Kamala Harris 'never quite figured out' N.H.

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., smiles as she arrives at the Common Man Restaurant for lunch in Concord, N.H., Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., high-fives with 2-year-old Isabelle Chan of Newton, Mass. at the Common Man Restaurant, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., greets patrons at the Common Man Restaurant in Concord, N.H., Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

For the Monitor
Published: 12/4/2019 5:15:24 PM

The decision by Sen. Kamala Harris to end her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination made national headlines. In New Hampshire, the impact was much softer.

In reality, the high-profile and well known former California attorney general had pretty much closed up shop in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state more than a month ago.

For Harris, who along with Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey were the only two major black candidates in the primary race at the time, New Hampshire was always a question mark.

Arriving in the Granite State in early February – soon after launching her campaign in front of a massive crowd of 22,000 in her hometown of Oakland, California, the senator faced a national media narrative that New Hampshire wasn’t a top priority. Instead, reports said Harris would place more firepower and spend more time in South Carolina, the first southern primary where black voters make up a majority of the state’s Democratic primary electorate – and in her home state of California – which has the most delegates up for grabs among the 14 states that vote in early March on Super Tuesday.

Booker, long considered a friend to New Hampshire and who’s repeatedly visited the state this year, never faced a similar critique.

“I think the Harris campaign never quite figured out how to handle New Hampshire,” noted Christopher Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College. “When she made her initial visit there was a lot of controversy about whether she'd treat it the same way she was the other early states.”

During that first visit, Harris told the Monitor she was committed to competing in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

“I intend to spend a lot of time here and I intend to compete for the votes here,” she said. 

The senator’s trip grabbed widespread national and local media coverage. Harris drew large crowds during her swing – including 1,000 people jammed into Portsmouth’s historic South Church – with another 500 waiting outside in the snow.

During the late winter and early spring, Harris assembled a talented and formidable campaign staff on the ground. And when she visited the state, she continued to draw large crowds. But she campaigned in the state less often than many of her top rivals. That was noticed by pundits and the media.

Back in the state in early September to speak at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s annual convention -- Harris once again pledged that the Granite State "is a top priority going forward...It's a very important state."

But she never followed through, and the early September trip was her last visit to the state.

In late October, with her bid sinking in the polls and her campaign hemorrhaging cash, top Harris aides announced they were restructuring and redeploying staffers from their headquarters in Baltimore and some of the early-voting states to Iowa, which kicks off the primary and caucus presidential nominating calendar.

Two days later, the campaign confirmed that they had pulled all field organizers in the state have left the campaign and that only a “handful” of staff remained. And they added that they shuttered their field offices, leaving only a skeleton crew at their state headquarters in Manchester.

That move bought the campaign a little bit of time. But facing a cash crunch, anemic poll numbers in Iowa and nationally, and numerous stories detailing the campaign’s implosion, time ran out for Harris on Tuesday.

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