Yesterday was about the winners. Today we hang out with the losers. You won’t see any of the candidates who dropped out here. None of them started the quarter with a prayer. Succumbing to the inevitable is at worst neutral. We still have plenty of candidates to discuss.
From failing to capitalize to failing to get traction to the grease fire that is Kamala for (not enough of) the People, here’s the dishonorable list:
Amy Klobuchar (D+): She’s ahead of Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, et al. She didn’t need to drop out like John Hickenlooper. She’s not scorned like John Delaney. But Klobuchar is barely hanging in. Unless her poll numbers improve, she won’t qualify for Debate #5.
And it’s questionable that debates are forwarding her campaign in any way. She gets to appear on Sunday shows with decent regularity. The media takes her as seriously as they can given her poll numbers. There’s just no hook to her campaign. She lacks charisma, and her platform is electability due to her electoral results in Minnesota.
It’s 1000% clear her only path is a Biden implosion. Since he ended the quarter with equal or better numbers than he started it with, Klobuchar had a bad quarter.
Julian Castro (D+): He began the quarter with hope. He did well in the first debate and had landed a punch on Beto O’Rourke. So much for that. While Castro is participating in the fourth debate in mid-October, he’s not likely to qualify for the fifth, and has said that would be the end of his campaign. If anyone remembers his campaign a few years from now, most likely it is for being mean to Joe Biden.
Castro did manage to outlast a pile of other contenders. He’s not disqualified from being a Warren running mate. So bad quarter, not deadly one. But he began looking like he’d at least be able to dethrone Beto as the lead Texan, and ended with O’Rourke clearly ahead of him, most tellingly with home state voters.
Steve Bullock and Michael Bennet (D):
Let’s talk about these two together. Amongst all the moderates sitting in debateless purgatory, these two have the best credentials. Bullock is a governor, Bennet a senator. Bullock won twice statewide in red Montana, Bennet twice in purple Colorado. It doesn’t look like either will drop out soon.
They already failed to qualify for the third and fourth debate and hung on. Missing number five isn’t going to make them blink. Bullock is leaving office and doesn’t want to run for the Senate. Bennet just got re-elected in 2018.
Like Klobuchar, they both suffer from not having an issue or hook, aside from being moderate, presumably electable, and sharper than Biden. Neither has done anything to stand out. Neither tried hard enough to change that. Bennet has complained about debate qualification standards and the DNC’s opaqueness, but whining isn’t a way to gain traction.
Anyway, not saying they’d have done well if only they’d listened to me. A Biden collapse was their only angle. But they lost ground during the quarter and have no momentum. Bennet just started a big ad campaign in Iowa, so perhaps we’ll have something to talk about soon. At least he’s playing a card.
Kamala Harris (D-):
It’s not an F. She still has a campaign. There wasn’t a huge scandal. There wasn’t a single comment or debate performance that will live in infamy. Good lord though. In early July, she was the favorite for the nomination on PredictIt. Not with the share Warren has now, but still, ahead of Biden, Warren, everybody.
She’s presently considered less likely than Hillary Clinton, and only slightly more than Tulsi Gabbard. For a brief, shining moment in July, Harris was 2nd in the RCP national average. Today, she’s 5th, between Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang. Kamala trails Sanders by 13, Warren by 17, Biden by more than 20.
She’s a more distant fifth in Iowa and New Hampshire than nationally. Worst of all, she’s at 3% in the new CNN South Carolina poll. Ugh. How preventable was this? Depends how you look at it. The most likely answer is that she’s just not a great candidate.
Fifteen years ago, she won an insurgent campaign against the incumbent to become San Francisco’s DA. That’s the one tough campaign of her career. There’s an old saying that politicians keep re-running their first successful campaign. In that effort, she ran against a washed establishment white guy, and put together a coalition of under-served minorities and the liberal elite.
In that universe, she was the dynamic choice. Wealthy folks felt good about supporting her. She covered some traditionally overlooked neighborhoods and constituencies. No part of the Democratic electorate is being overlooked in the 2020 presidential cycle.
There are tons of candidates for wealthy donors to feel good about supporting. Ultimately, Elizabeth Warren is just a much, much, much better presidential candidate at this stage of their careers. While Warren still dances when asked if her health care plan will cause increased taxation for middle class Americans, she’s crystal clear about almost everything else.
Voters believe Warren knows what she believes in. They do not believe Harris does. As Kamala slips in the polls, loses traction, she gets more and more programmed sounding. For Q4, she’s all about Iowa. After going more than a month without visiting, Harris has committed to weekly attendance.
It’s a necessary move, but way less effective than if she’d done this with momentum. In July Iowan activists would have been honored. Now they know she’s desperate. Redefining herself with impeachment the main story is even harder.
Q3 fundraising numbers are due by 10/15. In Q2, Kamala was a distant fifth to Mayor Pete, Sanders, Biden, and Warren last quarter, but she did clear $10 million. If her numbers are noticeably lower this time, maybe this should be an F.
Please return tomorrow for our final Quarterly Report Card installment. The candidates who treaded water.