Political News

Is it panic time for Kamala Harris?

Posted August 21, 2019 7:30 p.m. EDT

— The whispers began within minutes of the release of CNN's new national poll on the 2020 field: Is something wrong with Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign?

The poll showed the California Democrat dropping from 17% (and in second place) in a June CNN survey to 5% (and tied for fourth) now.

Which is not good! And the poll numbers come on top of the fact that Harris has now come under fire from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for her ongoing struggle to make clear where she stands on "Medicare for All."

But before any of her supporters panic, they should take a deep breath and a step back. Here's why.

The CNN June poll was in the field June 28-30. That was hard on the heels of the second night of the first Democratic debate -- a debate in which Harris was the clear star, scoring a direct hit on former Vice President Joe Biden by attacking his record on school busing.

So as the poll was being conducted, Harris was all over the news -- drawing raves for her performance. It makes sense then that the poll showed her soaring all the way into second place. It was a bubble. And a totally expected one.

We've seen this in the race before. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg went from an asterisk early this year into low double digits in some polling in the spring, amid a slew of positive press attention and strong public appearances. But after the spotlight moved on, Buttigieg's numbers returned to earth.

That's exactly what's happening to Harris right now. The CNN poll captured her at her absolute apex. There is no way -- short of a multimillion-dollar ad buy nationally by Harris -- that she could sustain those heights. And it wouldn't make much sense from her campaign's strategic perspective to do so since they will need all that money (and more) to spend on ads in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond.  You don't need to peak in August 2019. You need to peak in February/March 2020.

The Point: Harris is doing just fine. She isn't the front-runner. But she's in the lead pack -- and that's right where she wants and needs to be.