Kamala Harris just had her best campaign moment

Harris is at her formidable best in the Senate; currently her campaign doesn’t benefit from this.

This week, Kamala Harris absolutely took the Attorney General, William Barr, to town. It was the highlight of her campaign so far, and she wasn’t even campaigning. Harris made Barr noticeably uncomfortable, so much so that he got his Mommy to give a sick note to the teacher so he didn’t have to come to class the next day.

It was her at her formidable best; intelligent, probing, cerebral, sharp. With current company wholly excluded that list is starting to sound like the characteristics of a President. A transcript of the interaction between her and Barr isn’t even that helpful here. It was not necessarily what she said, it was the way she said it and the non-verbal communication that was so powerful.

The problem for her and her team is that we will inevitably see less and less of that as the campaign goes on. You may passionately disagree with me, but I don’t think she has been excellent on the trail so far. Her polling hasn’t had the mini-surges shared by Mayor Pete, Biden, and even Warren have all experienced so far. When she is under pressure from moderators at a town hall or by voters themselves, she lacks that combative calm she used so powerfully against Barr earlier this week.

Again, you may disagree with me here, too, but image and perception matter — probably more than policy does, especially during the primaries when candidates’ specific policy platforms will not yet be fully decided. The short-term challenge for Harris then is how best does she capture her image as a powerful member of a Senate Committee and translate that to the wider campaign? In many ways, it’s a nice problem to have. Both Corey Booker and Amy Klobuchar sit on the same Committee but weren’t able to land the same punches.

A specific example where this might pose a threat for Harris is during the Democrat Primary debates (the first one being in June). So far the Democrat field have all been fairly nice to each other — not wanting to make themselves look like their GOP colleagues three years ago (small hands and all!). But for Harris, she is at her very best when she is a bit nasty. Forensic, to be nice. Combative, to be fair. Brutal, to be harsh. She no doubt has the capacity to take down her Democrat rivals in the debates, but that approach will mark a distinct change in tone; perhaps an irreversible one, too.

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Writing on US politics from across the pond. Occasional comments in the build up to the 2020 election week. Views rarely my own. Especially the funny ones.

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