Senator Kamala Harris Enters The Race For President

As expected. California Senator Kamala Harris has entered the race for President.

California Senator Kamala Harris, who was elected Senator just two years ago, has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President:

Senator Kamala Harris, the California Democrat and barrier-breaking prosecutor who became the second black woman to serve in the United States Senate, declared her candidacy for president on Monday, joining an increasingly crowded and diverse field in what promises to be a wide-open nomination process.

The announcement was bathed in symbolism: Ms. Harris chose to enter the race on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, an overt nod to the historic nature of her candidacy, and her timing was also meant to evoke Shirley Chisholm, the New York congresswoman who became the first woman to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president 47 years ago this week.

In addition, Ms. Harris will hold her first campaign event on Friday in South Carolina, where black voters are the dominant force in the Democratic primary, rather than start off by visiting Iowa and New Hampshire, the two predominantly white states that hold their nomination contests first. She will hold a kickoff rally Sunday in Oakland, Calif., her hometown.

For the first time, the Democratic presidential race now includes several high-profile women, with Ms. Harris joining two other prominent senators who have announced candidacies, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New YorkRepresentative Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, has also said she is running, and more women could enter the race in the coming weeks.

Ms. Harris made her announcement on “Good Morning America” and also released a video aimed at supporters and other Democrats.

“The future of our country depends on you, and millions of others, lifting our voices to fight for our American values,” Ms. Harris said in the video. She also debuted a campaign slogan that played off her background as a prosecutor: “Kamala Harris, for the people.”

“Let’s do this together: For ourselves, for our children, for our country,” she said.

Ms. Harris’s long-expected entry comes as many Democrats are eager to find new leaders and as the party grasps for a unifying message that can appeal to its increasingly progressive base and more moderate voters who have recoiled from President Trump.

“The future of our country depends on you, and millions of others, lifting our voices to fight for our American values,” Ms. Harris said in the video. She also debuted a campaign slogan that played off her background as a prosecutor: “Kamala Harris, for the people.”

“Let’s do this together: For ourselves, for our children, for our country,” she said.

Ms. Harris’s long-expected entry comes as many Democrats are eager to find new leaders and as the party grasps for a unifying message that can appeal to its increasingly progressive base and more moderate voters who have recoiled from President Trump.

As noted, Harris’s announcement does not come as a surprise. She has been on the list of potential Democratic challengers to President Trump for some time now and, shortly after the 2018 midterms, she stated that she would decide on whether or not she would run over the holidays. Shortly after that, it was reported that she would enter the race on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While she has been polling in the single digits in recent polling of the Democratic field, it’s worth remembering that those polls are based largely on name recognition and that Harris is likely not as well known as other actual and possible candidates such as Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. As has been the case in past races, it will take some time before we get to the point where the polling is going to actually matter. Between now and then, Harris will join the growing list of candidates visiting Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other early states while also trying to line up support within the party and, of course, fundraising.

At least on paper, Harris appears to have a decent, albeit somewhat thin, resume. Before being elected to the Senate in 2016, Harris had served as California’s Attorney General since 2011 and, before that, was the District Attorney for San Francisco. Even when she was still just a candidate for the Senate, many national political leaders were talking about her as a potential Presidential candidate, in no small part due to similarities between her and former President Obama notwithstanding the fact that their level of experience and their prominence on the national scene were quite different at the respective times in their political careers. Additionally, the fact that Harris comes from the West Coast rather than the Midwest as President Obama did is potentially a mark against her in an election year where Democrats are clearly going to be interested in winning back the working class voters they lost to Trump in 2016.

In any case, Harris has been working to increase her national profile inside the Democratic Party by traveling to several early primary states to speak at party events and by campaigning for Democratic candidates in the just-concluded midterm elections. Additionally, she received significant national attention and praise from fellow Democrats for her questioning of Justice Brett Kavanaugh both during the first round of substantive hearings and during the reopened hearings aimed at investigating the allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford At the time, though, some critics accused both her and fellow Senator Cory Booker of grandstanding for the cameras and the national hearing during the course of the hearings.

Harris is still relatively unknown even inside the Democratic Party so it’s hard to judge how she’ll come across in the coming campaign. One advantage Harris does have over these other candidates, of course, is her youth, something that could be appealing to voters looking to hand power to a new generation of leaders rather than nominating and potentially electing another Baby Boomer.

Jennifer Rubin at The Washington PostHarris could be a formidable candidate, argues that while FiveThirtyEight’s Percy Bacon maps out a possible back to victory:

Her biography and record make it easy to imagine Harris doing well with African-Americans, who likely will represent about one-in-five primary voters in the Democratic primary electorateas well as Asian-Americans. Harris narrowly lost the Latino vote in her 2016 election to a fellow Democrat1 who is Mexican-American (Loretta Sanchez), but there isn’t any particular reason to think she is disliked by Latino voters. The way Harris is likely to position herself on policy issues during the campaign — liberal as any candidate on noneconomic issues but not as liberal on economic issues as, say, Bernie Sanders — echoes Hillary Clinton’s platform in 2016 (Harris’ sister Maya was Clinton’s policy director.) So I’m sure party loyalists, particularly black voters and older women, who backed Clinton will give serious consideration to Harris. The California senator is not particularly young (54), but you could imagine millennials galvanizing around electing the first Asian and first female president in the same way they embraced Obama in 2008. (We’ll come back to The Left in a moment.)

Moreover, looking at the current primary calendar, I’m not sure about her prospects in Iowa and New Hampshire (more on that in a bit), but the order of the states is set up well for Harris after that. The third contest is in Nevada, a state that borders California, so voters there may more familiar with Harris than other candidates. South Carolina is next, and African-Americans will likely constitute a majority of voters there.

After those four early contests, nine states are currently scheduled to vote on March 3, and that could be a great day for Harris. Those nine primaries and caucuses include California — Harris’ home state, which also has a large Asian-American population — as well as four states in which the Democratic electorate will likely be more than a quarter black


The biggest potential problem for Harris may be that her campaign simply never really catches on with voters. Despite seeming to reporters like me to be a strong candidate on paper, Harris could be the 2020 Democratic version of Marco Rubio or Scott Walker, who both struggled in the GOP’s 2016 primary despite being hyped for years as potential GOP nominees because of their potential to appeal to a broad swath of their party.

After all, Harris likely will be competing for attention with a lot of candidates. And if she doesn’t do well in one of the first two contests, in mostly white Iowa and mostly white New Hampshire, then I don’t think there is any guarantee African-American voters or even California voters will get behind her. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey or former Vice President Joe Biden (his close relationship with Obama will help) could become the top choice among black voters — or African-Americans could split their votes among several candidates. I think a candidate who won Iowa and another early state and had momentum could carry Harris’ home state of California.

Bacon is correct that Harris could have an advantage among African-American voters, but it’s worth noting that she’ll be competing for that vote along with a number of other candidates, including Cory Booker and, if he enters the race, former Vice-President Joe Biden, who is likely to benefit from his association with Barack Obama even if he doesn’t have his formal endorsement. As Bacon also notes, the minority vote is going to be of minimal importance at best in early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, which have relatively low African-American populations and if Harris is unable to perform well in those states then her campaign could fizzle out pretty quickly. If she hangs on through those states, though, the race eventually heads to South Carolina and its large African-American population, where she could stand to do very well. All of that speculation, of course, is premature but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. 1

Here’s the campaign video that Harris released in connection with her announcement:

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, but what qualifies her to be POTUS? Has she ever managed to turn 400 million in tax breaks and parental cash into multiple bankruptcies? Can she generate 5000 plus demonstrable lies in two years? Can she pout? Can she whine? Can she lick Vladimir Putin’s taint? Has she ever run a fraudulent charity? Does she own even a single hotel which foreign governments can use as a front for pay-offs? Can she inspire white supremacist goons? Can she launder money and cheat on her taxes?

    How can she possibly compete?

  2. Kathy says:

    I know it’s not like this, but it feels as though the list of Democrats not running for president would be shorter.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Harris/O’Rourke, or O’Rourke/Harris, is a ticket I could get behind.
    But I’m still not sure how they are going to fight Individual-1.

  4. Jay L Gischer says:

    Though I have a horrible track record as a bellwether, I was not particularly favorably impressed with her performance during the Kavanaugh hearings, though my wife was. I’m definitely “wait and see” on her.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    Harris is someone I’m curious about and being in cow Hampshire, I’ll get to have my choice before the field winnows. She could do well here, though the state is about 94% white, and those are old whites, it is socially moderate and has a recent track record of being open to non traditional candidates. Till 2016 all 5 statewide offices were held by women and a gay male now represents the 1st district in the house.

    Too date, Warren’s policy detail has been impressive and the fact she can articulate exactly why she is running for Prez is comforting, something Clinton never could, has me considering her much more seriously that I thought I would. Bernie, Joe, find a checkers game guys. Beto? Are the Dead on tour again and nobody told me? The others, indistinguishable.

  6. Scott F. says:

    Senator Harris will benefit a great deal from California’s earlier primary date. There’s just no way she won’t hang on until then. If Jerry Brown throws vocal support behind her, she’ll win there bigly.

    She shows as smart, tough and a little lawyerly in the hearings I seen her in. Has anyone seen her on the stump?

  7. @Scott F.:

    She very well might benefit from that, but, again, she’ll be competing against a number of other candidates.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Looks like someone in the White House is photoshopping Trump’s pix before putting them out on social media. How sweet!

    I especially like the touch of elongating Trump’s fingers. Because we know exactly how terrified he is of being called a “short-fingered vulgarian.”

  9. Scott F. says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Her clarity on policy is what makes Warren such a valuable asset in the Senate. A Democratic wave (wishful at this point, I know, but the map favors blue in 2020), and a Senator Warren would have some real power. It’s better for governance if she stays there.

    A candidate who is younger who will go after our broken, corrupted system will play well as a counter to Trump, so watch for that as those running start to speak publicly.

  10. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Bernie, Joe, find a checkers game guys. Beto? Are the Dead on tour again and nobody told me? The others, indistinguishable.

    I don’t think Sanders or Biden are going to get much oxygen this time around and we won’t hear much about them in the end. Warren and Harris are the two serious plausible candidates so far, but there will be a dozen others, so I’m not paying too much attention for the rest of this year at least.

  11. Scott F. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It’s unknown, but we’ve never seen the effect of a California primary in March and I suspect the effect to be very significant. The size of the state combined with the place the state as claimed as the heart of the Reisistance to Trump will make California the big get on Super Tuesday and none of the other many other candidates, either formally or considered to be running, have Harris’ advantages in the Golden State.

    She already has positive name recognition , so she won’t have to spend the kind of money others will to introduce herself. She’s political allies with Governor Newsom and Jerry Brown, so don’t expect an out of stater to come in and claim a lot of local support. Plus, on paper she is the anti-Trump – straight talking, top cop reputation, younger, multi-racial female – and that will be HUGE in California.

    If she’s even modestly able to inspire a crowd at her rallies, she could be formidable.

  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    OT…Dennison spent two minutes at the MLK Memorial this morning.
    That’s exactly how he feels about people of color. He’s got two minutes to spare for them.
    What a pathetic excuse for a man.

  13. Paine says:

    I don’t know… I like the idea of the Dems drawing a sharp contrast with Trump by nominating an accomplished governor or seasoned senator. I think that’s a good way to appeal to the moderate middle. Steady experience vs. four years of a circus act. Put a Kamala or Beto in the VP slot for the energy and pit-bulling, ala Palin in 2008. Would like to see Inslee make an announcement.

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Dennison already has proof that Harris was born in Kenya.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paine: Grew up in Washington, live in a heavily GOP corner right now and am old enough to remember “Scoop for President.” My feeling about Inslee is that he gives off exactly the same “not ready for prime time” vibe that Sen. Jackson gave off in the 60s. Lots of national bias related to PNW states having not been around long enough to produce “serious” candidates. I don’t see Inslee being able to resonate in the national milleu.

  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Scott F.:

    I understand your point, but she wants to be Prez and arguably that is the best position from which to push her agenda forward.


    Re: Joe & Bernie, I hope you’re right. Those of you who don’t live in NH or Iowa have the luxury of ignoring the campaign for a while, here the survey calls have already started.

  17. Gustopher says:

    I have no strong objection to her. Perfectly plausible candidate. Actually a Democrat.

    My ideal candidate would be able to present a positive, progressive message while simultaneously either going after Trump’s jugular, or dominating the direction of the conversation. Harris will have plenty of opportunity to do that over the next year.

    I’m happy enough with the politics of most of the field, actually, and want someone who has the viciousness and tenacity to win. Someone who, when Trumpets go low, will smile and say that they are going high, while kicking and stomping those low Trumpers. No use having perfect politics in a failed Presidential nominee.

    If only Gillibrand were really as responsible for Franken’s demise as some people say she is…

  18. Ben Wolf says:

    I’ve made a mistake in thinking Harris will be a serious candidate. The combination of an utterly tasteless launch on MLK Day, the abject narcissism on display at her campaign website and her total lack of discernable policy positions will doom her to a quick flame-out.

    And that’s putting aside her career of victimizing the poor while letting the rich off the hook.

  19. Monala says:

    @Ben Wolf: it’s true that there are no policy positions on her campaign site yet, but how exactly does the site show “abject narcissism?” It’s a typical campaign site: “here’s who I am, my accomplishments and my beliefs.” That’s campaigning 101.

    I compared her campaign video to Sanders’ America ad from 2016. His is filled with sights of crowds cheering him, interspersed with scenes of rural life, and it’s also very non-diverse until a couple people of color appear at the end.

    Harris’s video talks about the values we share as Americans, shows people of all different races and ethnicities, and instead of showing her in front of adoring crowds, shows her interacting with a young girl.

    Somehow I suspect you don’t find Sanders’ video one of “abject narcissism.”

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yeah, but Sanders is a guy and Harris is not.

  21. Ben Wolf says:


    Elizabeth Warren announced her candidacy with four separate policy proposals.

    Somehow I suspect you don’t find Sanders’ video one of “abject narcissism.”

    Did you ask, Stupid?

  22. Monala says:

    @Ben Wolf: insults and no real answer. But I’ll respond. There are no policy proposals on Warren’s campaign site, either. (Although her video is more impressive than that of Sanders or Harris, IMO). But a recent article by WAPO describes several of Harris’s policy stances, according to her aides.

  23. Ben Wolf says:

    @Monala: 1) You’re still stupid.

    2) Warren announced with four separate policy proposals born of a classical liberal political philosophy.

    3) Harris has no policy positions because she has no political philosophy. She’s just ambitious, and ambition without enlightened principles makes for a shitty president.