Working People
Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at forum on wages on April 27, 2019 in Las Vegas.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

With Joe Biden effectively having wrapped up the Democratic nomination months ago, Republican operatives had months to prepare for his running-mate announcement. This gave the party the luxury of time.

In fact, I assumed that Team Trump would put together attacks on each of the major contenders -- especially obvious picks like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) -- and then release the pre-arranged rhetorical assault the moment Biden's operation made the announcement. Both parties recognize the importance of defining opponents early on, so late yesterday was the GOP's opportunity to start making its case and showing the results of months of research.

So, what did Republicans come up with? NBC News' Sahil Kapur had a terrific analysis on this.

Joe Biden's selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate creates a conundrum for which President Donald Trump's campaign didn't have an immediate answer: How to run against her.... The early attacks painted a conflicting portrait of Harris and indicated that Trump's campaign has not yet settled on a coherent and consistent way to criticize her.

Quite right. As much of the Democratic Party rallied behind its new ticket, Republicans struggled to settle on a message. They simultaneously tried to convince the public, for example, that Harris' prosecutorial background is both too far to the left and too far to the right. The same GOP push insisted that the Californian is both a radical liberal and a "phony" whom radical liberals can't trust. [Update: To help drive home the point, Republicans also this morning accused Harris of being both a far-left socialist and the choice of Wall Street.]

When Donald Trump's campaign issued its first statement on Harris being added to her party's ticket, it included two wildly false assertions -- in the first sentence. Even a Fox News anchor felt the need to correct Team Trump's statement on the air.

This wasn't supposed to be an especially tough challenge for the GOP. The game plan would've been obvious to political amateurs: (1) research a likely opponent; (2) identify the opponent's weaknesses; (3) craft a message that would undermine public support for the opponent; (4) execute the plan.

Except, that's not what happened.

It doesn't help that both Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump have donated thousands of dollars to one of Harris' campaigns, as has Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

What's more, two weeks ago today, the president was asked for his assessment of the Democratic senator, amidst rumors that she'd likely be added to Biden's ticket. "I think she'd be a fine choice, Kamala Harris," Trump said. "She'd be a fine choice."

As the dust settles on yesterday's historic news, I expected to know what the Republican message would be about Harris. Evidently, the GOP is still working on it.