winnowing field

Kamala Harris Drops Out of 2020 race

Sen. Kamala Harris (Gage Skidmore)

California Senator Kamala Harris suspended her presidential campaign on Tuesday. 

The news, first reported by The Atlantic, marks the first major departure from the Democratic field. Harris had once polled as high as second in a crowded presidential primary field that at one point numbered more than two dozen candidates.

Harris launched her presidential campaign in January with 20,000-person rally in Oakland, California. The first-term California senator and former state attorney general built up a strong operation in early states and raised nearly $37 million during the course of her campaign.

Her most memorable campaign moment came during the June presidential debate, when she attacked former Vice President Joe Biden for his past opposition to mandatory busing. Post-debate, Harris struggled to take advantage of her moment in the limelight. She also tried with mixed success to straddle the ideological divides within the Democratic primary electorate, at one point reversing herself on support for the Medicare for All legislation introduced by Bernie Sanders. The former San Francisco district attorney also struggled with how to tout her record as a prosecutor.

Harris tried to emphasize her record-breaking candidacy as she hoped to be the first woman and the first woman of color elected to the White House. However, one Democratic strategist supporting a rival candidate told JI, ”They ran basically an identity-first campaign at a time when people want a message and a cause.”

The California senator was forced to cut back on staff after fundraising woes in the fall. Jewish Insider first reported last month that Harris was shutting down her campaign operation in New Hampshire as she attempted to make a last ditch effort in Iowa, even telling a fellow senator “I’m fucking moving to Iowa.”

In a statement posted to Medium, Harris said, “I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life. My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.”

Harris’ announcement was met with what have become commonplace tweets from her former rivals, thanking her for her efforts and voicing support. On the sidelines, staffers for other campaigns prepared to take advantage of the winnowed field.

An Iowa-based operative for another primary campaign told JI, “This is an incredible opportunity, there is only limited amount of media bandwidth available for candidates and this opens some of that up.” 

Harris was one of seven Democratic candidates who had qualified for the December presidential debate in Los Angeles and the only candidate of color to do so. With her departure from the field, fifteen Democratic candidates remain.

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