Kamala Harris' big challenge

During a CNN town hall in Iowa, when Democratic presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris was asked how she will stay on message in a debate with President Donald Trump, she stated she will "speak like a leader" rather than "inciting fear."

Posted: Jan 29, 2019 1:00 AM
Updated: Jan 29, 2019 1:00 AM

Kamala Harris has a theory of the case about the Democratic presidential nominating process. If she's right, she could well be standing on a debate platform with Donald Trump in 2020.

Plainly, her announcement and effective rollout on Martin Luther King Jr. Day wasn't a casual scheduling decision. Nor was her decision to visit South Carolina even before her highly produced kickoff rally Sunday in Oakland, California.

While not explicitly capitalizing on her status as the only woman of color in the race, the symbolic timing of her declaration and the nature of these events were impossible to ignore.

Too little attention has been paid to the way the nominating process unfolds, first in mostly white Iowa and New Hampshire but then moving quickly to more diverse states where African-Americans play a much larger role.

Hillary Clinton was able to shake off Bernie Sanders in 2016 primarily because of her advantage among black voters. That same edge helped Barack Obama prevail over Clinton in 2008.

African-American voters are a strong part of the Democratic base. And under party rules, congressional districts with overwhelming Democratic performance receive additional delegates, multiplying the value of black support.

Harris' challenge is to be a top finisher in the early states that traditionally narrow the field, to get to those contests that start with the crucial South Carolina primary, where she may have a decided advantage. She'll be in Iowa tonight for a CNN Town Hall hosted by Jake Tapper. (It airs at 10 pm on CNN.)

There are many reasons to believe Harris could break through.

The daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, an economist and a medical researcher, she is a smart, charismatic and contemporary candidate with broad and diverse appeal.

The power of women on the ballot was manifest in 2018.

In a race that may require more than $100 million just to do well in the early states, Harris has a solid fundraising base in California and through social media. She raised an impressive $1.5 million online in just the first 24 hours after announcing her candidacy.

Her California supporters have built in an additional advantage, moving the date of the state's presidential primary from June to March, with early voting beginning the day of the Iowa caucuses. The nation's largest state will send 11 percent of the delegates to next year's Democratic National Convention.

Harris' profile, as a potentially barrier-breaking candidate, has drawn comparisons to another first-term senator who went on to win the presidency. But glib comparisons to Obama mostly miss the mark.

Blessed with prodigious political skills still unproven in Harris, Obama stood apart from all the Washington-based candidates as an early opponent of the war in Iraq. His distinctive message was a clear challenge to both parties and the conventional, divisive small-bore politics that many Americans felt had failed the country.

Though born in Hawaii, Obama was rooted in the middle of the country. His home and political base was Illinois. His family's ties to Kansas were woven into the fabric of his story. In the small towns and rural communities of Iowa, he felt very much at home.

Harris' base is the Bay Area, not a natural fit for the heartland. California campaigns, which play out mostly on TV, are not the best training for the intimate campaigning required in the early primary states.

Voters there expect genuine interaction, which is why some locals may view it as a bit peculiar that Harris' first major candidate event in Iowa is a nationally televised town hall. (The campaign added a stop in anticipation of that blowback.)

Harris and the cavalcade of Democratic contenders will learn that voters judge on a different scale in a presidential race than any other. They want to know who you truly are, and punish the cautious or unrevealing. This, too, could pose a challenge for the sometimes guarded Californian.

There are other dynamic women in the race, and it very likely will include another prominent candidate of color, US Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

If Beto O'Rourke runs, the former Texas congressman would enter with a galvanized following among the young. Former Vice President Joe Biden would begin as the front-runner.

The best campaigns are tactically sound and strategically clear. They share a coherent and compelling narrative about the candidate, campaign and the country.

Harris' nascent message lacks the crystal clarity of, say, US Sen. Elizabeth Warren's. Why is Harris running? What is her vision for a rapidly changing world? Her announcement speech was powerfully delivered but laden with anodyne Democratic applause lines any candidate might offer.

Her provocative slogan, "Kamala Harris, For the People," derives from her career as a state and local prosecutor and speaks to her toughness and advocacy. But her record is a double-edged sword, providing potential fodder for opponents in an era and a party in which criminal justice reform has emerged as a central issue.

Still, Harris brings enormous assets to the race that make her an instant top-tier candidate.

She is not the first woman of color to run for President. Her campaign logo is an homage to Shirley Chisholm, the late Brooklyn congresswoman, who broke that ground with a symbolic campaign in 1972.

But nearly a half century later, Harris is the first woman of color with a legitimate chance to win.

West Lafayette
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Kokomo
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 54°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 54°
Fowler
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 54°
Williamsport
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Crawfordsville
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Frankfort
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 54°
Delphi
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 53°
Monticello
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 53°
Logansport
Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: °
Rain is likely for most of the day with cooler and windy conditions
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 937221

Reported Deaths: 15239
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1276111977
Lake631621093
Allen53394752
Hamilton43720447
St. Joseph41805587
Elkhart33451489
Vanderburgh30262444
Tippecanoe26779249
Johnson23524417
Hendricks22143341
Porter21620345
Clark17363227
Madison17280382
Vigo16046276
Monroe14422191
LaPorte14263239
Delaware14014220
Howard13802272
Kosciusko11345135
Hancock10785163
Warrick10641176
Bartholomew10510167
Floyd10398204
Wayne9897222
Grant9068204
Morgan8833159
Boone8368110
Dubois7696123
Dearborn758489
Henry7563130
Noble7380101
Marshall7326128
Cass7160117
Lawrence6940153
Shelby6543110
Jackson653185
Gibson6124106
Harrison602885
Huntington597394
Montgomery5767105
DeKalb570791
Knox5417104
Miami539087
Putnam534067
Clinton532465
Whitley522652
Steuben495068
Wabash481592
Jasper477361
Jefferson466991
Ripley451975
Adams442566
Daviess4120108
Scott403964
White389457
Clay388456
Greene386890
Decatur383996
Wells383083
Fayette373178
Posey359041
Jennings351356
Washington330647
LaGrange319575
Spencer316635
Fountain313654
Randolph310688
Sullivan304847
Owen282761
Starke278562
Orange275059
Fulton274653
Jay253536
Perry250852
Carroll243128
Franklin237038
Vermillion231950
Rush231730
Parke218320
Tipton208955
Pike205639
Blackford167934
Pulaski162251
Crawford145418
Newton142745
Benton141916
Brown134646
Martin128016
Switzerland125210
Warren114216
Union95811
Ohio78511
Unassigned0474

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events