Democratic National Committee Chairman Jamie Harrison is becoming increasingly frustrated in his role because of limits placed on him by the Biden administration and has been considering an exit strategy before the midterm elections roll around this year, according to inside sources.
Harrison, however, has denied the rumors and told NBC News that his goal is to remain in office for his full four-year term, as he "made a commitment to the president."
Biden named Harrison as chairman when he took office last year, but people with knowledge of the situation told NBC News that the White House has since been freezing out the South Carolina Democrat who ran for office against Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in 2020.
However, Harrison is being hindered by his own political ambitions, as he's long wanted to run for Congress when House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., retires, and he can't do anything seen as harmful to Biden or the party, the sources say.
Part of the issue is that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O'Malley Dillon is making the committee's key decisions and speaks often with other DNC officials but just a few times a month by Zoom with Harrison, NBC's sources said.
Several people who have spoken to the chairman say such limits are frustrating him, and since he took the post last year, he's stayed home in South Carolina rather than flying out to meet with party donors or visiting the DNC headquarters, and the White House is not happy with that.
Further, Harrison and the White House haven't devised a strategy to restore Biden's continually dropping approval ratings.
However, the network spoke with more than two dozen current and former DNC officials, as well as people at the White House, donors, and key Democrats, and almost all of them said the relationship is strained between the White House and Harrison.
Many of those interviewed said there is blame on both sides. The White House is acting in an overbearing manner, they said, but Harrison is being perceived as not understanding his duties and being too reluctant to travel far from his wife and family in Columbia, S.C.
"Has he demonstrated that he’s going to move heaven and earth to raise money and defend the administration? No," one source said. "But it’s pretty impossible to defend what’s happening and not happening."
Harrison, however, urged people to quit gossiping about potential tensions between himself and the Biden White House.
"My hope is that people who have time to engage in the rumor mills and this and that would actually use that energy to register a few more voters," he told NBC.
"My focus is winning. It’s making sure that we keep the majorities in the House and the Senate. It’s not just for the Democratic Party to win, it’s because I'm legitimately scared, legitimately scared about where this country goes if we lose."
The White House also wants Harrison to be out more in public rather than at home, as he's citing COVID concerns as a reason to keep from heading to Los Angeles and New York to speak with donors or to attend big party events for major candidates, said sources.
"You don’t hear about him," a party official said. "You don’t see him. There’s nothing there. He’s not out there fighting the fight.”
However, Harrison does have several supporters, including Biden, who praised Harrison's work during a Dec. 14 fundraiser.
At that time, he said Harrison had done an "outstanding job" as DNC chair and called the committee a "critical partner in all of our work this year. As Democrats, we know what we're for, while Republicans don't seem to be for anything. Name me something they are for. They're against everything.”
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