As much as I dislike her, and I dislike her strongly as a careerist phony even by Washington standards, I don’t know that it’s fair to call her a bad candidate. She’s not bad on paper. Young, smart (fluent in Mandarin!), twice-elected from a populous blue state, seemingly progressive enough on policy for the Democratic Party in 2019 apart from her problematic coziness with Wall Street. She stood out among the field for her outspoken feminism, a potentially shrewd brand in a party that draws the support of most of America’s women. In theory she could have been top tier.
But in practice? Man, was she dreary. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more pointless campaign run by a major politician. In an all-male field, her focus on #MeToo and family issues might have distinguished her. But there’ll never again be an all-male Democratic field; she was just background noise to Warren and Harris. In the end I suspect the depth of her “performative and obnoxious” opportunism shone through: Gillibrand always seems to be trying too hard to please whatever constituency she’s pandering to at a given moment. She’s fine as a reliable Democratic vote in the Senate but no lefty with an ounce of sense is gambling on a pol as calculating and self-interested as her to be an ideological stalwart as president. If she was willing to knife conservatives to gain higher office in New York, she’d be willing to knife progressives to gain and retain the highest office of all.
Now she’s free to embrace her destiny of being successfully primaried by AOC in 2024.
Today, I am ending my campaign for president.
I am so proud of this team and all we've accomplished. But I think it’s important to know how you can best serve.
To our supporters: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Now, let's go beat Donald Trump and win back the Senate. pic.twitter.com/xM5NGfgFGT
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) August 28, 2019
Trump bid her adieu as only he can:
A sad day for the Democrats, Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped out of the Presidential Primary. I’m glad they never found out that she was the one I was really afraid of!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2019
It’s not a total loss. She’s only 52. She can build on the national exposure she got with this campaign to run more formidably in 2024.
No, wait, what am I saying? She didn’t get any meaningful national exposure this year. She made two debates and was a non-entity in both, with her most memorable moment coming when Joe “What Day Is It?” Biden owned her for being so opportunistic in criticizing him on women’s issues. The only two Gillibrand storylines for months have been (1) boy, her polling really sucks, and (2) Democrats are holding this Al Franken thing against her, huh?
And as for 2024, what would have to happen between now and then to make this radicalizing party turn to a cynic like Gillibrand as its nominee? If she’s the answer, what’s the question?
It was her failure to make the third debate that led her to throw in the towel:
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who presented herself in the presidential race as a champion of women and families, said Wednesday that she was withdrawing from the Democratic primary after failing to qualify for a third debate next month — a development she described as fatal to her candidacy.
Ms. Gillibrand said in an interview that she would endorse another candidate in the primary but had not yet picked a favorite. Though she stopped short of saying she would endorse a woman, Ms. Gillibrand, who has made electing women to Congress a personal cause, said the next president had to be capable of uniting the country and suggested that a woman might be best suited for the job.
“I think that women have a unique ability to bring people together and heal this country,” Ms. Gillibrand said, adding, “I think a woman nominee would be inspiring and exciting.”
I’m morbidly curious to see who she endorses, precisely because she’s so calculating. Gillibrand’s first, second, and third tasks politically at all times are to advance Kirsten Gillibrand’s career. That logic argues for ultimately endorsing Biden, the likeliest nominee, if the race narrows to a “Biden vs. Warren” fight. But choosing a man — an old, white man, no less — over the would-be first woman president would be extremely off-brand, and would do her no favors with the progressive crowd that’s rightly suspicious of her loyalty to the cause. Endorsing Warren might do more for her career long-term.
Either way, Gillibrand will hold out on endorsing for as long as she can to make sure the ass she ends up kissing is likely to win.
Let’s remember her this way, getting embarrassed by Biden on national television.