<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/04/opinion/kamala-harris-campaign.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Where Kamala Harris Went Wrong</a>  <font color="#6f6f6f">The New York Times</font>


It’s not just political marketing.

Sen. Kamala Harris spoke during a town hall in Las Vegas last month.Credit…Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times

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After I wrote a column a couple of months ago about the promise and disappointment of Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign, one Times reader from Boston left a comment that I thought was particularly smart. “Prosecutors rarely translate well when it comes to governing at the executive level,” the reader wrote. “Their default mode is neither policy nor the long view.”

Harris came up through California politics as a prosecutor. And she never seemed to develop a clear theory of how to use government to improve people’s lives. Barack Obama, who worked as a state legislator, did develop such a theory. So did Bill Clinton, who started as a prosecutor but then spent years as a governor. So has Elizabeth Warren, who came from academia.

An especially interesting contrast this year is Pete Buttigieg, whose résumé is less impressive than Harris’s and who, in my view, isn’t as charismatic as she is. But when I listen to Buttigieg describe his vision, I understand it. His time as a mayor of a small city shaped that vision, much as it did for Bernie Sanders decades earlier. With Harris, I was never quite sure what her vision was. Her vaguely titled memoir (“The Truths We Hold”) and oddly flat campaign slogans (like “Justice Is on the Ballot”) captured the problem.

This isn’t simply a matter of political marketing. Her lack of an abiding theory of government meant that her campaign couldn’t decide where it fit in the 2020 presidential campaign. In retrospect, I think her best approach would have been as an alternative to Joe Biden — younger, fresher, more dynamic and more progressive than him but unabashedly more moderate than Warren or Sanders.

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Instead, she floated between the moderate and progressive lanes, with a confusing message on Medicare, the first big policy test of the campaign.

As a 55-year-old first-term senator (and potential vice-presidential pick), Harris can still have a long political career ahead of her. I hope her surprisingly short presidential campaign helps her to develop a clearer sense of why she went into politics in the first place.

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Miriam Pawel, in The Times: “Harris, the state’s junior senator, will gain greater recognition from her 2020 quest; whether that enhances her political future depends on what lessons she takes from her own campaign. If she emerges with a clearer sense of her own priorities and values and an ability to articulate them with conviction, she may be better equipped to navigate the complicated calculus of politics … ”

Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post: “A lot of early in the race punditry around Kamala was prefaced on the assumption that she’d be a shoo-in/favorite with black voters. Probably worth examining why that was the assumption, and why, hindsight being 20-20, that assumption was wrong.”

Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report: “Folks, running for president is really, really hard. Luck. Timing. Skill. Discipline. All matter. And, it’s super, super hard to get all of these to line up.”

Philip Klein, Washington Examiner: “Sen. Kamala Harris’s stunning collapse from being a leading Democratic presidential candidate to dropping out before Iowa is a lesson in what happens when a candidate tries to consciously run as a consensus choice rather than on a clear vision.”

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