The Kamala Harris soft launch is here.
One week after her Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren began formally exploring a run for the White House, the California senator is stepping onto the 2020 stage herself, beginning with a book tour and a flurry of largely friendly broadcast media appearances in advance of her own expected presidential announcement.
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It’s a chance for Harris to roll out her personal story while also previewing the fundamental themes of her prospective campaign, drawn from her time as a career prosecutor and her ideas about reforming the criminal justice system.
Harris will hit the morning news show circuit Tuesday with appearances on “Good Morning America” and “The View,” in addition to a National Public Radio interview. She’ll promote her book Wednesday at a Washington event, and then make a stop Thursday at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
After Washington, Harris’ book tour will take her to the Kaufmann Concert Hall in New York on Friday, then San Francisco before two stops in Los Angeles concluding Jan. 13.
“It’s ‘novel,’ no pun intended. It gets her out there,” said Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and presidential candidate who preceded his own 2004 run by stumping on the issue of universal health care and his opposition to the Iraq War.
The rollout for “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey” — which is accompanied by a picture book for children — comes early in a six-to-eight week window in which many candidates are expected to unveil their 2020 campaigns. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro launched his exploratory committee in mid-December. Warren announced hers Dec. 31 and followed with a campaign video and a swing through Iowa last weekend.
The timing of the book tour and media blitz gives Harris — a first-term Democrat who still lacks the name recognition of some of her would-be competitors despite cutting a high-profile during the Supreme Court nomination hearings of Brett Kavanaugh — the opportunity to get a toehold in the news cycle while still preserving some intrigue for a formal campaign launch in the near future.
“I think a mishandled announcement can hurt more than a well-handled announcement helps,” said the Democratic strategist and pollster Joel Benenson, a veteran of former President Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. “A good announcement is important only because a bad announcement will create some press narrative that will slow you down in the beginning.”
In October, Harris visited Iowa, South Carolina and Wisconsin, but it was to campaign for Democratic candidates ahead of the midterm elections. This week’s soft launch enables her to reveal — on her own terms and at length — more about her backstory as the child of immigrants who were civil rights activists.
The senator’s book is not a traditional memoir but rather, according to her publisher, “a book about the core truths that unite us, and the long struggle to discern what those truths are and how best to act upon them, in her own life and across the life of our country.”
Those truths guide her thinking “on issues ranging from health care and the new economy to immigration, national security, the opioid crisis, and accelerating inequality” — all elements of Harris’ speeches since ascending to the Senate.
The intent is to draw a contrast with Donald Trump by presenting her credentials as a tough, fact-based prosecutor against a factually challenged president who has been under a legal cloud for much of his presidency.
Harris isn’t likely to follow the book tour with the creation of a presidential exploratory committee, according to three people familiar with Harris’ thinking. Their expectation, if she runs, is that the senator would simply launch the formal campaign, which would be led by key staffers from her 2016 Senate run.
Harris has already done some unofficial groundwork: Last fall, she sent $25,000 to the Democratic parties in four early nominating states: Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire. She also spent heavily to build out her digital campaign infrastructure and cultivate supporters online.
The campaign has told prospective hires that it would likely maintain two campaign hubs in order to provide a presence on both coasts. Among the cities discussed as a possible location is Baltimore, because of nearby airports and its proximity to Washington, where Harris will need to cast Senate votes.
The senator said in early December that she would decide whether to run for president “over the holiday.”