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Harris and Buttigieg show a united front despite reports of rivalries

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That was the official line taken by Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday as he tried to downplay the talk about his political future, which is increasingly intertwined with Vice President Kamala Harris, his travel companion on an infrastructure trip.

The trip took place as Washington’s gossip heated up over the possibility that Buttigieg could be positioned as the future Democratic Party banner-bearer in place of the Vice President unless President Joe Biden runs for re-election in 2024, a shadow rivalry between the two about their trip together North Carolina hung out to promote the newly passed Infrastructure Act and its impact on the country’s transit.

“The whole point of campaigns and elections is that you govern when they go well. And we’re fully focused on the task at hand, ”Buttigieg told reporters during the flight aboard Air Force Two.

While it’s unclear whether the joint event was designed to quell the chatter of silent competition – a White House official told CNN the trip was planned “some time ago,” as were other trips the Vice President had with cabinet secretaries – but Both Harris and Buttigieg seemed to go to great lengths to show that all was well with the groundbreaking Democratic stars.

Before take off, Buttigieg left Air Force Two to greet Harris as they land at Andrews Joint Base. Alongside North Carolina Democratic MP Alma Adams, he and Harris shared a quick hug that Harris initiated.

While touring a bus depot in Charlotte, Harris turned to Buttigieg before getting on a new electric bus and said, “Secretary, are you coming to see me?” Inside, Harris joked that the vehicle had “that new bus smell,” which made the secretary laugh. And when she got behind the wheel of the bus and honked the horn, Buttigieg was right at her side.

The couple’s benevolence seemed to reach a crescendo as Buttigieg devoted part of his remarks to praising the hours Harris logged to put the $ 1.2 trillion Infrastructure Act into effect, telling of a time when she spoke at the “right moment” in the Oval Office and urged lawmakers to “think big, not get lost in the details of politics”.

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

Buttigieg, 39, and Harris, 57, were once rivals, along with a group of more than a dozen others, when they ran for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. Since then, the couple’s husbands, Chasten Buttigieg and Doug Emhoff, have touted their friendship and shared their walks around the country’s capital on social media.

“Interviewed a new babysitter today,” wrote Chasten Buttigieg on the day of her spouse’s trip on Instagram and posed in a photo with Emhoff pushing the Buttigieg twins’ stroller.

But the not-so-effortless broadcast of a happy relationship in front of network cameras and traveling print journalists on Thursday comes as a guessing game among the Democrats as to who could take Biden’s place.

Biden has privately told his allies and publicly announced that he intended to launch a re-election campaign. But his reassurance has not completely stifled the doubters, and Harris’ vice-president role – a heartbeat away from the presidency – would apparently put her in the pole position to become the next Democratic presidential candidate.

However, CNN reported last month that many around the Vice President have expressed frustration over the fact that Harris has not been properly prepared or positioned by the White House and is instead being put on the side.

The role of the Minister of Transport in the future of democratic politics has been closely watched. Harris loyalists told CNN they saw an unfair standard in the game after West Wing Aides Buttigieg took cover when he was attacked by the right, while Harris was not given similar protection after several missteps bringing similar criticism.

But on Thursday Harris’ allies tried to downplay any lingering tensions.

“The only people thinking of 2024 are the DC bubble and Donald Trump,” a former employee told CNN. “As far as I can tell, it has been a pretty good trip, with two Democratic Party stars highlighting top government achievement on a battlefield of 2022 and ’24.”

Buttigieg did the same with Air Force Two.

“As Minister of Transport, I am the face of many of the investments we are making, but we would not be here without the vice-president’s leadership,” added the president and others, added Buttigieg.

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

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