Back in January when California Senator Kamala Harris announced her plans to run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, she was partly responding to a stroke of good political luck. The Democratic Party in California decided to move its primary from the middle of June to Super Tuesday on March 3. While not specifically done to benefit Harris, moving the state’s massive delegate haul up 3 months would certainly help their native daughter.
In the past, the presidential primary races from both parties were over by the time California held their June primary. By moving the date up, the state’s Democrats hope to have a bigger influence on the choice of the eventual nominee.
Harris’s early state strategy was obvious. Stay afloat in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina until Super Tuesday and then clean up in California. If nothing else, it would keep her competitive past March 3 when the field will almost certainly be winnowed down.
But Harris’s campaign is faltering badly. Since her July confrontation with Joe Biden, accusing the former Obama vice president of blocking forced busing, she has been slipping in the polls. The latest Fox News survey has Biden falling to 29 percent while Warren is surging to 20 percent. Harris stands 4th with only 7 percent of the vote.
It’s clear that she’s going to have to abandon her original strategy and look to make a splash somewhere in the early states. South Carolina, with its large black population, would be a possibility. But there’s a danger that Harris would already be an afterthought by then.
Politico is reporting that the Harris campaign has decided that her best shot to stay viable is to make an impact in Iowa.
A half-dozen Harris officials and outside allies briefed on internal expectations said she needs a top-tier finish in Iowa to remain competitive and put her in position to strike in Nevada, South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, when her home state of California holds its primary.
Harris herself appeared to confirm the Iowa focus on Wednesday, though not on purpose.
“I’m fu**ing moving to Iowa,” she joked to a colleague in Washington, within earshot of a reporter.
One Harris aide summed up the candidate’s chances:
“If off-year summer polls determined the primary’s outcome, we’d all be talking about how Presidents Wes Clark and Hillary Clinton were faring in retirement,” Sams said. “We’re not playing to win a news cycle. We’re playing to win an election. We want to peak when votes are cast in the early states and in March, and our infrastructure is built to do just that.”
Now the focus will shift primarily to Iowa. After a 16-city bus tour in the state last August, Harris hasn’t been back. That will certainly change as will her efforts to build a statewide organization to challenge Biden who has already made a huge investment in the state.
Playing catch-up is usually a losing strategy, especially with the caucuses less than 5 months away.