The California senator's enthusiastic behavior was reinforced by a powerful new endorsement of the iconic United Farmworkers Union. Still, much of the excitement this weekend between activist and guest delegates gathered in Long Beach to hear eight presidential candidates centered on their political future – and whether it might be time for her to withdraw from the race rather than face potential humiliation in her. primary state of origin.
Following a spectacular campaign launch in January, before 22,000 in his hometown of Oakland, Harris – once praised as a top tier candidate – was mired in low digits in polls and pursued by reports of a campaign marred by inadequate strategy. , messy messages and a messy team.
Harris's base of loyal activists, who call themselves K-Hive, have not lost the passion and intensity of those early days. They chanted her name this weekend, waved the "Kamala Harris to the People" signs, and expressed anger and frustration at growing media reports about her political death.
And early endorsers like Governor Gavin Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis insisted that Harris remains a candidate whose fortunes are far from determined in a volatile race.
But in the corridors and meeting rooms of the Long Beach Convention Center, many of the battle-starred Democrats – strategists, elected officials, campaigners – had a much more caustic view of their chances, suggesting that Harris's team had already had escaped. far your shot at the White House.
With California research strongly suggesting that she might not win, put – or even show – in her home state, many expressed in particular the view that Harris should seriously consider leaving the race to avoid total embarrassment in the primaries. of the state in early March. Their continued weakness in the presidential contest may even have a more detrimental effect, several said – encouraging a primary challenger in 2022, when Harris is being reelected.
"I don't think it can last until California," says Garry South, a veteran strategist who advised Newsom and former presidential candidate Joe Lieberman. "I don't want her to get sick, but she has a decision to make: you come in here and get killed in your home state, and it damages your reputation nationally. Or you leave before primary, like Jerry Brown, in 1980. .and at least avoids the spectacle of being decisively rejected. ”
Candidates have until the end of December to formally remove their names from the March 3 main vote in California. But some suggest that Harris may withdraw from the presidential race after Iowa if she does badly there – which would leave her at the ballot box in California, but allow her to justify the acute embarrassment of a distant end in California for leaving the race. weeks before.
A beating in California "would denote weakness … and could encourage some visionary billionaires," said South, perhaps a wealthy business executive – or even a wealthy activist like Tom Steyer, whose own presidential candidacy is seen as a long-term person. and played in the past with a dispute for the US Senate.
Interviews with Half a Dozen Democratic Campaign Participants at the convention he spoke on condition of anonymity – many for fear of irritating an acting senator – echoed South's vision.
"This is not happening," said one of the top grassroots organizers working in the campaign area, speaking without attribution. "She has her chance [to leave the race]… she should take.
"Of course she should go out … but who's going to tell her?" Agreed a senior Democrat strategist who declined to speak on the record. Harris told members of California that she is determined to stay in the race for Iowa, said the strategist, who added that the real concern is the reports of team members who are apparently starting to curse and blame anonymously in various media.
Labor organizer Erin Lehane said Harris, who has been effective in recent days with his impassioned reaction after the Santa Clarita mass shooting, "needs to take him back to Washington and say – I won't leave until a wide area of Reality gun laws … she should be saying that now that this has happened in my home state, this is where I will be & # 39; & # 39 ;.
Newsom has made headlines about the collapse of Harris and said he has followed the campaign trail to assess the situation – and is determined to help it.
"I'm going to Iowa, I'll see firsthand," he said. "And I will say this: polls don't vote, people vote … and the only important poll is election day."
Reminded that these worn-out field troops are mainly adopted by candidates facing defeat, Newsom strongly insisted that the camp remain fluid – but he also recognized the uncertainty of Harris's path.
"Honestly … I really don't have a sense of what the terrain and the moment are like," he said. "I live in a bubble with her because she's my friend … and we walk around with all the volunteers and the [campaign] shirts and we feel good & # 39; & # 39 ;, he says. He recalled participating in a recent Harris fundraising campaign and said, "She was relaxed, I thought she was great, she felt good."
"She's too talented to get fired – she's too capable," he said. While experts are hyper-focused on race, voters are not "as focused as we think they are … so I see a lot of movement and potential."
While at the convention hall on Friday wearing a button-fastened cover with a “Kamala Harris for the People” button, parole officer Denise Alvarez, a veteran military officer from Southern California, said she was not shy about media reports. and wanted Harris to fight until the next day. Very final.
"I like that she wants to take care of everyone, but she respects our unions," Alvarez said. "She has the best plan … she cares about people." Alvarez rejected the polls in key states like Iowa, saying they were overstated. "O [campaign volunteers] Tell me you're doing great. & # 39; & # 39;
Kounalakis, a passionate supporter of Harris, also blamed what she said was a negative coverage of the Harris campaign.
"I don't think the press was very fair," she said. “She has an amazing leadership style. We love him. We support her … presidential politics are tough, but she's strong enough to handle it. "
She added hopefully, "At the very least, she will be our state senator in California for a long time."
David Doak, a veteran Democratic researcher who has directed presidential campaigns for Richard Gephardt and Joe Biden, says that despite his talent, Harris has been diminished by mistakes and has failed to provide an effective justification for his race.
"Presidential politics is a combination of how much people like you and what you are saying – compared to viability," says Doak. "And her problem now is that there are probably a lot of people out there who thought she would be a rocket – like me."
"But because these stories about your campaign aren't going well and you don't show up in search, people who don't have a choice tend to align with other people," he says. "It's a chicken and egg thing … if you're not viable, you don't get votes."
Doak, who advised Senator Alan Cranston's 1984 presidential race, does not believe Harris is totally out of the picture – now or in the future.
“Is she a shot in the dark now? Yes, "says Doak." I don't think staying in Iowa will hurt her. And frankly, she'll be forced to leave if she doesn't do well in Iowa and New Hampshire. "
But as for her future in the Senate, he said, "These things are quickly forgotten."