Kim Strassel on Kamala Harris Presidential Campaign

It wasn't long ago that Democrats scorned her for her botched presidential run

Kim Strassel - The Wall Street Journal
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Oh, the memory hole. WaPo in Dec: Dropout Harris was an “uneven campaigner” engulfed by “internal turmoil” and “unable to provide a clear message.” Today: a “vibrant and energetic” campaigner, and “vessel for Democratic hopes.”

If commentators are now struggling to define Ms. Harris, it’s because she offers little that is truly defining. The party establishment quickly closed ranks around her 2016 Senate race, allowing her to run a standard liberal campaign that the Los Angeles Times described as “carefully orchestrated” and “overly cautious and scripted.” In her 3½ Senate years, she’s done little by way of legislation, preferring to showboat at hearings. The lack of an animating agenda helps a explain a presidential campaign in which she bounced from left to far-left position, whatever she thought most helpful at the moment. She twice called to eliminate private health insurance—and twice reversed herself the next day after backlash. As Vox noted, the “combination of policy reversals and botched rollout . . . undermined faith in her ability to govern on the issue Democrats rate as most important.”

The campaign was a mess, rocked by infighting, leaks, restarts and financial problems. After the campaign announced layoffs in early November, its veteran Iowa operations manager wrote a scathing resignation letter in which she said she’d “never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly” and expressed dismay at its ability to make “the same unforced errors over and over.” Ms. Harris didn’t even make it to the first contest, dropping out—broke and with embarrassing poll numbers—two months before the Iowa caucuses. The only other “top tier” candidate to implode as quickly or spectacularly was Beto O’Rourke. The Washington Post campaign obituary bluntly called Ms. Harris an “uneven campaigner” who was “engulfed by low polling numbers, internal turmoil and a sense that she was unable to provide a clear message.” The Post this week lauded Ms. Harris as “vibrant and energetic” and a “vessel for Democratic hopes.”

Biden watchers insist the nominee fulfilled the cardinal rule of veep picks: First, do no harm. Possibly, but it’s pretty clear it did no good either. Mr. Biden’s biggest concern remains his lagging enthusiasm numbers. Polls consistently show the majority of Democratic voters notably unexcited about his candidacy. One fix would have been a running mate hailed as a fresh and rising Democratic star. Ms. Harris has alienated key elements of her party, in particular progressives who despise her as a “top cop” from her six years as California’s attorney general. In a poll this week by the Economist/YouGov, Ms. Harris was viewed favorably by only half of African-Americans and very favorably by only 26% of liberals. Will that keep people from pulling a Biden-Harris lever? Maybe not, but she won’t likely be a poll driver.

And there’s still a possibility she’ll do harm. Mr. Biden’s age and questions about his mental acuity guarantee an outsize focus on his running mate, who could end up president. Ms. Harris’s own presidential run proves she has a propensity to make mistakes—potentially big ones. The Trump campaign is eager to define her as a Bernie Sanders liberal, and she’s got a track record that helps—having endorsed Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and gun bans. Many Americans will also remember her leading role in the character assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, matched only in political theater by Cory “Spartacus” Booker. This has the potential to turn off some suburban and independent voters. Even if they don’t rush into Mr. Trump’s arms; they may simply not vote.

Everyone from Julian Castro to Cory Booker to Deval Patrick to Tulsi Gabbard to Elizabeth Warren to Pete Buttigieg, to Amy Klobuchar to Andrew Yang to Tom Steyer to Michael Bennet had more appeal and staying power than Harris. But now we are told she is unbeatable?

Biden Doesn't Have Americans Best Interest At Heart