Har­ris piques Democrats’ in­ter­est for 2020

Baby boomers face new gen­er­a­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Sen. Ka­mala D. Har­ris was one of the first to ride to the res­cue af­ter Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Don­nelly an­nounced that they would vote against the con­fir­ma­tion of Jus­tice Brett M. Ka­vanaugh, fir­ing off a plea to her sup­port­ers to open their wal­lets and do­nate to her em­bat­tled Demo­cratic col­leagues.

The Heitkamp email alone raised a re­ported $400,000, sig­ni­fy­ing just how big of a player Ms. Har­ris has be­come, us­ing the midterm elec­tions as a pos­si­ble spring­board to a 2020 pres­i­den­tial run.

She is just one of the po­ten­tial can­di­dates in what is shap­ing up as the high­estoc­tane field in mod­ern his­tory, with a for­mer vice pres­i­dent in Joseph R. Bi­den, for­mer first lady and two-time pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton, for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. and Sens. Bernard San­ders, El­iz­a­beth War­ren, Corey A. Booker and per­haps a half-dozen other sen­a­tors all tak­ing stock.

In Manch­ester, New Hamp­shire, though, Ms. Har­ris is gen­er­at­ing the most buzz.

“I think that is the one per­son who hasn’t stepped foot here, but I think peo­ple are very in­ter­ested in her,” said Gene Mar­tin, chair­man of the Manch­ester Demo­cratic Party. “Peo­ple of­ten ask me: ‘When is Ka­mala go­ing to come to the state?’

“I am go­ing to be very sur­prised if we don’t nom­i­nate an­other woman to take on Trump,” Mr. Mar­tin said. “I would be shocked.”

The 2020 nom­i­na­tion race is cer­tain to spark a de­bate over who is best-po­si­tioned to sus­tain the coali­tion of women, young vot­ers and mi­nori­ties who helped elect Barack Obama to the pres­i­dency — with­out get­ting wiped out among the work­ing-class vot­ers who drove Don­ald Trump’s win.

Ms. Har­ris and Mr. Booker are part of a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers, but they could be on a crash course with baby boomers from the Obama and Clin­ton years who have yet to give up the reins of the party.

Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Bi­den have re­fused to shut the door on pres­i­den­tial bids.

Mr. Holder also has been test­ing the wa­ters, trav­el­ing across the coun­try as head of the Na­tional Demo­cratic Re­dis­trict­ing Com­mit­tee, an Obama-backed ef­fort to stop Repub­li­cans from con­trol­ling the draw­ing of con­gres­sional dis­tricts af­ter the 2020 cen­sus.

“Our democ­racy has been rigged with ra­cial as well as through par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing,” said Mr. Holder, test­ing his own cam­paign mes­sage at a rally in Ge­or­gia last week.

Some un­likely fig­ures also have emerged — most no­tably Michael Ave­natti, the lawyer for for­mer porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clif­ford), whose con­fronta­tional ap­proach to Mr. Trump has left some Democrats con­cerned.

Mr. San­ders, Mr. Bi­den, Mr. Ave­natti, Ms. War­ren, Ms. Har­ris and Mr. Booker have re­ceived the most me­dia at­ten­tion, ac­cord­ing to a study from Melt­wa­ter that Politico re­leased last week.

Also on the list was for­mer New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who snagged head­lines last month when he an­nounced he had reg­is­tered as a Demo­crat and again this week when he an­nounced plans to run $5 mil­lion in anti-Trump ads ahead of the midterm elec­tions.

Rep. John K. De­laney of Mary­land is the only of­fice­holder who has de­clared his cam­paign. He has been run­ning cam­paign ads in Iowa and help­ing can­di­dates there and in New Hamp­shire.

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Ore­gon, Gov. Steve Bul­lock of Mon­tana and Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti also have made fa­vor­able im­pres­sions on the early states that pride them­selves as gate­keep­ers.

Jim De­mers, a vet­eran New Hamp­shire-based Demo­cratic strate­gist, said it could be tough for some of the lesser­known can­di­dates to make a splash.

“When you have so many big names run­ning, it makes it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to break out of the sec­ond-tier pack, and I think it makes it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to raise the type of re­sources you will need in 2020,” Mr. De­mers said. That the­ory is hold­ing up so far. “Bi­den cre­ated the most re­cent buzz in the state with his visit to Cedar Rapids last week,” said Jeff Link, an Iowa-based Demo­cratic Party strate­gist. “His speech was well re­ceived, and Iowa Democrats were en­er­gized. Booker and Har­ris also had strong trips in Oc­to­ber.”

Bret Niles, chair­man of the Linn County Democrats, said Mr. Bi­den’s visit drew a big crowd and “had the most in­ter­est to date.”

“He must have drawn 1,400 peo­ple or so, and Ka­mala Har­ris, she had a pretty big crowd too — [300 to 400] peo­ple,” Mr. Niles said. “Those two seem to be the ones who have sparked peo­ple’s in­ter­est the most right now.

“I think it is hav­ing a new face with Sen. Har­ris and that she is some­body that peo­ple have not had a chance to meet or see here in per­son, and I think with Bi­den it is his ties to Pres­i­dent Obama and the big-name iden­tity that he has,” he said.

Ge­orge Goehl, di­rec­tor of Peo­ple’s Ac­tion, said Mr. San­ders’ base re­mains rel­a­tively con­sol­i­dated.

“His peo­ple are still his peo­ple,” Mr. Goehl said. “That is a pretty loyal bunch.”

Mr. San­ders held a rally at the Univer­sity of New Hamp­shire over the week­end as part of an ag­gres­sive get-out-the-vote push that in­cluded stops in Iowa, Florida, New Hamp­shire and Ne­vada.

Thom Hart, chair­man of the Scott County Iowa Demo­cratic Party, said Mr. San­ders re­mains a force in Iowa, but he added that ac­tivists for now are more in­ter­ested in hear­ing from Mr. Bi­den and get­ting to bet­ter know Ms. War­ren, Ms. Har­ris and Mr. Booker, who head­lined the Iowa Democrats’ fall gala last month and made a cam­paign stop with con­gres­sional can­di­date J.D. Scholten.

“I would say those four,” Mr. Hart said. “I would say there is in­ter­est in Bernie, but we also saw a lot of Bernie in ’15 and ’16, so I would say he would be spe­cial.”

Mr. De­mers said he thinks Mr. Booker and Mr. Bi­den have made the big­gest im­pacts on the midterm elec­tions but added that Ms. Har­ris is gen­er­at­ing a lot of in­ter­est.

“There is cu­rios­ity be­cause I think a lot of ac­tivists kind of know about Bi­den and War­ren and San­ders and Booker, but they have never met Har­ris and they don’t know a lot about her, so there is some cu­rios­ity and in­ter­est in see­ing her and fig­ur­ing out if that is some­one peo­ple would sup­port,” Mr. De­mers said.

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den has not ruled out a 2020 pres­i­den­tial bid, but a young gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers is hint­ing to baby boomers that it’s time to let go of the reins.


Sen. Ka­mala D. Har­ris, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, has used the midterms as a spring­board to dis­tin­guish her­self in what is shap­ing up as the high­est-oc­tane pres­i­den­tial field.

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