Harris’s Chances

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

A new national poll found California Senator Kamala Harris’s presidential bid faltering. The CNN poll shows she dropped 12-points since June taking just 5% of the current Democratic voters responding to the new survey. Harris has positioned herself between the far-left candidacies of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and the “Old Reliable” campaign of former VP Joe Biden. Ironically, it’s a good place to be if, as could happen, Biden stumbles. But she’ll have to bounce back as the primary season heats up.

Kamala Harris hopes her home state and her position as favorite daughter propels her to the top of the Democratic presidential nomination race after California’s March primary. If she succeeds and Joe Biden comes up short, she would be a greater threat to President Trump than her more progressive rivals.

First, she has to show well in early caucus and primary states, particularly in South Carolina where she is putting in much time and effort. Her campaign hopes to gain strength from the large pool of African-American voters along with suburban women.  Yet, a poll in June showed African-American voters strongly backing Biden. The former Vice President has a commanding overall lead in the latest South Carolina polls with Harris fighting for third place with Bernie Sanders. 

Real Clear Politics poll averages show Senator Harris fighting for second place in Iowa; fourth place in New Hampshire, which most often gives a thumbs up to neighboring state politicians and there are two in this race, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren; and fourth in Harris’ neighboring state of Nevada. All these states hold caucuses or primaries before California.

Harris doesn’t want to come into her home state wounded in earlier skirmishes needing her home state to simply save her campaign.

However, should she become competitive in the early states, Harris could score in California and establish herself as a strong candidate, especially if she overcomes Biden’s reservoir of good feelings among Democratic voters.

So far the Harris campaign has been uneven. But from this corner, Harris arguably would stand a better chance to stop Donald Trump achieving a second term than either of the two other rivals who currently best her in the polls, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

Harris could more easily move toward the center of the political scale making in-roads to the vast vote that resides there. While her rivals have introduced bold plans, in Sanders word “revolutionary “ disruptions of the way America works, Harris has been more circumspect. She has hedged on big issues. Medicare for all? Okay, she says, some form of universal health care, but also private insurance won’t go away. This is different than the Sanders and Warren approaches.

While Harris has been criticized for not delivering her messages in a clear way—even flip-flopping– in the end, it could serve her well that she was not so definite as are the revolutionary plans of her competitors.

Neither Sanders nor Warren can move toward the middle as well. That gives Harris an opportunity to forge ahead. She needs to gain traction, for Biden to falter and California to be strongly in her corner. Those things are not readily observable at the moment.

Time for things to change, of course, but that’s the way it looks from here.

Ben Christopher of CALmatters has written a thorough primer on Kamala Harris and her California history. You can find it here

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