Kamala Harris Ends Presidential Bid as Poll Numbers Collapse

Democrat Kamala Harris reacts shortly before getting up and walking out with two other Democratic Senators during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 28 September 2018 (reissued 21 January 2019). Kamala Harris has been selected by Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden as his VP pick. (EPA-EFE/Michael Reynolds)

Kamala Harris suspended her presidential campaign on Tuesday after months of declining poll numbers and dwindling funds as she struggled to define her candidacy.

“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,” Harris said in an email to supporters. “My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.”

(Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

Harris has struggled to gain traction in the polls after a brief high that sent her to second place in numerous polls after the first Democratic debate in June. Her campaign failed to catch on as she was unable to define herself ideologically and explain to voters what she stood for. A series of evolving slogans and campaign messages since the spring left voters unsure of what her convictions were.

After trying to repeat her attacks on Biden in subsequent debates, Harris took a nosedive in polls and never fully recovered. The final months of her campaign were characterized by regular stories of campaign turmoil and fundraising problems that left her pulling resources from key states like New Hampshire to stay afloat.

Harris had been closing campaign offices in New Hampshire and laying off campaign workers, as she said she was trying to focus her campaign on Iowa.

Her departure leaves 15 Democrats still in the race. Montana Governor Steve Bullock and former congressman Joe Sestak dropped out earlier this week.

The first-term senator from California made a name for herself as a tough questioner on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Brett Kavanaugh and William Barr confirmation hearings. Those skills came from her record as the attorney general of California and a prosecutor, which she emphasized in her campaign to “prosecute the case” against President Donald Trump with slogans of “truth” and “justice.”

But one of the principal attributes that built her image as a formidable candidate — her reputation as a tough-on-crime prosecutor – ended up being a liability in the Democratic primary.

Voters were wary of her record as California attorney general and her thought-out retorts came across at times as rehearsed.

As of Tuesday, she was polling at 3.4%, in sixth place, in the Real Clear Politics aggregate of polls.

Her momentum also was stymied by policy bungles on health care and vague answers early on to voter questions, which fed the perception that she was running a campaign without a message as she attempted to walk the line between Biden’s pragmatism and the progressive approach of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

She initially said she favored ending private insurance through Medicare for All at a CNN town hall, and then backtracked, only to then raise her hand in the first debate indicating support for abolishing private health insurance. She backtracked again days later, stating she misunderstood the question. When asked for stances early on in the campaign she was criticized for frequently deflecting with “let’s have that conversation.”

In late October, short on cash and averaging 5% in the polls, Harris said she would cut staff at her headquarters in Baltimore and redeploy field staffers from the early primary states to Iowa. The strategy shift came six weeks after Harris said her campaign would be focusing on Iowa.

Harris raised $35.6 million for her presidential run, which put her $1.2 million behind Joe Biden, who got into the race about three months after she did. In the third quarter, when campaigns try to stockpile money for the primaries, she spent $2.7 million more than she raised, and reported cash on hand of just $10.5 million at the end of September.

Biden, campaigning in Mason City, Iowa, complimented Harris.

“She’s a first rate candidate and a real competitor and I have mixed emotions about it because she is really a solid, solid person.”

Harris’s exit shrinks the tentative lineup for the Democratic debate on December 19 to six candidates — Biden, Sanders, Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer — though there is still time for others to qualify.

(Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

(Adds comment from Harris in second paragraph and fundraising data in 11th.)
–With assistance from Tyler Pager and Bill Allison.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Emma Kinery in Washington at [email protected];
Sahil Kapur in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Wendy Benjaminson at [email protected]
Max Berley


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