Kamal Harris debates her way to the top tier of presidential hopefuls

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Thanks to her winning performance at the Democratic presidential debate held in Miami on June 27, Sen. Kamala Devi Harris has surged to third place in the first post-debate poll. A CNN poll later placed her in the second position.

Even though former Vice President Joe Biden remains in first place, he has dropped by 5 percentage points — from 38 to 33 percent—mainly due to the skewering he was subjected to by Harris, who pilloried him for being against the federally mandated busing to integrate public schools, which she argued she was a beneficiary of.

The poll conducted by The Morning Consult, had Sen. Bernie Sanders still at second place, but Harris was now tied in third place with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, after stagnating at fifth place, behind South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg for several weeks and lingering in single digits, after peaking early after her impressive roll out of her formal presidential campaign on Jan. 27 in front of a crowd of over 20,000 in her hometown of Oakland, California.

The poll found that 12 percent of Democratic primary voters said Harris was their first choice for president, which was a solid increase of 6 percentage points from the June 17-23 poll, thus doubling her vote share, catapulting her past Buttigieg and into a third-place tie Warren of Massachusetts, who had maintained this position behind Biden and Sanders for weeks after unveiling several substantive policy proposals.

The poll acknowledged that “Harris’ big night in Miami came largely at the expense of the race’s frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden’s support dropped by 5 points, although he remained the first choice for 33 percent of Democratic primary voters.”

It said as far as Sanders was concerned, the debate had “also brought middling returns” for the Vermont Senator in his second rodeo for the presidency after losing the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Sanders did not lose any first-choice support (at 19 percent) but the poll said that he was “ the only high-profile candidate to experience a measurable drop in favorability.”

I said that 67 percent of Democratic primary voters in the latest poll said “they had a favorable view of Sanders, down 7 points from the previous survey, while some of the other more well-known candidates such as Biden and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas saw their favorability decline, those dips were inside the poll’s 5-point margin of error on that question.”

Thanks to her breakthrough debate performance, where she also thrashed President Trump and his policies, and the consequent jump in the polls, Harris garnered $2 million online in the first 24 hours after the debate that ended at 11 p.m.

In an e-mail for her supporters and donors, Harris wrote that her donations came from 63,277 people and pointed out that 58 percent of those donors were first-time contributors, clearly implying that her stellar debate performance was the catalyst that had resonated with them.

She said in her mail that “it was the best day of online fund-raising yet,” which came at an opportune moment because June 30 marked the end of the second fund-raising quarter for the year, which is always an important marker for any campaign.

In the first quarter that ended on March 31, she was second only to Sanders in fundraising, raising $12 million to Sanders’ $18 million in the same period, but since then after Biden declared his candidacy and Buttigieg caught fire, they were number one and number two and Harris’ fundraising like her standing in the polls seemed to have peaked, until the June 27 debate, and during cross talk about race relations, Harris jumped into the fray and attacked Biden, who seemed stunned like a deer caught in the headlights.

Harris turning to Biden said, “I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe—and it's personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”

“And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me,” she said.

Moments after the exchange, her campaign tweeted a picture of elementary school-aged Harris with pigtails, over a caption that read, “There was a little girl in California who was bused to school. That little girl was me.”

The campaign was also advertising T-shirts showing the school-aged Harris with the words, “That little girl was me,” adorned across them.

Noting the speed with which Harris’ campaign tweeted out this picture of the elementary school-aged Harris, William Sweeney, the former deputy chairman of the National Democratic Committee and former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Vice.com that it’s clear that her attack on Biden was calculated. “They didn’t go running to the family scrapbook that night,” he said.

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