SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — When Sen. Kamala Harris entered the presidential race in January, her California roots were supposed to give her special access to the cash and delegates required to win the Democratic nomination. Instead, she faced headwinds in her home state that ultimately led to her sudden departure from the contest.
One by one, politically active celebrities lined up behind Harris’ rivals, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Many of the state’s energized progressive activists lent their passion and small-dollar donations to Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. And others who weren’t yet paying close attention to the 2020 race gravitated to the name they knew best: former Vice President Joe Biden.
A quiet but significant turning point came in late March, when prominent California donor Susie Tompkins Buell, who had backed Harris, began supporting Buttigieg as well.
Harris told staff and supporters on Tuesday that she simply didn’t have the money to stay in the race.
Having raised close to $12 million in each of the year’s first three quarters, Harris was on pace to raise closer to $3 million this quarter, according to a campaign operative. It was barely enough to keep the lights on, never mind fund the television ads she needed to compete in the primary states that matter most.
Although Iowa had become the epicenter of her campaign in recent weeks, Harris hadn’t run a television ad there since August.
She had at least six California fundraisers planned through December with lawyers, entertainment executives and others, though those involved in the planning conceded that it was becoming increasingly difficult to sell tickets.
Through the summer, she shifted her focus to pocketbook issues and a “3 a.m. agenda,” a message that fell flat. By the fall, she returned to her courtroom roots: “Justice is on the ballot,” she repeated at virtually every campaign appearance, a message that was a cry for economic and social justice. And most recently, she tried to stand out as Trump’s chief protagonist, arguing that she could “prosecute the case” against a “criminal” president.
At just 55 years old, Harris is far from finished in national politics. Her allies note that her California connections are not insignificant. Through the third quarter, she raised more money from California donors than anyone else.