- 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.
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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.
—Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) December 3, 2019
—Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) December 3, 2019
—Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) December 3, 2019
—Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) December 3, 2019
—Leah Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) December 3, 2019
—Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) December 3, 2019
Harris received public displays of support from her family and some campaign staffers:
—Douglas Emhoff (@douglasemhoff) December 3, 2019
—Meena Harris (@meenaharris) December 3, 2019
Other 2020 Democrats and Democratic activists were sad to see her go:
—Paul Begala (@PaulBegala) December 3, 2019
—Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) December 3, 2019
—Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) December 3, 2019
—Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 3, 2019
—Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 3, 2019
—Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) December 3, 2019
The Trump campaign reacted with glee, posting a tweet mentioning Harris' feud with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:
—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:
—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
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