Newsweek Magazine is reporting this morning that “Kamala Harris has leaped to the front of an already-packed Democratic 2020 race.”
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) February 18, 2019
The report is based on information obtained from recent opinion polls and interviews with Democratic political strategists and major party donors.
Still, Harris is behind former Vice President Joe Biden and 2016 insurgent Bernie Sanders in recent polls. But the first-term California senator is first in polls that include only Democrats who have announced they are running for the 2020 nomination. These include recent polls from Monmouth University, New Jersey and Emerson College.
Harris, however, has held the number one spot on CNN’s Democratic power rankings for months. The rankings are done by CNN political analysts Chris Cillizza and Harry Enten who have offered effusive praise for Harris’s campaign rollout so far. They said they admired the way she stretched out her campaign announcement over an entire week which gave her many consecutive days of positive press coverage.
Harris began a nationwide book tour for her memoir The Truths We Hold the week before she made her official campaign announcement, which allowed her to appear on all of the major television news and talk shows.
There have also been reports that prominent Democratic Party donors and strategists agree with the polls that Harris may be the Democrat to beat in 2020.
For example, donor Robert Wolf was quoted as saying that Harris used the attention surrounding her relatively early launch to her advantage:
“There’s always been this motto, ‘You have one day to launch and you have to get it right,’ and Kamala crushed it. It’s the day that you have all the media buzz, the grassroots excitement and to tell your story. That is the one day all eyes are on you and she hit out of the ballpark.”
According to Newsweek, since her official launch, Harris has run a very successful campaign.
“She was already the favorite of many, and her early success has solidified and grown that support,” said Jon Vein, a major Democratic donor.
Democratic strategist Maria Cardona pointed out how Harris stands out from the crowd, saying: “She differentiates herself with her impeccable timing.”
Since rival Elizabeth Warren has been involved in a difficult controversy about her claims to Native American heritage, Harris has been able to appear as a stable and attractive alternative to the Massachusetts senator. On Saturday Warren was interrupted at the start of a campaign speech in Georgia by a man holding a “1/2020” sign—a reference to the DNA results she shared last year indicating she has a very small amount of Native American heritage.
Harris is not completely immune from controversy, and she did recently admit past marijuana use, but this isn’t expected to hurt her campaign.
The California senator made something of a stir this weekend while visiting stores on the campaign trail in South Carolina. She visited local boutiques set up by women, praising them as “classic” stories of American women “achieving economic success,” The Washington Post reported.
But for some reason she was criticized by conservative media outlets like Fox News when she tried on a brightly-colored sequin jacket at the suggestion of CNN reporters.
The secret of her strength may be that to many Democrats Kamala Harris looks like “the full package.”
“She is smart, commercial, organized,” Wolf said. “I would not be surprised if she was the top fundraiser this quarter and viewed as one of the top three candidates.”
With as many as 20 expected Democratic candidates vying for the 2020 nomination, the fact that Harris is able to stand out from the crowd is a major accomplishment. And if at this early stage she can compete with such elder party statesmen as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, that is an indication that she has staying power and is not just a flash in the pan.
It’s still a long way to the 2020 election, but the early buzz certainly favors Senator Kamala Harris as a legitimate contender to succeed the worst president in our history, Donald J. Trump.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.