Sunday, December 3, 2023

Kamala Harris Drops Out of 2020 Race

‘She has proved to be an uneven campaigner who changes her message and tactics to little effect and has a staff torn into factions…’

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Kamala Harris/Photo by InSapphoWeTrust (CC)

(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headline) Sen. Kamala Harris said Tuesday that she was dropping out of the 2020 Democratic primary race.

“I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life,” she said, according to Politico. “My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.”

In addition to her fundraising struggles, Harris faced waning popular support among Democratic voters, signaling to some insiders that her beleaguered presidential bid may be approaching its final death spiral after months of disappointing decline.

Embarrassed by a series of negative “Pinocchio” awards from Washington Post fact-checkers, even left-leaning media outlets seemed to have abandoned their early hopes and acknowledged her flawed candidacy.

“She has proved to be an uneven campaigner who changes her message and tactics to little effect and has a staff torn into factions,” said a recent New York Times profile.

An Epic Fall

Harris’s announcement followed two new polls showing that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a recent entry into the primary race, already had surpassed her.

While several other candidates—including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and, most recently, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock—have dropped out of the race already, the Times observed that Harris was the only “top tier” candidate who had “fallen hard” from her early projections.

Her final poll plunge came amid news that a key staffer had resigned, issuing in her wake a scathing letter that cited the campaign’s disfunction and low morale as reasons.

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Kamala Harris/IMAGE: ABC News via YouTube

“This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly,” wrote Iowa Operations Director Kelly Mehlenbacher in her letter, which was published by the Times.

“While I still believe that Senator Harris is the strongest candidate to win the General Election in 2020, I no longer have confidence in our campaign and its leadership,” she said.

Mehlenbacher’s departure stemmed from a recent round of “restructuring” that laid off many employees and consolidated the campaign’s Washington, DC bureau with its Baltimore operations. The two cities are about an hour apart in favorable traffic—which is rarely favorable.

Mehlenbacher echoed past criticisms of the campaign’s indecisiveness, saying that Harris was insulated from critical feedback by campaign chair Maya Harris, the candidate’s sister.

“Our campaign For the People is made up of diverse talent which is being squandered by indecision and a lack of ‘leaders who will lead,’ Mehlenbacher said. “That is unacceptable.”

Branding Troubles

Harris—a freshman senator elected in 2016 to succeed longtime lawmaker Barbara Boxer—first garnered national buzz last year, during the confirmation hearings for then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

She struck many as a dispassionate and unrelenting foe of the Trump administration, drawing on her background as an ice-veined San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general.

But those qualities failed to gain her traction against her fellow left-wingers.

She peaked after the first debate, when she successfully deployed a race-baiting attack against former Vice President Joe Biden. However, she was unable to follow through with a set of comprehensive policy proposals, instead attempting to hedge her bets on signature liberal agenda items like Medicare for All.

Candidates during the first Democratic primary debate raise their hand in response to a question over their support for eliminating private health insurance. / IMAGE: America Rising PAC

A string of miscues and reboots branded her a serial flip–flopper. Efforts to appeal to a broader electorate by showcasing her softer side seemed to second-guess her strengths as a stone-faced automaton, but she still fell flat in conveying genuine warmth.

Strategically, Harris sought to funnel her resources into Iowa, where early success often translates to renewed momentum, doing so at the expense of other crucial campaign fronts like New Hampshire and her home state of California—the biggest electoral prize of all.

Harris—and several other 2020 hopefuls from the U.S. Senate—also were hoisted with their own petards by the timing of an impending impeachment trial against  President Donald Trump, likely to occur early next year.

Having long advocated for impeachment, the senators may now be forced to suspend campaigning in four early primary races—and possibly even Super Tuesday at the start of March.

Funding Dilemma

Echoing her policy struggles, Harris remained stuck in limbo over fundraising, wavering between the need to present herself as a grassroots progressive and the temptation to tap her Rolodex of wealthy, West Coast mega-donors.

Although Harris benefited from her popularity in places like Hollywood and Silicon Valley, the entrances into the race of two top Democratic donors—Bloomberg and hedge-fund investor Tom Steyer—proved a considerable setback for those unequipped to structure their campaigns around smaller donations.

Other candidates cut from the same cloth as Harris, such as former Obama Housing Secretary Julian Castro and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, also have hinted at ending their campaigns should they fail to meet the threshold for future debates.

During the final quarter of the 2019 fiscal year, Harris spent more than she took in, shelling out $14.6 million while raising only $11.8 million, the Washington Times reported.

Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris / IMAGE: Sen. Kamala Harris via Facebook

She closed October with only $10.5 million left in the bank while continuing to lose momentum to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Questions now linger as to who will most benefit from Harris’s departure. Morning Consult’s polls have often showed Warren, the only other leading female, as the second choice of Harris supporters.

But increasingly, indicators have pointed to the possibility that another black, female candidate—Michelle Obama—might enter the race to fill the void left by Harris.

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