Goodbye Kamala (For Now Anyway)

Midday Tuesday I got the news that Kamala Harris had ended her presidential bid. I was a bit shocked; with the benefit of hindsight I shouldn’t have been. The signs had been there for a few weeks. To me this was the first significant exit of the 2020 race and I’d like to take a bit of time to explore it with you.

I am among the undecided who will definitely vote in the North Carolina Democratic primary on Super Tuesday. In full disclosure I was leaning toward Harris for a variety of reasons.

The biggest problem in American politics is the outsized influence of money and that appears to be one of the issues that sunk Harris’ campaign. I’m still waiting for the insider/tell all book on the 2016 Jeb Bush campaign; it’s not coming. I’d also like to read one on Harris’ 2020 campaign. It is usually more than one factor that sinks a campaign and unless you are on the inside you never really know.

I don’t think we have seen the last of Kamala Harris on the national stage. In the right situation she would make a great Veep pick and if the Democrats are successful in November of 2020 she has to be a front runner for the Attorney General spot.

I am an old school political operative and believe in at least seriously looking at “ticket balancing”. I don’t think the east-west thing matters that much in today’s politics and California, while on the west coast, isn’t exactly the evolution of the Wild West. (It is important in other ways I’ll discuss below.) Today’s balancing (particularly for Democrats) is more about gender and race. Harris is a non-Caucasian woman who self-identifies as black. The only black candidate remaining with any chance of being the nominee (and it will take a charge from behind) is Cory Booker. For anyone else Harris has to be a race balancing/get out the black vote consideration.

If a male is the nominee Harris becomes a gender balancing/get out the women’s vote pick. Have you noticed something very important yet? 2020 will be a close election and historically all close elections are decided by turnout. Harris can help generate turnout with two crucial demographics for Democrats: non-whites and women. The Democrats (and that includes down ballot candidates) can’t win without those voters.

Now I’ll throw in a wild intangible – would a woman on the ticket force Trump to dump Mike Pence in favor of Nikki Haley? (Assuming she would accept the slot which I think would be a political miscalculation on her part.) If Trump dumped Pence would there be a falloff in the religious right vote? I don’t know how severely that move would affect religious right turnout but I know Trump can’t win without it.

The fact that Harris is a sitting United States Senator from California should not be overlooked. California is one of the “cash cow” states like New York and Texas. Presidential candidates of both parties frequent all three during the campaign in search of dollars first and votes second. A “hometown girl” should be able to loosen a few more purse strings.

With respect to the California factor here is the biggest reason for a Democrat to choose Harris (for Veep or Attorney General if elected): there is a logjam of great and ambitious Democrats in California and Harris holds one of the two coveted U. S. Senate seats. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Governor Gavin Newsom, along with Representatives Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff come to mind. I wouldn’t mind any of them as enthusiastic supporters and surrogates if I were running for president.

My critics may be saying that Harris didn’t do a sufficient job in rallying black support or fundraising in the primary so why should her presence help in the general. The answer is simply numbers. The primary was a 1 in 20+ situation while the general is a one on one contest.

There is much more to unfold over the next several months but we may not have seen the last of Kamala Harris yet.

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