Pollak: Kamala Harris Ran the Worst Campaign in Recent History

Democratic presidential hopeful California Senator Kamala Harris listens to a question dur
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) dropped out of the 2020 presidential race because she could not fire her sister.

That is an overly simplistic assessment — but not by much.

Maya Harris, the senator’s younger sister, is widely regarded as a brilliant attorney, but that did not make her a great campaign adviser.

More to the point, it made Maya Harris nearly impossible to fire, which meant that Kamala Harris could not easily fix problems as they arose.

And the problems began early.

I covered my first Kamala Harris event in May, in Los Angeles, where she drew an impressive turnout for an “organizing” rally. Thousands crowded into a local community college to catch a glimpse of the home-state favorite. But the setup was odd, as I reported:

The crowd was placed to the side of the stage, meaning that Harris’s supporters were out of most camera angles during her speech. Speakers kept urging supporters to text “fight” to a devoted campaign number, but a sign on the podium told supporters to text the word “fearless.” And after several lively warmup speeches, the action paused for several minutes while Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” played over the PA system.

It was one of many squandered opportunities.

In Nevada, I followed Harris on a campaign swing through Las Vegas, Nevada. She seemed to have strong support among the Latino community — a key voting constituency in the state, and one that she had wooed successfully in her 2016 run for U.S. Senate in California, when she overcame Latina political superstar Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D).

Harris seemed to have no clear message. But voters seemed to cling to her every word.

Nevada is the third state on the Democratic presidential primary calendar, and the first with a significant Latino population. It is next door to California, giving Harris a potential advantage over her Democratic rivals in bringing volunteers across the border.

And yet for some reason, Harris chose to camp out in Iowa in recent weeks, rather than focusing on Nevada. She also failed to mobilize fully in California, which moved its primary to Super Tuesday to play a more decisive role. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who supported her, was about to travel to Iowa to campaign for her before she dropped out.

Harris’s debate performances were also underwhelming. After she eviscerated former Vice President Joe Biden in the first debate, in what was clearly a rehearsed setup targeting his checkered record on race, she faltered. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) torched Harris in the second debate over her prosecutorial record, and she never quite recovered.

Over and over again, the campaign made questionable decisions about messaging, strategy, and personnel. While it is not clear who, in fact, was responsible for the campaign’s mistakes, that itself was part of the problem.

And the questions come back to Maya Harris. The subject of a glowing profile in Politico in June, Maya Harris was also — ominously — one of Hillary Clinton’s “progressive” advisers in the 2016 presidential campaign. In its recent profile declaring Harris’s campaign all but over, the New York Times noted:

[Harris] also created an organization with a campaign chairwoman, Maya Harris, who goes unchallenged in part because she is Ms. Harris’s sister, and a manager, Mr. Rodriguez, who could not be replaced without likely triggering the resignations of the candidate’s consulting team. Even at this late date, aides said it’s unclear who’s in charge of the campaign.

By this week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — a late entrant widely regarded as having little chance to win — began to pass Harris in national polls, albeit among the lower tier of presidential candidates.

President Donald Trump made his reputation as a celebrity boss whose trademark was firing people — even qualified people — when they failed.

Politico called Maya Harris the next Bobby Kennedy, but when she turned out not to be, Kamala Harris could not fire her, or Rodriguez.

She failed the first basic test of management, and therefore deserved to lose.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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