Kamala Harris quits presidential race — what it means for California
California Sen. Kamala Harris seemed all but destined to be a front-runner when she launched her Democratic presidential campaign before a cheering throng of 20,000 supporters in downtown Oakland last January. A prosecutor to take down Trump, a black woman in a party disproportionately made up of black women, a U.S. Senator from the country’s largest state — on paper, she looked formidable.
This was before former Vice President Joe Biden entered the race. Before Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren rocketed to the top tier. Before Harris proclaimed that she was “moving to Iowa” (expletive deleted) and before the campaign adopted and then discarded a handful of ill fitting slogans (“Dude gotta go.”) Before the campaign’s internal drama found its way into Politico and The New York Times, which last week headlined its story “How Kamala Harris’s campaign unraveled.”
This morning, Harris announced that she was throwing in the towel, leaving a field of 15 Democratic candidates — many of whom are still polling below her. Her “political pragmatist” label failed to resonate with the mood of her party’s electorate, and calling herself a “progressive prosecutor” served to dredge up questions about just how progressive she really was as San Francisco’s district attorney or California’s attorney general.
But according to Harris, it simply came down to money.
“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,” she said in a press release this morning — a final dig at Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and John Delaney, three billionaires who remain in the field.
Harris’ decision to drop out two months before the Iowa Caucus isn’t just a national story. It’s also a California one. Her Senate term extends through 2022, assuming she isn’t tapped for a vice presidential slot or potential Cabinet position in a Democratic presidential administration. It’s unclear how appealing that would be to her; what is clear is that she is ambitious and has plenty of years to try for higher office again. Here’s what else the end of her 2020 bid means for the Golden State:
Our votes, cash and endorsements now up for grabs
If polls are anything to go by, Harris’ sudden departure from the race is probably good news for Warren, senator from Massachusetts.
A recent Capitol Weekly poll of likely Democratic voters in California showed 45% of Harris supporters back Warren as their second choice. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg took another 16% and 13%, respectively.
But the race is still so “neck and neck and neck,” said Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc., who conducted the poll, that the distribution of Harris’ relatively small share of the electorate in California isn’t likely to crown any one candidate the clear frontrunner. It could provide a bit of leverage for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has prioritized vote mobilization in California and now boasts 80 in-state staffers, as well as Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who is skipping the early states entirely and instead plowing millions of dollars in advertising into California and other states that vote on March 3.
Where Harris had a more commanding presence in her home state was in endorsements and big money fundraising.