Tulsi Gabbard announced she was running for president a couple weeks ago. According to Politico, the timing of that announcement came as a surprise to her own team. They had spent months preparing for an announcement only to have Gabbard pull back a couple of times. So her announcement in an interview with Van Jones earlier this month left her nascent campaign flat-footed and unprepared:
Three people familiar with the presidential bid over the past few months describe a candidate who managed to be both indecisive and impulsive. Just announcing her candidacy became a minisaga that exhausted and bewildered people involved.
At first, Gabbard had vendors and staffers working through Thanksgiving weekend to get ready for a campaign rollout, only to pull back. Over the next several weeks, Gabbard went up to the starting line again — signaling to her team that a green light was imminent — only to make repeated retreats.
The pattern of false starts continued through Christmas and New Year’s, frustrating people who worked through the holidays.
When Gabbard did finally announce she would make a 2020 run, her team was blindsided. “I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” she told CNN on a Friday night in a pre-taped interview for “The Van Jones Show.”
The Gabbard campaign website was not ready to go live; social media posts weren’t ready to be sent out. And Gabbard hadn’t signed off on the launch video.
Gabbard did eventually release a campaign video but it was 13 days later. As these things go, I thought the result was pretty good (watch below) but this should have been ready and waiting when the announcement was made. Similarly, you don’t announce you’re running if your website isn’t 100% ready to take money and information from supporters the moment you speak. These seem like basics that anyone who has run for office should already know.
The lesson here is pretty plain: Don’t make your people work through the holidays only to hesitate and then make them do it again. Indecisive behavior like that breeds bad will and bad will is how you wind up with a story at Politico saying your campaign is a mess two weeks into your run.
In the long run, this is not a good start but she could recover. Presidential campaigns are popularity contests. They’re not about policy, they’re about putting out a winning image and vision that makes people want to get on board your bandwagon. Gabbard can either do that or she can’t. If she can, the early stumbles won’t matter and if she can’t…the early stumbles won’t matter. The campaign ad is decent, but I don’t see how she surges ahead of Kamala Harris or Bernie Sanders with this message.