- Sen. Kamala Harris‘ sudden exit from the 2020 Democratic presidential field on Tuesday shocked many of her fellow Democrats.
- Harris, once considered a 2020 frontrunner, announced her departure from the race amid discouraging polling numbers and reports of financial struggle, infighting, and turmoil within her campaign team.
- Many of her fellow 2020 contenders and other Democrats expressed sadness and surprise at her departure, which also sparked a wider conversation about gender and race in politics.
- Some Democratic operatives argued Harris’ exit demonstrated political savvy, while others said it illuminated what they described as sexist and racist treatment she’d received from pundits and the media.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Sen. Kamala Harris‘ sudden exit from the 2020 presidential field on Tuesday surprised some of her fellow Democrats.
Despite qualifying for the December 19 Democratic debate, Harris, who was considered a frontrunner when she entered the primary, announced her departure from the race amid discouraging polling numbers and reports of financial struggle, infighting, and turmoil within her campaign team.
“I was very surprised by it,” Christine Pelosi, a Democratic strategist who is the daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, told Insider. “It was rather shocking when I got a text from someone – I thought, ‘That can’t be.'”
Pelosi said she thought Harris had enough grassroots support to hit 15% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses in February – the threshold necessary for candidates to earn delegates. She said Harris’ financial struggles were the definitive factor.
Harris was also facing a looming deadline in her home state of California, where the ballot is to be finalized later this month. A poor primary performance there could have had implications for her future in both the 2020 race and the Senate. Ian Russell, a Democratic congressional strategist, said the timing of Harris’ exit demonstrated “savvy.”
“This way she doesn’t risk a drubbing in California that could lead to some ambitious Democrat primarying her for the Senate seat,” Russell told Insider.
Harris, who previously served as California’s attorney general and as San Francisco’s district attorney, was immediately recognized as a rising Democratic star upon her election to the US Senate in 2016 and quickly positioned herself as one of the Senate’s most outspoken and progressive members.
Some Democratic operatives lamented Harris’ departure.
“Kamala Harris is so much better and more qualified than many of the candidates still in the race,” Rebecca Katz, a progressive New York-based strategist, told Insider.
But Democratic strategists say Harris won’t be leaving the national spotlight anytime soon.
Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic strategist who served as a spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton, told Insider she was “saddened” by Harris’ departure but thought the senator would have “a prominent place” in the party for “decades to come.”
“While her campaign clearly had some struggles, Kamala Harris is a trailblazer and brought so much passion, energy, and plenty of smart, creative ideas about how to make our country a better place to the primary debate,” Elrod said.
Jesse Ferguson, a former spokesman for Clinton, told Insider that Harris was “a young, rising-star senator with an influential role in the Senate.”
He added, “This is far from her last act in politics.”
Some are already speculating that Harris would be an attractive running mate for one of the remaining 2020 candidates.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of healing and mourning that needs to go on, but I think she’d be on anybody’s shortlist to be vice president,” Pelosi said.
Harris’ historic candidacy also sparked commentary on the role of gender and racial bias in American politics
With Harris’ exit from the race, the six candidates who have qualified to participate in the December Democratic primary debate are all white, a striking contrast with the diverse Democratic electorate and with the original pool of 2020 candidates.
Pelosi, who went to law school with Harris and has long been a supporter of the senator, argued that Harris received more criticism from pundits and the media over her “message and management stumbles” than did many of the white and male candidates.
“You really can’t tell the story about Kamala Harris 2020 without speaking of the sexism, the ‘misogynoir,’ and the big money in politics,” she said. “I credit her with the integrity to see she could overcome one or two, but not all three, of those factors.”
She argued that the party and the media’s handling of Harris’ exit from the race would affect how black women perceived the party and politics generally.
“The only black woman in the race has left the stage, so how you treat her demise will be a sign to other black women about how you value them,” Pelosi said.
Recognizing Sen Harris’s role in history is important
She was the first black woman and first Indian woman in US history to run for president and poll in top 5
Her example will surely inspire others which is always a good thing
(Before you @ me, note how I mentioned polling)
— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) December 3, 2019
Somewhere a man is typing up his “Why Kamala failed” story and he is not considering race or gender bias and so if you are that man please reconsider your position or read a book
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) December 3, 2019
No one ever wins or loses for a single reason. But it's not like Buttigieg or Biden are leading with clear & detailed policies; nor are they particularly charismatic or compelling. Are racism/misogyny the ONLY reasons Kamala underperformed expectations? No. Are they reasons? Yes.
— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) December 3, 2019
If Kamala Harris is dropping out today, as is being reported, that means–among other things–that no candidates of color are yet slated for the December debate. Six white candidates have qualified. Folks, that's a huge red flag, and we need to talk about it.
— Charlotte Clymer????️???? (@cmclymer) December 3, 2019
No matter your candidate, you have to recognize that going from the most diverse field ever in January to a potentially all-white debate stage in December is catastrophic.
The implicit racism and sexism of "electability" is deeply damaging to democracy.
— Leah Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) December 3, 2019
At @KamalaHarris's lowest moments in the polls, she has outpolled @MikeBloomberg. That she is now out and he's just getting started tells you so much about how money, power, race, and gender work in America.
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) December 3, 2019
Harris received public displays of support from her family and some campaign staffers:
I’ve got you. As always.❤️ pic.twitter.com/5OJDT3cDfw
— Douglas Emhoff (@douglasemhoff) December 3, 2019
I’m so proud of you. I love you. pic.twitter.com/JSK2YemDyK
— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) December 3, 2019
Other 2020 Democrats and Democratic activists were sad to see her go:
You have remarkable gifts, @KamalaHarris. Sorry to see you leave the presidential campaign. Glad, though, that you’ll be back grilling Trump Admin. officials in the Senate. Your country needs you. https://t.co/vSKp2HiZOz
— Paul Begala (@PaulBegala) December 3, 2019
I’m so thankful for @KamalaHarris’s friendship and candidacy in this race.
As a child of immigrants, she’s been a lifelong fighter for opportunity and justice for all Americans, and I’m glad she’ll keep fighting for an America where everyone counts. pic.twitter.com/09XFGYG7BD
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) December 3, 2019
My dear friend @KamalaHarris is a trailblazer. I've loved serving with her in the Senate and every moment we've run into one another on the trail. Her campaign broke barriers and did it with joy. Love you, sister. pic.twitter.com/HzLXw88NrM
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) December 3, 2019
To all the candidates, staff, and volunteers who have worked their hearts out for presidential campaigns that have ended—remember that fighting for what you believe in is always worth it.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 3, 2019
.@KamalaHarris has spent her career advocating for the voiceless and the vulnerable. I am grateful for her leadership and the courage she brings to the Senate and the national debate. I know she will continue to fight fearlessly on behalf of the American people—and our democracy. https://t.co/63Y6vryasv
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 3, 2019
Kamala is a good friend and incredibly strong public servant. Sometimes campaigns can tear friendships apart but we have grown closer. Her good work will continue.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) December 3, 2019
The Trump campaign reacted with glee, posting a tweet mentioning Harris’ feud with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:
BREAKING NEWS: @KamalaHarris has ended her campaign for president.
— Trump War Room (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TrumpWarRoom) December 3, 2019
Gabbard, however, tweeted out a gracious and laudatory response to Harris’ departure from the race:
Sending my best wishes to @KamalaHarris, her family & supporters who have campaigned so hard. While we disagree on some issues, we agree on others & I respect her sincere desire to serve the American people. I look forward to working together on the challenges we face as a nation
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) December 3, 2019
- Read more:
- Kamala Harris is dropping out of the 2020 Democratic presidential race
- Kamala Harris’ campaign is facing an internal revolt over disastrous management that’s taken her out of the top tier of contenders
- Kamala Harris ran for president in 2020. Here’s everything we know about the candidate and how she stacked up against the competition.