Kamala Harris Goes to Washington
California’s vaunted “next Obama” debuts to mixed reviews in the national spotlight.
Prior to arriving in Washington earlier this year, Senator Kamala Harris was known, mostly just among her fellow Californians, as the two-term district attorney in San Francisco and two-term state attorney general, heralded for her stylish wardrobe and reliably progressive—if low-key—policy positions. Harris has now represented the Golden State for only a few months, but the glamorous 52-year-old is already among the top tier of potential Democratic nominees for the 2020 presidential race. The field of presidential prospects includes fellow senators Cory Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Tim Kaine (VA), and of course progressive mainstay Elizabeth Warren (MA). Given her scant national experience and rookie status in the Senate, does the ambitious Harris have a chance?
Harris came to the Senate with certain undeniable advantages. California’s 55 electoral votes—nearly one-fifth the number necessary to be elected president—give Harris a boost over politicians from less populous states. She was elected in a landslide, with over 7.5 million votes—a staggering number, exceeding the population of many states. In the general election in November, Harris defeated her Democratic opponent (because of California’s unusual “top-two” primary rule) by more than 23 percentage points.
So Harris is very popular, at least in California. Due to her multiracial background and confident self-presentation, Harris has been called “the next Obama,” an appellation that may reflect no more than shallow stereotypes or wishful thinking by her supporters. In a Senate full of “rising stars,” including six other newly arrived freshmen, she will have to work hard and avoid mistakes to meet the high expectations set for presidential aspirants.
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