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BOSTON – US Vice-President Kamala Harris has shown a punchy side during a tour of nearly a dozen American states in recent weeks, attacking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for backing “revisionist history” about slavery, telling Iowa healthcare workers to rebel against the state’s new restrictive abortion laws and rallying Latinos in Chicago to fight “extremist” Republicans.

On Saturday, Ms Harris, the first woman and first woman of colour to serve as vice-president, opened the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) annual conference in Boston, a key political event for Black Americans that will help define the issues Democrats focus on in the 2024 election.

“We are in a moment where there is a full-on attempt to attack hard-fought and hard-won rights and freedoms and liberty. And what I know about the leaders here is that the members of NAACP are up to the challenge to fight,” Ms Harris, a lifetime member of the civil rights organisation, told several thousand people inside the city’s convention centre.

The high-profile appearances are part of an expanded role for US President Joe Biden’s much-scrutinised governing partner ahead of the election, senior Democrats say. She will engage in many more campaign-style events in months to come, designed to reacquaint her with supporters, burnish her image with independents and reach out to Democrats who have not been hearing the Biden administration’s message.

It is a move that could not happen too soon, some influential Democrats say.

“We have constantly said to the White House that they need to send her out more because we need the base – that is Black voters and others – to understand what you are doing,” Reverend Al Sharpton, a veteran civil rights activist and head of the National Action Network, told Reuters.

Mr Biden credits Black voters for his 2020 victory, with exit polls showing he carried 87 per cent of the vote. But recent polls and turnout in the 2022 midterms reveal erosion in enthusiasm among the bloc that needs to be shored up before next November.

Ms Harris also made a surprise visit to a congressional black caucus event at Roxbury Community College, where she reminded the crowd of the role Black voters played in capturing the White House for Mr Biden. She said, as a result, the administration capped insulin prices, increased removal of lead pipes and secured broadband for under-served communities.

“Let’s start registering folks now to vote,” she said. “Remind your friends and your neighbors to do that.”

The White House is also hoping to improve Harris’ public image and historically low approval ratings. A recent NBC News poll showed 49 per cent of registered voters hold a negative view of Ms Harris, compared to 32 per cent with a positive view, a net-negative rating of 17 that is the lowest for a vice-president in the history of its poll.

While it is too early to say whether her polls are improving, Ms Harris’ remarks are drawing new Republican fire, and highlighting divisions in the opposition.

Governor DeSantis on Friday accused US Senator Tim Scott, the most high-profile Black candidate in the 2024 Republican presidential race, of accepting Ms Harris’ “lie” about Florida’s new slavery curriculum requirements. His campaign accused another Black Republican who criticised the changes, which include teaching that slavery had possible benefits to the enslaved, of being a Harris supporter. US VP Harris embraces new attack role, draws fresh Republican fire

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