Democratic Primary Exit Survey: Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris was never going to be president. There were a few weeks early on in the Democratic primary where it felt like a possibility. But in the last few months her campaign sputtered as Harris’ staffing struggles overshadowed her policies.

Harris’ dropout announcement comes mere hours after The New York Times reported a Super PAC was poised to make major Iowa ad buys on her behalf. And that comes a little more than a month after Harris tweeted about not having a Super PAC. The Super PAC two-step is a symbol of a campaign that couldn’t find a clear path or messaging. The campaign laid off scores of staff in early November and had been dealing with shoddy communication and low morale for weeks. A story about the campaign’s general failure appeared in Friday’s Times, featuring state operations director Kelly Mehlenbacher’s blistering resignation letter in which Mehlenbacher expressed disappointment that many of the campaign’s new Beltway hires had been laid off without notice or explanation. When news broke earlier this afternoon about Harris canceling a New York City fundraiser, it appeared the writing was on the wall.

Harris exits the primary far more meekly than she entered it. Pundits pegged her as a potential dark horse contender and speculated she might be able to steal delegates from fellow moderates. But aside from a few debate moments—namely taking Joe Biden to task on his support of federal busing—her brief flirtation with frontrunner status faded quickly. Not even the support of California Democrats could prop up her polling skid. By the fourth debate, she polled under Andrew Yang in her home state. Polls from today showed her polling behind Michael Bloomberg, a notably recent primary entrant.

Her campaign’s strategy of gunning for big television moments (as described in the Times piece) worked early but flubbed late, particularly when Harris quixotically called for Twitter to ban Donald Trump for violating the platform’s terms of service during the October Democratic debate.

Harris’ Twitter call-out was one of countless calculated gotchas and one-liners that simply fell flat. She couldn’t escape her past as a tough on crime prosecutor–multiple political observers on Twitter commemorated the end of her campaign with “officer down” tweets.

Still, as a high-profile senator from a large population state, Harris remains a potential Vice Presidential nominee or Attorney General should one of the remaining moderates win the Democratic nod or the presidency. At least she won’t have to campaign for those.

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