In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns. The update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. We are now ending the early stages of the 2020 race.
The 2020 Democratic field has been defined by its turbulence, with some contenders rising, others dropping out and two more jumping in just this month. Yet there is only one candidate who rocketed to the top tier and then plummeted in early state polls to the low single digits: Ms. Harris.
From those polling results to Ms. Harris’s campaign operation, fund-raising and debate performances, it has been a remarkable comedown for a senator from the country’s largest state, a politician with star power who was compared to President Obama even before Californians elected her to the Senate in 2016.
Yet, even to some Harris allies, her decline is more predictable than surprising. In one instance after another, Ms. Harris and her closest advisers made flawed decisions about which states to focus on, issues to emphasize and opponents to target, all the while refusing to make difficult personnel choices to impose order on an unwieldy campaign, according to more than 50 current and former campaign staff members and allies, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations and assessments involving the candidate.
Many of her own advisers are now pointing a finger directly at Ms. Harris. In interviews several of them criticized her for going on the offensive against rivals, only to retreat, and for not firmly choosing a side in the party’s ideological feud between liberals and moderates. She also created an organization with a campaign chairwoman, Maya Harris, who goes unchallenged in part because she is Ms. Harris’s sister, and a manager, Mr. [Juan] Rodriguez, who could not be replaced without likely triggering the resignations of the candidate’s consulting team. Even at this late date, aides said it’s unclear who’s in charge of the campaign.