At the second debate, Harris didn’t respond well to being attacked herself, and didn’t seem to have much of a second act. Right now, she is looking like Beto O’Rourke: overestimated and reconsidered. Her flip-flop-reflop on health care made her look unserious, her take-down of Biden now looks like a mistake, and the momentum of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with Bernie’s durability in polling, have kept her well out of the top three.
To get back in the conversation Harris has released a new program to help people with disabilities, and launched a new, plucky campaign applause line about Trump — “Dude’s gotta go” — that her husband and other supporters are circulating in GIF form. It’s clever, and some people want it on a T-shirt, but it highlights her central weakness: that she has no message. Yes, she’s super-accomplished and smart and attractive — and a black woman — but unlike Biden’s pitch that he’s the only Democrat who can win, or Warren or Bernie’s calls to reorder the economy, Beto’s more implicit appeal of potentially winning 38 electoral votes in Texas, or even Cory Booker’s call for love, Harris doesn’t have much of a sales pitch, and she doesn’t have a base.
Warren’s surge has produced predictable comparisons, and Harris is learning that the Massachusetts senator not only got started on her white papers earlier and more effectively than anyone else, but that she has been shrewdly lobbying the party establishment.