Did America just witness the beginning of the end for Sen. Kamala Harris?
The Democratic senator from California opened Thursday night’s debate by directly targeting President Trump, who she would later call a “really small dude,” in an effort to separate herself from a crowded field.
But her strategy to focus more on Trump than the other 2020 Democratic candidates sharing the stage with her did not do enough to impress big money donors.
While Harris saw a surge in polling after a strong performance in the first debate in June, a poll in late August showed a 12 point drop, which put her well behind top-tier candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Doing little to help herself in the party’s second debate, it was critical that Harris do something Thursday night to not only impress voters, but excite deep pocket donors who were waffling on her candidacy.
She failed, according to CNBC.
The network said that close supporters quietly acknowledged ahead of Thursday’s debate that Harris had to come out swinging to keep wealthy donors in her corner, and that her efforts failed to convince them.
Biden played a role in her success in the first debate, when Harris went at him for his willingness as a senator in the 1970s to work with segregationists. She tried to go back to the well Thursday in an exchange over guns, but Biden made Harris look as if she was ignoring the Constitution in her proposal to ban imports of AR-15 tactical rifles.
More so than other candidates in the race, Harris is dependent on big money donors.
More from CNBC on her campaign finances:
Harris has relied on contributors willing to give up to $2,800 — the maximum amount allowable by law — in order to finance her presidential run.
Since the start of her campaign in January, Harris has raised over $14 million from large individual contributors, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That total equals 56% of her $24 million haul. She finished raising almost $12 million in the second quarter.
At least 45% of Harris’ contributions have hailed from the Golden State.
Citing a source close to a political fundraising powerhouse in California, CNBC said Harris did little to change negative opinions.
“I don’t think anything has changed, and it’s been grim,” the source said, adding that donors believe that on the debate stage Harris remains “unclear about her message and strategy.”
Her focus on trashing Trump was well received — after all, it’s all but become a sport in the US — but the source said “there was too much odd laughter and canned lines.”
An anonymous New York banking executive was quoted panning Harris for playing it too safe and failing to prove she was a better choice than the front-runner.
“You need to get into these debates and score some points or there is not going to be any money for her,” this person told CNBC. “She didn’t score any points.”
Another California bundler told the network that it feels as if Harris doesn’t have any direction as a candidate. “
“She’s now tacked back and self-corrected,” the individual said. “Now it looks like she’s been schooled and directionless.”
And Harris is beginning to hear rumblings about ending her presidential campaign.
“[M]y big takeaway is that someone’s campaign should have ended tonight. Kamala Harris. Her performance tonight was an embarrassment of canned one- and two-liners bashing Trump, and anecdotal stories about people she’s met,” wrote William Jacobson, a law professor at Cornell University.
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