Gail Collins: Kamala decamps, Iowa’s still crowded, Trump’s still Trump
(John Bazemore | AP file photo)
In this Nov. 20 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta.
Kamala Harris is out!
This is big news. The Democratic presidential field is shrinking. We’ve got only 15 people left. Twenty-six fewer than the House Judiciary Committee. Smaller than the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” Although sometimes more entertaining.
It’s natural the field is crowded — there are approximately 47 million native-born Democrats of presidential age in this country, at least 46.9 million of whom think they’d do a better job than Donald Trump. And it is probably true that most of them could manage to get through a NATO meeting without being laughed at by our allies.
Although she was by far the most prominent defection, Harris was the 14th candidate to throw in the towel. Just before she made her announcement, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak dropped out. And how many of you called up a friend with that news? I’ll bet you don’t even know what Bullock and Sestak look like. Or which one walked all the way across New Hampshire to demonstrate his commitment to the race.
Not going to let you dangle in suspense. Sestak, a former Navy admiral, did the hiking. You have to feel sorry for the man. He tried really hard. (“The rain is pouring, and the wind is blowing, but I’m still walking across New Hampshire.”) And got zip.
It could have been a lot worse, Kamala. You didn’t have to walk 105 miles to get noticed. And you get to go back to being a U.S. senator, which is a very good job. Think about how you’d feel if you were Beto O’Rourke.
Harris, 55, was one of the few serious Democratic candidates who isn’t either exceptionally young or exceptionally old. Joe Biden, for instance, is 77 and currently demonstrating his youthful worldview by driving around in a bus called “No Malarkey.”
It’s definitely a new campaign strategy, flaunting the fact that you were a cool kid in the 1950s. What’s going to come next? Visiting all 99 Iowa counties in The Classy Chassis? Touring New Hampshire in the Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’ Express? Coming soon: a major Biden position paper titled “A Full Ice Box for Every American.”
Final Biden question of the day. When he suddenly nibbled his wife’s finger during a campaign event, did you think:
C) “Hey, that’s just what my grandfather did to my grandmother at their 60th anniversary party.”
Let’s just hope this doesn’t become a trend. I do not like the idea of Bernie Sanders taking a nip out of Jane’s thumb somewhere around Cedar Rapids.
Iowa does get all the excitement. And attention. Harris once sent out a fundraising email (probably) joking that she was going to move there. Back in 2007, former Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd actually did, enrolling his daughter in an Iowa public school. Iowans, who are used to being desperately pursued, weren’t impressed.
Harris was an attractive candidate except for the part about not being good at organization or coming up with a consistent theme. The only truly disturbing thing about her departure is that the field she’s leaving behind isn’t exactly diverse. This month’s debate may be all white. And Deval Patrick, the black former Massachusetts governor who just jumped into the race, isn’t setting the world on fire. One of his earliest events, at Morehouse College in Atlanta, got canceled when nobody came.
I’m sorry, “nobody came” is too sad. There were actually two people in the audience. Let’s hope Patrick at least took them out for a drink.
Harris blamed her campaign’s collapse on a lack of money. “I am not a billionaire,” she said in her farewell tweet. Everybody’s complaining about billionaires, but imagine if we were writing stories right now about all the candidates who were unemployed and running for president out of an aunt’s attic.
Really, there are just two billionaires. Tom Steyer is running as one who’s worried about “corporate money.” In a different world we might be cynical about a hedge fund titan who used to invest tons of money in fossil fuels campaigning as an environmentalist foe of big business. But hey, everybody makes mistakes.
Michael Bloomberg has been using his pin money to buy enough advertising time to sell everyone in America a taco or an exercise machine. But think about it from his point of view. Bloomberg is a very qualified candidate, except that his demeanor and all-purpose lovability would never raise enough campaign contributions to get him elected state legislator. He’s just filling in the gap.
The immediate question for Harris fans is whether she might get tapped for vice president. (Without being coldhearted, you have to admit that’s a pretty important prospect when the odds are so good the top slot will go to someone over 70.)
And what’s next for everybody else? Just a couple of things we know for sure. Big debate in two weeks. Meanwhile, 15 Democrats will make many favorable comments about Iowa. Several may consider acquiring a bus with a fun name. Donald Trump will say he’s forgotten more things, perhaps including Rudy Giuliani. The beat goes on.
Gail Collins | The New York Times
(CREDIT: Earl Wilson/The New York Times)
Gail Collins is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.