I’m too lazy to go look for the post last month or the month before when she’d just notched another miserable poll and I wondered if she’d end up quitting the race before Iowa. It seemed unlikely. She was once a top-tier candidate, as she famously reminded the world after Tulsi Gabbard embarrassed her during the second debate, and she had lots of wealthy political allies back in California. She’d keep going at least through the caucuses and take her best shot there, hoping for a surprise win that would revive her candidacy.
But the news lately has been bad. The Times published a pre-mortem this past weekend about management chaos at the top of her campaign. News broke this morning that a major fundraiser in New York was being canceled. A poll dropped a few hours ago showing her sliding to two percent nationally, behind — gulp — Michael Bloomberg. The vultures were circling. And now comes the news: She’s done.
Given that she was widely cracked up to be someone who could potentially unite all wings of the party and soar to the nomination, I’d call it the most shocking underperformance in a primary in modern presidential history. Even more so than Scott Walker in 2016, since Walker at least had to contend with a crazy political curveball in the form of Donald Trump. Harris didn’t have to beat Oprah or Michelle Obama for the nomination, she had to beat Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. Even so, she hasn’t been a factor in the race for months. Amazing.
Ms. Harris had struggled financially in recent months as her online fund-raising slowed and her large donors increasingly turned away from her campaign. In the third quarter of the year, she spent more than $1.41 for every dollar she raised, burning through millions of her treasury.
She stopped buying advertisements, both online and on television, slashed staff in New Hampshire and retrenched to Iowa, where she spent the Thanksgiving holiday with her family.
But it was not enough, as the determination was made that she did not have enough financial resources to compete, even as a supportive super PAC began reserving ads on Tuesday, the day she told people she was dropping out.
We now have an answer to the question, “What would happen if a bad retail politician with bad strategy and a badly managed campaign ran for president despite having obvious demographic appeal and potentially lots of money behind her?” She couldn’t get her story straight on Medicare for All, disaffecting progressives and spooking centrists. She spent weeks focused on fundraisers instead of doing legwork in the early states. No one within the campaign seemed to know if campaign manager Juan Rodriguez or Harris’s sister, Maya, was in charge. “With less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win,” wrote one staffer in an angry memo a few weeks ago. Presumably if any one of those factors had been different — clearer message, smarter campaigning, better organization — she’d have made it to Iowa. If more than one had been different, she’d probably be in the top tier and maybe still the odds-on favorite for the nomination.
But here we are. Stand by for updates.
Update: This was indeed her central mistake.
With the benefit of hindsight, Harris had a big opening to compete with Biden or Buttigieg for center-left/electability voters. She made a decision to try to build a base with the left first, which was naturally suspicious of her biography and had high-profile options already.
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) December 3, 2019
I think maybe Harris took her “all things to all Democratic voters” potential too much to heart. She thought she could compete with Biden for black voters as someone who understood their concerns better than he ever could because she’s lived them. So she tacked left on policy, believing that she could also start pulling progressives from Bernie and Warren by pandering on Medicare for All. If it had worked, she’d be leading the polls. But both bases of voters were more loyal to their first choices than she expected. At the end, she had no constituency.
Update: I agree with this too.
I am immensely relieved that Kamala dropped out. She was the one I feared would most pursue an aggressive culture war to stamp out the institutions she disliked.
— Tim Carney (@TPCarney) December 3, 2019
It’s easy to caricature Harris as an imperious prosecutor, eager to take the fight to the “bad guys,” but it’s not really a caricature. No one in the race spoke as often as she did of using unilateral executive power to achieve her policy goals. Keep the pols with autocratic tendencies away from the presidency, please.
Update: Hoo boy.
With Harris dropping out, all 6 of the remaining candidates who have qualified for this month's debate are white. (Biden, Bernie, Warren, Steyer, Buttigieg, Klobuchar).
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 3, 2019
Update: She’s posted a farewell message at Medium. Notable line: “I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.” That’s cute, but the billionaires in the race aren’t members of the top tier. Sanders and Warren in particular are chugging along on small donations.
Update: The chatterati on social media are already touting her as a VP shortlister. That’s true by dint of her name recognition and her status as one of the most powerful African-American women in the party. She checks all the right boxes. But I don’t think Warren would want an all-woman ticket. I don’t think Bernie would want a veep whose commitment to Medicare for All and other progressive programs is highly questionable. (Harris had been campaigning recently by emphasizing that she’s not a socialist.) Buttigieg might be interested since he struggles with black voters, but he might prefer someone a bit younger like Stacey Abrams for his next-gen message. Only Biden seems like an obvious fit.
Update: Ah, here’s an important detail in that NYT pre-mortem I linked up top:
Yet it has come to this: After beginning her candidacy with a speech before 20,000 people in Oakland, some of Ms. Harris’s longtime supporters believe she should consider dropping out in late December — the deadline for taking her name off the California primary ballot — if she does not show political momentum. Some advisers are already bracing for a primary challenge, potentially from the billionaire Tom Steyer, should she run for re-election to the Senate in 2022. Her senior aides plan to assess next month whether she’s made sufficient progress to remain in the race.
“For her to lose California would be really hard and it’s not looking good,” said Susie Buell, a longtime Harris donor from the Bay Area.
If she got crushed in her home state, it’d invite other ambitious Democrats to challenge her for Senate. That scenario has now been averted. Uh, question, though: Doesn’t the fact that she was forced to quit the presidential race two months before Iowa and almost certainly *would* have been crushed in California had she forged on mean that she’s going to see those challenges anyway? Who’s afraid of Kamala Harris at this point?
Update: Charles Cooke gives her political eulogy:
She’s a would-be tyrant whose primary contribution to American life thus far has been to fight “tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors”; who has openly promised to act without Congress; and who has shown us exactly who she is during the Kavanaugh hearings, at which she implied that she knew something terrible about the nominee for the sole purpose of sharing the insinuation on her Twitter feed. Harris is a woman who, if successful (“successful”), would have overseen the mass confiscation of millions of firearms, the seizing of patents, the federalization of abortion law, and, depending on the polling, the elimination of (her word) the private health insurance plans of 180 million people.
Everything that is wrong with American politics is summed up in Kamala Harris. She’s a weather vane. She’s dishonest. She’s a coward. She’s condescending. And she’s a phony. She’s the answer to no useful or virtuous question. Nothing good has come from her election. She has nothing of value to offer America. Goodbye. Bad luck. That’s all, folks.
There are links aplenty in his post to support all of that. We’ve collectively dodged a bullet here.