Kamala Harris Dropping Out of 2020 Democratic Presidential Race

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/ Getty Images
Kamala Harris

Her decision to exit the race comes after months of trying to re-create the momentum from her January campaign launch, which drew 20,000 people in her home state of California.

Sen. Kamala Harris told supporters on Tuesday that she was ending her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, an abrupt close to a candidacy that held historic potential.

"I've taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life," the California Democrat said. "My campaign for president simply doesn't have the financial resources we need to continue."

A senior campaign aide said Harris made the decision Monday after discussing the path forward with family and other top officials over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Her withdrawal marked a dramatic fall for a candidate who showed extraordinary promise in her bid to become the first black female president. Harris launched her campaign in front of 20,000 people on a chilly January day in Oakland, California. The first woman and first black attorney general and U.S. senator in California's history, she was widely viewed as a candidate poised to excite the multiracial coalition of voters that sent Barack Obama to the White House.

Her departure erodes the diversity of the Democratic field, which is dominated at the moment by a top tier that is white and mostly male.

"She was an important voice in the race, out before others who raised less and were less electable. It's a loss not to have her voice in the race," said Aimee Allison, who leads She the People, a group that promotes women of color.

Harris ultimately could not craft a message that resonated with voters or secure the money to continue her run.

She raised an impressive $12 million in the first three months of her campaign and quickly locked down major endorsements meant to show her dominance in her home state, which offers the biggest delegate haul in the Democratic primary contest.

But as the field grew, Harris' fundraising remained flat; she was unable to attract the type of attention being showered on Pete Buttigieg by traditional donors or the grassroots firepower that drove tens of millions of dollars to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

In her note to supporters, Harris lamented the role of money in politics and, without naming them, took a shot at billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, who are funding their presidential bids.

"I'm not a billionaire," she said. "I can't fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it's become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete."

Harris suffered from what allies and critics viewed as an inconsistent pitch to voters. Her slogan "For the people" referenced her career as a prosecutor, a record that was viewed skeptically by the party's most progressive voters.

Through the summer, she focused on pocketbook issues and her "3 a.m. agenda," a message that never seemed to resonate with voters. By the fall, she had returned to her courtroom roots with the refrain that "justice is on the ballot," both a cry for economic and social justice as well as her call that she could "prosecute the case" against a "criminal" president.

At times, she was tripped up by confusing policy positions; particularly on health care. After suggesting she would eliminate private insurance in favor of a fully government-run system, Harris eventually rolled out a health care plan that preserves a role for private insurance.

Stumbles, often of the campaign's making, continued to dog Harris into the winter, stymieing her ability to capitalize on solid moments. Harris kicked off November with a well-received speech at a massive Iowa dinner, just a day after her campaign announced it would fire staff at its Baltimore headquarters and was moving some people from other early states to Iowa.

Her message was regularly overshadowed by campaign aides and allies sharing grievances with the news media. Several top aides decamped for other campaigns, one leaving a blistering resignation letter.

"Because we have refused to confront our mistakes, foster an environment of critical thinking and honest feedback, or trust the expertise of talented staff, we find ourselves making the same unforced errors over and over," Kelly Mehlenbacher wrote in her letter, obtained by The New York Times. Mehlenbacher now works for businessman Bloomberg's campaign.

With Harris' exit, 15 Democrats remain in the race for the nomination. Several praised her on Tuesday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who had a memorable debate stage tussle with Harris this summer, called the senator a "solid person, loaded with talent."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders commended Harris for "running a spirited and issue-oriented campaign."

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, one of two black candidates still in the campaign, called Harris a "trailblazer."

Harris anchored her campaign in the powerful legacy of pioneering African Americans. Her campaign launch on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday included a nod to Shirley Chisholm, the New York congresswoman who sought the Democratic Party's presidential nomination 47 years ago earlier.

One of her first stops as a candidate was to Howard University, the historically black college that she attended as an undergraduate.

She spent much of her early campaign focusing on South Carolina, which hosts the first Southern primary and has a significant African American population.

But Harris struggled to chip away at Biden's deep advantage with black voters who are critical to winning the Democratic nomination.

Harris and her aides believe she faced an uphill battle — and unfair expectations for perfection — from the start as a woman of color. Her campaign speech included a line about what Harris called the "donkey in the room," a reference to the thought that Americans wouldn't elect a woman of color.

Harris often suggested it was criticism she faced in her other campaigns — all of which she won.

Her departure from the presidential race marks her first defeat as a political candidate.

Eleven months ago at the launch of our campaign in Oakland I told you all: “I am not perfect. But I will always speak with decency and moral clarity and treat all people with dignity and respect. I will lead with integrity. I will speak the truth.”

And that’s what I have tried to do every day of this campaign. So here’s the truth today.

I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life.

My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.

I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.

In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do.

So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret — but also with deep gratitude — that I am suspending my campaign today.

But I want to be clear with you: I am still very much in this fight.

And I will keep fighting every day for what this campaign has been about. Justice for the People. All the people.

Our campaign has been about fighting for people whose voices have not been heard or too often ignored.

We will keep up that fight.

Let’s remember: we were the first to put the injustice of inadequate teacher pay on the national agenda.

We will keep up that fight.

We were the first to demand justice for our children, declaring we would take bold executive actions to stop gun violence.

We will keep up that fight.

We were the first to demand justice for women with a plan to block unconstitutional state abortion laws.

We will keep up that fight.

And our campaign uniquely spoke to the experiences of Black women and people of color — and their importance to the success and future of this party. Our campaign demanded no one should be taken for granted by any political party.

We will keep up that fight because no one should be made to fight alone.

And I believe our campaign showed every child in America — regardless of their color or gender — that there are no limits to who can lead and hold positions of power in our country.

In that way — this campaign has been so much bigger than me.

I am extremely grateful to the hundreds of staff who moved and uprooted their lives and sacrificed time away from their families. I know our fight has been personal for each of them.

Of course I could not have done this without my husband Doug and my entire family and friends who gave up so much to embark on this journey with me and have supported me every step of the way.

And I am grateful to the thousands of volunteers and contributors who chipped in, who knocked on doors, who made calls and who put their faith and trust in me. It has been the honor of my life to be your candidate.

And I want to be clear: although I am no longer running for President, I will do everything in my power to defeat Donald Trump and fight for the future of our country and the best of who we are.

I know you will too. So let’s do that together.

Let’s keep fighting for the America we believe in, an America free of injustice. An America that we know we can be unburdened by what has been.

Thank you.

— Kamala