This is the first in our series of early analysis of the candidates vying for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. We will try and provide 1-3 of these a week covering all of the candidates.
Hometown: Oakland, CA
54 years old, Senator from California, Former Prosecutor and CA Attorney General
Kamala Harris is one of those candidates who has always worked within public life and continued to excel and move up within the ranks until today, when she runs for President of the United States. She’s always been ambitious, but there’s nothing wrong about that. The easiest parallel is to Barack Obama, who spurned huge offers out of Harvard law to work as a community organizer and state senator. Harris served as a D.A. in San Francisco for two terms before running for Attorney General, and ultimately Senator.
She clearly has the experience, demeanor and discipline to win a campaign for President. As a matter of fact, if you look at all of the large subgroups composing the Democratic Party, she checks off a lot of boxes. In some ways, she’s the candidate that probably has the broadest appeal, but at the moment it doesn’t appear to have solid depth. This actually gives her the flexibility to appeal to any particular group based on events that may unfold, and is a wise strategy at this point in the campaign. She will have to excite and be the prime candidate for some of these groups come caucus/primary day, but right now, she’s probably on the top 5 list of every democrat, even if she’s not their favorite.
Coming from California, she’s found it easy so far to raise a lot of money as well. She’s spent a lot of her cash on hand early setting up a national organization and hiring consultants. That’s both good and bad (it didn’t help Scott Walker, or for that matter Hillary Clinton) but she has a solid base from which to turn to for support and fundraising. Money should not be a problem for her.
Path to the Nomination
Normally, a candidate would have to do well in Iowa, NH or SC to stay in the race. However, California moved their nomination election from late in the season (it had been in June) to one of the earlier states. The delegate rich state along with its huge network of donors, tech billionaires and dem insiders could give a huge boost to any campaign. It’s entiely plausible she could have mediocre showings in those typically early states, win in California, and ride the wave to the end.
The downside of this strategy is that it didn’t work for Rudy Giuliani when he chose to forego IA, NH and SC in favor of Florida, and then failed to even fare well there, being an also-ran everywhere else. There’s something about the momentum of those early states that carries over. Also, if no other candidate contests California seriously, Harris could come out of the state diminished as it being her home state.
Long story short, if she’s unable to have a good showing anywhere else, it may be a short campaign, but if she can manage a second place finish in one of the first three states, she may be able to take California and plow through the rest of the field the rest of the way.
The early consensus of her campaign is that she has a very high upside. She’s viewed as a favorite among those who had never run previously, and she has a strong potential. So far she has been careful and cautious. She hasn’t said or done anything that can be seen as problematic or a mistake, although that also makes her less dynamic early compared to some of the more energetic candidates. She’s let other candidates have their day when they announced while she continued to work in the background raising money and volunteers. Now, with the field largely set, we’ll see how she adapts to the field. She should do fine at the debates, and one good performance can propel her to the top.
For now, we’ve place her in our second tier, behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in the first tier, and grouped with Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren as up and comers primed to jump up with a good debate performance, a solid noteworthy moment or if one of the top tier candidates falters.
In any event, Kamala Harris looks to be running saavy campaign so far, and should be a force to be reckoned with through the early goings and possibly throughout the 2020 elections.