So Gillibrand’s biggest problem may have simply been that there wasn’t a clear base for her in the Democratic electorate — at least not one for which there wasn’t also fierce competition in the rest of the primary field. After all, she was running against a number of other women who are also strong on issues like abortion rights and equal pay. Without another signature issue to help her stand out, she often got lost in the melee of the primary.
For instance, when several states passed laws dramatically restricting abortion in May, Gillibrand seemed like she could have had a breakthrough moment. She even traveled to two of the states to hold rallies in support of abortion rights, and she called for a federal law that would stop state legislatures from passing limitations on abortion — but so did Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and even Cory Booker. In the second debate, Gillibrand tried again to seize the spotlight by taking Joe Biden to task for his position on a childcare tax credit in 1981 — but unlike Harris’s attack on Biden for his stance on school busing a month earlier, the moment didn’t really land.
In those moments and others, her rivals seemed to harness policies that were key to Gillibrand’s candidacy more effectively than she did. It was Harris, not Gillibrand, who grabbed headlines for her plan to penalize companies for failing to pay men and women equally. And in a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, respondents said that Warren was best qualified to address gender equality, followed by Biden, Sanders and Harris — Gillibrand didn’t even crack the top 10.