- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Sen. Kamala D. Harris pulled the plug Tuesday on her bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, ending a roller coaster ride of a campaign and making her the highest-profile casualty yet in the 2020 race.

The decision had a practical side. Ms. Harris was running out of time to pull her name off the California ballot, allowing her to avoid an embarrassing showing in her political backyard that could have dented her chances for reelection to the Senate in 2022.

“In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do,” she said. “So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret — but also with deep gratitude — that I am suspending my campaign today.”

The announcement followed staff layoffs and a reshuffling in the early primary states that foreshadowed the end of a costly campaign marred by missteps.

It was a remarkable fall for a candidate who Republican operatives inside the Trump campaign viewed over the summer as perhaps the toughest potential rival in a general election matchup. It also means that, as it stands, all the candidates who have qualified for the Dec. 19 Democratic presidential debate are white.

Professor David McCuan, chairman of the political science department at Sonoma University, said the Harris campaign repeatedly suffered from self-inflicted wounds. The senator struggled on the national stage, he said, after a “charmed political life” in California, where she “has been able to appease the liberal base without being specific.”

SEE ALSO: CNN personalities: Dem 2020 field ‘older and whiter’ with Kamala Harris’ departure

That didn’t fly this go-round. Ms. Harris’ “speak truth” message often came off as muddled. She seemed caught between wooing the more liberal elements of the Democratic Party and reassuring the more moderate base, including on the issue of “Medicare for All.”

“She was trying to thread that needle without specificity,” Mr. McCuan said. “To her credit, she hired a lot of top talent, but what that ultimately meant was it was an expensive campaign.”

Ms. Harris stayed competitive on the fundraising front by raising almost $37 million through September, the fifth best in the crowded field.

But she burned through her campaign cash faster than she could raise it.

“My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue,” Ms. Harris said Tuesday. “I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.”

The outgoing remark was directed at Tom Steyer and former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The two billionaires entered the race late, months after Ms. Harris, but have been able to make up ground on the field partly by tapping into their personal fortunes.

A national poll released Tuesday showed Mr. Bloomberg’s week-old campaign had moved the media mogul ahead of Ms. Harris.

Making matters worse, Mr. Bloomberg hired a top Harris aide who left her campaign after complaining in a letter obtained by The New York Times: “I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly” and “less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win.”

President Trump, meanwhile, feigned disappointment on Twitter Tuesday from London, saying: “Too bad. We will miss you Kamala!”

Ms. Harris fired back: “Don’t worry, Mr. President. I’ll see you at your trial.”

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden could benefit the most from the senator’s exit. A Quinnipiac University national poll showed Mr. Biden was the second choice of 11% of Ms. Harris’ supporters — more than anyone else in the field.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts received 7%, followed by Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, at 4%, and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont at 3%.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said it is difficult to decipher who will get a boost from Ms. Harris’ withdrawal.

“Her support, as small as it was in the past few weeks, was really evenly distributed across voter groups,” Mr. Murray said. “So where it’s going to go next is anyone’s guess.”

Ms. Harris, the second black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, immediately received an outpouring of acclaim from her former rivals. Their kind words also served to court her supporters, who account for 3% to 5% of the Democratic vote in recent polls.

Mr. Buttigieg, who has been surging in the race, applauded Ms. Harris for “her career advocating for the voiceless and the vulnerable.”

“I am grateful for her leadership and the courage she brings to the Senate and the national debate. I know she will continue to fight fearlessly on behalf of the American people — and our democracy,” he tweeted.

The biggest moments of the Harris bid were arguably her official campaign kickoff, when she attracted an estimated crowd of 20,000, and in June when she debated Mr. Biden over his record on race.

But sustainable momentum ultimately proved fleeting.

The 55-year-old struggled to defend her record as a district attorney in San Francisco and attorney general of California. Critics accused Ms. Harris of supporting tough-on-crime policies that have fallen out of favor with liberals.

In a last-ditch effort to inject energy into her campaign, Ms. Harris announced in mid-September that she was going all-in in Iowa and announced last month that she was shifting most of her staff to the state with the first-in-the-nation contest.

The effort failed to move the needle. The most recent polls out of Iowa showed Ms. Harris running in sixth place.

South Carolina state Rep. Patricia Moore “Pat” Henegan, who endorsed Ms. Harris early in the race and campaigned with her last week, said she was shocked to learn Ms. Harris was dropping out.

“I wanted to cry,” Ms. Henegan said. She added that she isn’t sure how Ms. Harris’ exit will affect the race in South Carolina, where she made frequent stops.

“A lot of these people that were already Biden fans, they are going to stay Biden fans,” she said. “The others will look around and look at the candidates again and draw from that. If you are asking me, I can’t tell you. I haven’t had a chance to digest this yet.”

• S.A. Miller and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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