Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) had solid debate performances. It’s what’s kept her in the running for a few months, but infrastructure matters. Staffing matters. And having an agenda and a message matter. All three were missing from Harris’ 2020 campaign and it led to the end of her presidential ambitions. No one really knew where she stood. By the Fall, the wheels from this shoddy operation quickly fell off the hinges. In December, The New York Times wrote about an operation that quickly devolved into chaos with warring factions. On top of that, the publication reported that Harris’ people are already worried that Tom Steyer, who is still running for president, could primary the senator in 2022. And yes, that jab by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), another 2020 candidate, on her record as a prosecutor—and Harris’ inadequate response—is what many point to as the moment that marked her quick decline in the 2020 race (via NYT):
...[E]ven to some Harris allies, her decline is more predictable than surprising. In one instance after another, Ms. Harris and her closest advisers made flawed decisions about which states to focus on, issues to emphasize and opponents to target, all the while refusing to make difficult personnel choices to impose order on an unwieldy campaign, according to more than 50 current and former campaign staff members and allies, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations and assessments involving the candidate.
Many of her own advisers are now pointing a finger directly at Ms. Harris. In interviews several of them criticized her for going on the offensive against rivals, only to retreat, and for not firmly choosing a side in the party’s ideological feud between liberals and moderates. She also created an organization with a campaign chairwoman, Maya Harris, who goes unchallenged in part because she is Ms. Harris’s sister, and a manager, Mr. Rodriguez, who could not be replaced without likely triggering the resignations of the candidate’s consulting team. Even at this late date, aides said it’s unclear who’s in charge of the campaign.
… her troubles go beyond staffing and strategy: Her financial predicament is dire. The campaign has not taken a poll or been able to afford TV advertising since September, and it has all but quit buying Facebook ads in the last two months. Her advisers, after months of resistance, have only now signaled their desire for a group of former aides to begin a super PAC to finance an independent political effort on her behalf.
To some Democrats who know Ms. Harris, her struggles indicate larger limitations.
“You can’t run the country if you can’t run your campaign,” said Gil Duran, a former aide to Ms. Harris and other California Democrats who’s now the editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee.
From the start, the campaign structure seemed ripe for conflict. Ms. Harris divided her campaign between two coasts, basing her operation in Baltimore but retaining some key advisers in the Bay Area. She bifurcated the leadership between two decidedly different loyalists: her sister, the chair, and Mr. Rodriguez, a trusted lieutenant who had managed her 2016 Senate campaign. Mr. Rodriguez was a central figure at the San Francisco-based consulting firm, SCRB, that had helped direct Ms. Harris’s rise for a decade; all of the firm’s partners were lined up to advise the presidential race.
The two camps were soon competing, each stocked with people who shared a tight bond with Ms. Harris but who regarded each other with suspicion or worse.
Harris would drop out days after this Times piece was published. From this, no wonder why this bid imploded, but what about the voters. Well, it turns out a lot of black voters found Harris to be totally obnoxious from the start. The Washington Free Beacon clipped this exchange with South Carolina black voters, who thought the California liberal assumed way too much about this demographic. It’s a common criticism that Democrats have long taken the black vote for granted. Democrats only care about this bloc of voters during election years. And even Harris didn’t shake that feeling (via Free Beacon):
Black voters in South Carolina on Friday criticized Sen. Kamala Harris's (D., Calif.) now defunct presidential campaign, saying it assumed too much about the black vote and lacked "consistency."
"I found Kamala Harris abrasive from the beginning," one voter said on CNN’s New Day. "I thought that she assumed to have achieved the black vote, which when you assume which way my support should go, it shows that you have commodified my interest."
Another voter lacked confidence in Harris's leadership, insisting that "if you can't lead your campaign team, you may not be able to lead the country." Others criticized the broader assumption that black voters prefer black candidates—as one voter put it, "it's almost like you’re saying we don't have our own ideas and views, which we do, beyond race."
Not everyone can pull an Obama—a freshman senator making a cinderella run for the presidency and succeeding. Harris was way ahead of her skis in this contest.