The mention of Obama goes deeper than just a coupling of two fast-moving political careers. With Obama out of office – and the current president a very demographically conventional septuagenarian white man – Harris has become a very convenient stand-in for those who don't like the idea of another person of color, let alone a female, leading the country, analysts say.
"The modern Trump Republican Party defines itself by defining who they're not, and race is a big motivating factor," says Democratic consultant Jenny Backus. "They want to directly define themselves as not being the party of diversity, not being the party of women. It's a strategic mistake – they're fighting last year's war."
Harris is a more appealing target for Republicans, Backus says, since "it's very hard for them to define Joe Biden, and Joe Biden is popular. He's a white man, so they can't change the subject to the culture wars." But Harris, as a woman of color and the daughter of immigrants, feeds that part of the GOP playbook, Backus says.
Republicans have labeled Harris a "socialist" and "radical," and have cast her support of the Black Lives Matter movement as an endorsement of violence.
Amid Trump's second impeachment trial, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and Trump loyalist, speculated that Harris could suffer the same fate because she urged people to donate to a fund to help pay bail for activists arrested at Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd.
"If you use this model, I don't know how Kamala Harris doesn't get impeached if the Republicans take over the House, because she actually bailed out rioters, and one of the rioters went back to the streets and broke somebody's head open," Graham told "Fox News Sunday," providing no evidence for his claims.
Days after Harris' swearing in, some pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention compared the vice president to Jezebel, an evil biblical figure who in modern colloquial parlance is used to describe a scheming, power-hungry woman.
"I can't imagine any truly God-fearing Israelite who would've wanted their daughters to view Jezebel as an inspirational role model because she was a woman in power," tweeted Tom Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas, on Jan. 22.
Later, he followed up with another tweet: "I 100% stand by it," he wrote. "Should Jezebel, who governed in godless ways, have been a role model simply because she was a woman in power? If not, why should Kamala, who's governed in godless ways, be a role model just because she's a woman in power?"
Trump, notes Tamura Lomax, associate professor of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University, told his supporters during the 2020 campaign that Americans "can't let" Harris become the first female president, stoking the prospect of her potential succession to the role even before Biden won the election.
"There's so much fear around it," says Lomax, author of the 2018 book "Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Religion and Culture." "The position that she's in – she's already there. There's one more position, and that's the presidency. People are losing their minds over the possibility of her being president."
As for the "Jezebel" attacks from the Southern Baptist pastors, "that is not incoherent banter," Lomax adds. "It is meant to 'other' her."
Less than two months into office as vice president, Harris has years to counter such attacks and build a record of her own. "She's in a position of really defining herself now," Goldstein says. "It strikes me that she's a powerful operator, potentially diplomatically as well as domestically – whether you can see a woman as a natural leader.
"It sends a message not just to little girls, but to little boys. Not just to women but to men," Goldstein adds. "In a sense, the election of the vice president was more important than the election of the president." A role, experts say, Harris could one day hold.