WASHINGTON — With Sen. Kamala Harris dropping out of the 2020 presidential race Tuesday, she returns her full attention to the Senate a month before the body is likely to start considering impeaching President Donald Trump.
But it’s not the end of her political ambitions for president, and a possible vice presidential pick isn’t out of the question, according to multiple Democratic political strategists who have followed Harris closely.
“She clearly has higher aspirations than the Senate,” said Steve Maviglio, a Sacramento-based political consultant. “It would not shock me to see her take another run at this, whether it be in 10 years or six years from now.”
She’s still a “rookie” on the national stage, Maviglio said, and at 55 she still has plenty of time to make another run at the presidency.
“This is not someone who just made her last run for president,” agreed Bob Mulholland, a senior adviser to the California Democratic Party and a longtime supporter of Harris. “This is someone who just made one of many runs to continue in the future.”
Hilary McLean, a Democratic political consultant based in Sacramento, said Harris clearly “concluded this isn’t the moment,” but “she’s incredibly smart and has a lot to contribute and she’s also quite young.”
“Any president assembling a Cabinet would be smart to consider Kamala Harris,” McLean said, adding that she could also be a good running mate.
But strategists disagree on whether Harris would make the ideal vice presidential pick. Garry South, a longtime Democratic strategist, said she’d offer no geographical advantage to a presidential nominee and could hurt given her message about being a “progressive prosecutor” fell mostly flat.
“Why would someone pick a Democrat from California as your running mate?” South asked. “It doesn’t matter who it is, you’ll carry the state by 30 points.”
But others said that with a Democratic Party struggling with identity politics, Harris might end up being exactly what some of the remaining older and white top contenders feel they would need to balance out their potential ticket.
It’s also good timing — nominees prefer picks who bowed out sooner rather than later, said Dan Schnur, professor of political communications at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Southern California.
“This would be a selection based on demography, not geography,” Schnur said.
Schnur, South and Mulholland all agreed that a Cabinet position — such as attorney general, as some have speculated for her — would not be advantageous. Mulholland said he doubted she would take it if someone offered, saying, “Usually they don’t go far.
“There hasn’t been a Cabinet secretary who went on to be president in the modern era,” Schnur said. “And she already has a good platform in the Senate.”
Chris Harris, a spokesman for Harris’ Senate office, gave a general statement to McClatchy when asked about Sen. Harris’ future plans. He did not respond to a request for more specifics. He is not related to the senator.
“Serving the people is always her top priority,” Chris Harris said. “From crafting legislation that helps working people to assisting constituents throughout the state, she will continue working hard to serve the people of California.”
Sen. Harris’ national reputation grew in 2018 during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, when she was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
She probably won’t have the same visibility if the Senate moves forward with an impeachment trial. She and other senators would act more as jurors than prosecutors, meaning she won’t be able to broadcast her prosecutorial chops as effectively during the process
But Mulholland said he still expects her to make forceful points about the investigation, that she “will make good points in front of the cameras.”
This could be like “Kavanaugh squared,” Schnur said, referring to Harris’ questioning of Kavanaugh last year.
Many agreed that Harris probably needed to do some “home-knitting” to boost her reputation back in California.
“I think California wants to see her go back to the Senate, where they elected her to serve only three years ago,” South said.
Harris is not up for reelection to her Senate seat until 2022. Harris’ most recent predecessors for the Senate seat, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Alan Cranston, held the position for decades. Current senior California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has held her seat for 27 years and beat a more progressive challenger, Kevin de Leon, by 9 points in 2018.
“She could be the dominant political voice for California for years to come if she chose that path,” Maviglio said.
“I think she’s clearly more ambitious than that,” he added.
©2019 McClatchy Washington Bureau
Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): Kamala Harris