Kamala Harris crowned instant Democratic frontrunner following 2020 announcement

Commentators are responding to Kamala Harris as 2020 frontrunner

Published January 22, 2019 9:24AM (EST)

Kamala Harris (AP/Rich Pedroncelli)
Kamala Harris (AP/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was immediately launched into the rarefied field of frontrunners after she announced on Monday her intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

"The future of our country depends on you, and millions of others, lifting our voices to fight for our American values. Let’s do this together: For ourselves, for our children, for our country," Harris said in a public video released to announce her candidacy, according to The New York Times.

During her news conference at Howard University, a historically black college that she attended in the 1980s, Harris said that "the core of my campaign is the people. Nobody is living their life through the lens of one issue. And I think what people want is leadership that sees them through the complexity of their lives and pays equal attention to their needs. Let’s not put people in a box."

CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza opined on the logistics of how Harris could become the next Democratic presidential nominee:

The question for Harris is whether she can replicate Obama's success in Iowa or, if not, whether she can show well in New Hampshire. Given the size of the expected field -- 18 to 24 candidates -- winning may be less important to Harris than simply overperforming expectations with a top-three showing.

If she can do that, she will be very well-positioned to win in South Carolina and, with that victory under her belt, will be a force going into the bigger population states that vote in March -- none bigger than California, which is set to vote on March 3 and where Harris would be an overwhelming favorite.

The New York Times' David Leonhardt wrote that the junior senator from California should be taken "seriously" as a Democratic candidate:

By formally entering the presidential race, Kamala Harris immediately becomes one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination. As Nate Silver recently explained, Harris has the potential to fare well among several of the five big Democratic constituencies: party loyalists; hard-core progressives; young voters; African-Americans; and Hispanic and Asian-American voters.

"Amen. I'm proud of @KamalaHarris too and grateful for her - what she did today is historic and something that should make us all respect and recognize," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and another prospective 2020 presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "And yes, I also share that prayer."

Harris also announced that “This campaign will not take a dime from corporate PACs—just people, like you,” on Twitter, sharing a link to her campaign donations pages. “We don't have to accept a system that drowns out your voice. We can do better. Chip in now.”

Yet not all of the reactions to Harris' candidacy have been positive. As The Guardian noted:

Among the many policies now drawing renewed scrutiny, Harris’s approach to sex work, police reform, prisoners’ rights and truancy reveal the tensions between her record in law enforcement and her current progressive rhetoric.

For decades, Harris’s law enforcement credentials were central to her appeal to voters. Now, as the Democratic party continues to reckon with its history of endorsing racist, ineffective criminal justice policies, her background has become, for some voters, a liability.

Harry Enten, a senior political writer and analyst for the statistical website FiveThirtyEight, had a somewhat different and more optimistic view of Harris' candidacy.

"Kamala Harris not part of the "left" (where Sanders/Gabbard fans overlap), but she is 'progressive,'" Enten wrote on Twitter. "If by that, we mean someone with a liberal voting record (https://voteview.com/congress/senate/-1/text …) & who votes against Trump (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-trump-score …). Even if that is up for debate by some, tho."

He added, "BTW, I'm not saying Gabbard is "left". I'm saying Harris doesn't fit that definition of left where that Sanders/Gabbard fandom intersects... TBH, IDK if there is an agreed upon standard of what Gabbard is... except almost certainly not Dem nominee in 2020."

On a more humorous note, disgraced former Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly tweeted that Harris lost his vote by opposing Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court — an absurd statement, given that the conservative O'Reilly almost certainly never would have supported her in the first place.

"Full steam ahead on 2020 – Kamala Harris announced she will run today. She denied Brett Kavanaugh due process in front of the nation, and in so doing has lost my vote. I could not imagine any American for somebody who does not believe in due process," O'Reilly tweeted.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has also appeared in Mic, MSN, MSNBC, Yahoo, Quartz, The Good Men Project, The Daily Dot, Alter Net, Raw Story and elsewhere.

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