WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris is hearing a simple message from advisers amid intense scrutiny and a whisper campaign that she's a drag on President Joe Biden: Stay focused on your job. For months, Harris has dealt with that swirling speculation about her future — from within the West Wing and in wider Democratic circles — as her approval rating slid to 28 percent in a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, lower than Biden's 38 percent. By now, the knocks on the vice president are familiar: She stumbled in an interview with NBC News's Lester Holt at the end of her first foreign trip in June, she's had trouble managing staff and, depending on the critic, she has either been sidelined or overwhelmed by her portfolio. These are hardly the missteps of her predecessors, including the two vice presidents who shot fellow Americans while in office — Aaron Burr and Dick Cheney — or Spiro Agnew, who had to resign after he was convicted of taking kickbacks as governor of Maryland. But the stakes are magnified for Harris because so many Democrats don't believe Biden when he says he is running for a second term. That has fueled shadow jockeying among camps loyal to each of the potential candidates, according to nearly a dozen Democratic officials and operatives who spoke to NBC News for this article. "Focus on your job and you will be fine," Donna Brazile, who ran then-Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, recounted telling Harris aides. "At the end of the day, the American people are not going to judge the vice president or the president in the first quarter of play." It's a message for Harris that has been echoed by other advisers who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity. For now, that means a trip to Columbus, Ohio, this week to promote Biden's just-signed infrastructure law and a series of media interviews on the measure. Amid tension between his aides and hers, Biden credited Harris at the bill-signing ceremony and has praised her for her work in the White House. Earlier this month, he sent her to Paris to smooth over France's frustration with being cut out of a nuclear submarine deal with Australia. Harris aides, fearful of perpetuating a narrative of division within the White House, declined to speak on the record about friction between their boss and the big boss. But as familiar as criticism of Harris has become, the constraints on the vice presidency have long been established. It's a political box that prevents Harris from making policy, picking her assignments or campaigning openly for the top job. What's different about Harris's situation is the possibility that she could be running for president in the first election since she won the No. 2 job — and the natural tension between a sitting president's team and a possible successor's has hit full boil in her first year in office. "What I don’t quite understand is what’s coming from inside the White House, the jabs that she’s taking," said Elaine Kamarck, a former White House official in President Bill Clinton's administration and a campaign aide to Gore. "There’s only two possible explanations," Kamarck, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a left-of-center think tank, said. "One is that, inside the White House, there are factions that have other candidates in mind and would like to see her weakened. The other possibility is there’s a sort of personal vendetta being waged b . . . read the full article here.