Kamala Harris and Julian Castro are losing their respective fights for relevance. Will the curtains be closing on their campaigns soon?
Beto O’Rourke’s exit from the Democratic presidential race last Friday wasn’t exactly shocking news, but it did give rise to speculation that other campaigns that have also struggled to gain ground in a crowded field would soon follow suit.
Just a day after O’Rourke dropped out, CNN reported that Julián Castro’s senior campaign staff members were advising other staffers to start looking for jobs with rival campaigns:
Julián Castro plans to refocus his 2020 presidential campaign on Iowa, Nevada and Texas in the coming days and is supporting his staffers looking for jobs with other campaigns, sources familiar with the plans tell CNN.
The former Housing and Urban Development secretary has struggled for months to raise money or get attention in the still large field of Democrats vying for the chance to take on President Donald Trump. Castro spent the final 10 days of October pushing to raise $800,000 and pledged to donors that he would drop out if he failed to hit that goal. The campaign narrowly hit the goal with hours to go on October 31.
But it was clear inside the San Antonio-based campaign even before the push began that the future was uncertain for the Texas Democrat. The Castro campaign senior leadership told staffers before they announced their fundraising push that whether or not they hit the number, staff should feel free to look for other opportunities.
And even when the campaign hit the fundraising goal, Castro’s senior aides again told staff that the campaign would likely have to make staffing adjustments to press on.
Some have already started doing so, according to the report.
By Monday, news was circulating that the Castro campaign was laying off staffers in two states effective next week in order to restructure and focus on what they see as key states in the coming weeks:
Julián Castro’s campaign will fire its staff in New Hampshire and South Carolina, an official familiar with the campaign told POLITICO. The campaign notified the state teams on Monday and their final day will be next week.
The source said the campaign will continue focusing on Iowa and Nevada with a $50,000 television ad buy in Iowa beginning Tuesday morning. The moves amount to a long-shot attempt to remain in the presidential contest in the hopes of catching fire before the first contests begin next February.
The Politico piece also notes that Castro has not yet qualified for this month’s presidential debate but still has a little over a week to do so:
In order to appear on the next debate stage, Castro needs to hit 3 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee or 5 percent in DNC-approved early-state surveys. He hasn’t met the mark in a single poll but he does have until Nov. 13 to qualify for the Nov. 20 debate in Atlanta.
Along with the Castro campaign’s woes are those of Sen. Kamala Harris, who has also had to lay off staffers in other states recently so she can go “all in” on trying to win the Iowa caucuses in early February.
Because Harris’ fall from the top tier was so dramatic, her campaign has been the subject of increased scrutiny from political observers in an attempt to pinpoint just what went wrong and how. Has the primary issue for Harris been the fact that she’s a woman of color, as she recently suggested?
No, says Forbes.com’s Bill Whalen:
How then to account for Harris’ meteoric rise (at this point in the race, just four months ago, she had surged to second place in both national and Iowa polls)? Did likely Democratic voters become misogynist racists over the summer and fall?
A more likely culprit than America not being ready for a President Kamala Harris: Sen. Kamala Harris not being ready for the presidential spotlight. Harris failed to clarify if she was for or against private health insurance. The long-awaited healthcare plan she eventually rolled out – kinda, sorta, Medicare-For-All, left her fellow Democrats perplexed.
Whatever momentum Harris had coming out of the initial June debate was soon squandered by her own ineptitude. And that has nothing to do race and/or gender.
That Harris’ issues with getting her message across to Democratic voters is a problem of her own making is a viewpoint shared by Politico’s Christopher Cadelago after interviews with dozens of people in and outside of her political circle:
Interviews with more than 50 people inside and around her campaign—including current and former aides, personal confidants and strategists, and Democratic officials who have watched Harris up close for nearly a decade—reveal how a candidate with so much promise, range and charisma has slid so far. Many of her dilemmas are self-creations. Harris undermined her national introduction with costly flubs on health care, feeding a critique that she lacks a strong ideological core and plays to opinion polls and the desires of rich donors. She was vague or noncommittal on question after question from voters at campaign stops. She leaned on verbal crutches instead of hammering her main points in high-profile TV moments. The deliberate, evidence-intensive way she arrives at decisions—one of her potential strengths in a matchup with Trump—often made her look wobbly and unprepared.
As to the other struggling lower tier campaigns, we all know Rep. Tulsi Gabbard isn’t going anywhere. But other candidates who haven’t polled well like Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar are still hanging on despite the fact that their fundraising numbers are not where they need to be to keep a viable campaign competitive going forward at this stage in the game.
Regardless of their reasons for sticking around, the struggle for these candidates is very real, so much so that the sniping has increased between those fighting for relevance and those who are leaving them in the dust:
“Just look at [Mayor Pete’s] track record as mayor. He has a bad track record with African Americans on the issues, and he’s almost acknowledged as much,” Castro said. “It is risky to nominate somebody that cannot appeal to one of our most important constituencies.”
Several candidates were irked earlier this week when Buttigieg said in an interview with Showtime’s “The Circus” that the race for the Democratic nomination was coming down to a choice between himself and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“It’s naive for him to think that at this point, that the fate of the election has been determined,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) told “Face the Nation.” “Just look at history. You might need to review to know that what’s happening right now is not necessarily determinative of the outcome.”
We’ll find out soon enough.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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