Some of Kamala Harris’ own aides and supporters have gone nuclear on her sinking presidential campaign as her star power in the Democratic 2020 primary has faded.
Harris’ presidential campaign, which has dropped to low single digitals in the polls and struggled with raising the money needed to support her bid, was subject to back-to-back political obituaries in The New York Times and Washington Post on Friday.
Harris, who was seen as a promising early contender to take on President Donald Trump next year, has struggled to come up with a consistent campaign message and strategy.
The pieces about her campaign struggles indicate the concern Democrats’ have that their once promising candidate doesn’t have what it takes to win the nomination.
Kamala Harris’ own aides and supporters are questioning her campaign tactics
Harris has shifted her campaign focus to Iowa, where she spent Thanksgiving
Harris has refocused her efforts in Iowa, the first state to vote in the Democratic primary process, after having to fire staff and close campaign offices in New Hampshire.
Harris and her family spent Thanksgiving in Iowa – the only presidential candidate to do so.
But the pieces in The Times and The Post feature aides questioning the decisions of campaign manager Juan Rodriguez and report on in-fighting between different camps in the senator’s campaign – including one siding with her sister, Maya Harris, who chairs the Harris campaign.
Kelly Mehlenbacher, Harris’ state operations director who quit her campaign to join Michael Bloomberg’s, wrote a blistering resignation letter that was obtained by The Times.
‘This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly,’ she wrote, criticizing Rodriguez and Maya Harris for laying off aides with no notice. ‘With less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win.’
Harris started off strong.
Her official campaign launch – on Martin Luther King Day in her hometown of Oakland, Calif. – earned praise from none other than Donald Trump, who said she had ‘the best opening so far’ of the Democratic presidential wanna-bees.
The California senator also got in a memorable hit on frontrunner Joe Biden in the first Democratic primary debate, when she criticized his opposition to a federal school busing program in the 1970s
Harris told the former vice president about a little girl who benefited from such a program, adding ‘and that little girl was me.’
Her story stuck a chord among Democrats and Harris shot up the polls and raked in the money.
But it was all down hill from there – a momentum she has yet to turn around.
Besides laying the blame with her campaign manager, several aides also blamed Harris herself for struggling to define herself and stay focused on one path.
Aides point out she will go on the attack against a rival, only to then retreat, and has yet to define her place in the moderate vs. liberal wings of the party.
Some have blamed Harris’ campaign struggles on her manager Juan Rodriguez
Others say Harris sister, Maya Harris, seen above at a Democratic debate with Doug Emhoff, the candidate’s husband, has an outsized influence on the campaign
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, who’s endorsed Harris, told The Times that Rodriguez should be fired but also said Harris has to take some of the blame as candidate as ‘it’s her campaign.’
‘I have told her there needs to be a change,’ Fudge said. ‘The weakness is at the top. And it’s clearly Juan. He needs to take responsibility — that’s where the buck stops.’
Others point the blame toward Maya Harris, the candidate’s sister who has broad influence over mutiple campaign.
Harris did not comment for either piece in the Times or the Post but Rodriguez said in statements: ‘Our team, from the candidate to organizers across the country, are working day in and out to make sure Kamala is the nominee to take on Donald Trump and end the national nightmare that is his presidency.’
‘We have had to make tough decisions to compete in Iowa and ensure Kamala is in a position to be the Democratic nominee, but Maya, I, and the rest of the amazing team are pouring our heart and soul into winning this campaign,’ he noted.
Some of Harris’ supporters argue she faces a steeper hill to climb as a candidate who is both a woman and a minority.
Harris campaigning at a senior living center in Iowa – she has refocused her campaign to smaller events instead of large rallies
There are also larger forces in the Democratic Party at play – the fight between moderates and liberals plus the best method to follow on health care policy, which are things Harris never had to deal with in any of her previous political campaigns.
But Harris has struggled to raise money.
Her adviser hoped after last week’s debate in Atlanta, where Harris won high marks, enough money would be raised so she could air a new campaign ad, the Post reported. As of Wednesday, the funds hadn’t materialized.
She’s also struggled to define her candidacy, slow to define her positions on health care, criminal justice reform and other areas of interest to Democratic voters.
‘If she doesn’t turn it around in the next couple months, what I think we may end up saying what doomed her candidacy is there just wasn’t any clear rationale,’ Paul Maslin, a longtime Democratic pollster, told the Post. ‘She didn’t give the voters — they didn’t give the voters — a clear sense of ‘why am I doing this.’
‘I think in California, I know a lot of people in the Bay Area and in San Francisco . . . were always a little worried about that,’ Maslin said. ‘Was she up or down, here or there, and it sort of played itself out unfortunately. She’s been the biggest, I think, negative surprise of the campaign.’
Harris is moving to right the ship.
In addition to going all-in in Iowa, she has changed her campaign style, focusing on smaller group events where she can show case her natural warmth and personality – two assets Democrats see as her best way to combat Trump.
A strong showing in Iowa would then propel her to South Carolina – the third voting contest – where she believes she can do well thanks to the large Black voting bloc.
From there, she could move on to the Super Tuesday voting states, which includes her home state of California.