3. Harris has not run a good campaign
This theory takes the Harris surge in July more seriously — it was real and represented a real opportunity for the California senator. Her campaign simply squandered it.
Harris’s campaign launch speech was widely praised, and she was strong in the first debate. But she has not had a strategy of keeping herself in the news, the way Warren’s policy rollouts and liberal stances did earlier in the year. And Harris hasn’t built a clear brand and rationale for her candidacy along the lines of Buttigieg’s (“I’m young”), Biden’s (“I can beat Trump”), or Sanders and Warren (“I will take on the wealthy”).
I think this lack of clarity about the rationale for her candidacy — beyond appealing to a broad coalition of Democrats — has led to some of Harris’s stumbles. Her months-long waffling on Medicare for All likely stemmed from a desire to appease both the party’s left-wing (which favors MFA) and the center-left wing (which opposes MFA). But this field may be too big for anyone to straddle the left and center-left — and perhaps health care is an issue where you can’t equivocate. Similarly, while Harris attacked Biden’s past opposition to aggressive school integration plans, she was hesitant to offer much of a proposal of her own on that issue. It seemed like Harris wanted to use that issue to nod at her racial liberalism but wasn’t prepared to commit to a big school integration plan, which might be controversial.