Kamala Harris: She offers experience, diversity — and a double-edged position on law and order

Kamala Harris: She offers experience, diversity — and a double-edged position on law and order
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Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Florida county that backed Trump was one of two hacked by Russians | Sandberg pushes back on calls to break up Facebook | Conservative groups ask WH to end Amazon talks over Pentagon contract Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights Several factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years MORE, the first term United States senator from California, started her campaign for president with a big bang. Her announcement was a great success and it vaulted her into the second tier of Democratic nominee wannabees, right behind Joe BidenJoe Robinette BidenHillicon Valley: Florida county that backed Trump was one of two hacked by Russians | Sandberg pushes back on calls to break up Facebook | Conservative groups ask WH to end Amazon talks over Pentagon contract Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights Several factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years MORE and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) Sanders2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans Hillicon Valley: Florida county that backed Trump was one of two hacked by Russians | Sandberg pushes back on calls to break up Facebook | Conservative groups ask WH to end Amazon talks over Pentagon contract Sanders set to become first 2020 candidate to call for ban on for-profit charter schools MORE. To win the Democratic nod though, she will need to deal with her progressive critics who oppose the tough law and order stands she took during her eight years as California's attorney general.

Must see TV

Harris generated a crowd of about 30,000 supporters in her home town of Oakland, California and she followed that up with a "must-see TV" appearance on a CNN town hall, which was the highest rated episode ever on the CNN political showcase. She proved before a big national audience that she's articulate and quick on her feet.

Experience still matters

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House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOn The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Maxine Waters: Trump 'has done everything that one could even think of to be eligible for impeachment' Trump knocks Mulvaney for casting doubt on chances of infrastructure deal MORE (D-Calif.) proved that experience leads to performance during the battle over the wall with political greenhorn President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey: Barr is 'sliming his own department' GOP Mueller critic says Flynn contacted him during special counsel probe: report Acting DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report MORE. And Americans like to do a 180 turn when they replace a president. Nixon's imperiled presidency begat  Jimmy Carter, who carried his own suit case. A classic outsider, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonSeveral factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Criminal justice includes food security — we can't ban the social safety net Rosy economic data belies a harsh reality for many Americans MORE moved into the White House vacated by the ultimate Washington insider George H. W. Bush. Will an experienced political figure like Kamala Harris succeed the political novice, Donald Trump. Time, many tweets and much turmoil will tell.

Someone suggested to me, in reaction to Trump's rookie mistakes, that there should be a constitutional requirement that only candidates who have served a full term as a governor and a senator should be eligible for the presidency. Although that raises other issues, it speaks to the experience many Americans are craving in 2020 candidates. Harris comes close with experience at the local, state and national level. She's only 54 but she has a great resume and even better most of it has been way outside of Washington. Before she was elected U.S. senator, she served as the attorney general of California for eight years and before that she was the San Francisco district attorney. If she becomes president, she will have served four years in the Senate, like Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSeveral factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Lewandowski: Why Joe Biden won't make it to the White House — again The Hill's 12:30 Report: Tough questions await Trump immigration plan MORE, by the time she's inaugurated.

Politics of identity

She like the former president has a mixed race heritage. Her mother is Asian who came from India. Her father is black and from Jamaica. Obama never made a big deal of his background but it appears to be a bigger part of the Harris campaign. She announced on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Her first stop after her announcement was to South Carolina, which has a large black voter presence in the early presidential primary. She frequently invokes the name of Rep. Shirley Chisolm (D-N.Y.) who was the first black woman to run for the Democratic presidential nod.

The victories of female Democratic candidates in 2018 Democratic congressional primaries tell me that a successful 2020 dark horse candidate could be female. There could be four female senators in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination: Harris, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenLet's stop treating student borrowers like second-class citizens Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — Momentum builds for federal laws enshrining abortion rights | Missouri lawmakers approve bill banning abortions at 8 weeks | Warren unveils plan to protect abortion rights 2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — Momentum builds for federal laws enshrining abortion rights | Missouri lawmakers approve bill banning abortions at 8 weeks | Warren unveils plan to protect abortion rights 2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights MORE (D-N.Y.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharMomentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights Poll: Biden is only Dem candidate that beats Trump outside of margin of error O'Rourke endorses progressive criminal justice priorities MORE (D-Minn.). They are the first #MeToo era female candidates for president. Based on visibility and the ability to raise money, Harris and Warren have the best chances.

Political prospects

The campaign calendar and Harris' proven ability to raise money give her a big advantage since California has moved its primary up to Super Tuesday only 21 days after the New Hampshire primary and 29 days after the Iowa Caucuses. If she reaches black voters, she could do well in South Carolina which also has an early primary.

California voters will begin to cast absentee primary ballots the same day that Democrats caucus in Iowa. California sends 495 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, so a big win in her home state could put Harris in the lead in early delegate commitments which would give her momentum over the other Democratic candidates. 

Issues and ideology

Harris is one of the most liberal members of the Senate and she has a solid progressive voting record which will appeal to some liberal Democratic primary voters. GovTrack rated her the eighth most liberal member of the Senate for 2017 based on bills she sponsored or co-sponsored. 

Among the likely presidential candidates only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Gillibrand had higher liberal ratings. Harris had a better liberal rating in the Senate than three other hopefuls, Warren, Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — Momentum builds for federal laws enshrining abortion rights | Missouri lawmakers approve bill banning abortions at 8 weeks | Warren unveils plan to protect abortion rights 2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights MORE (D-N.J.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownLawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate On The Money: Mnuchin signals officials won't release Trump tax returns | Trump to hold off on auto tariffs | WH nears deal with Mexico, Canada on metal tariffs | GOP fears trade war fallout for farmers | Warren, regulator spar over Wells Fargo MORE (D-Ohio).

Despite her record in the Senate, there are some progressive Democrats who have problems with her candidacy. She endorsed Sanders' Medicare for All plan during her CNN town hall appearance but appeared to back away from it after the show. A fuzzy issue position is a problem in a ideologically heated nomination campaign.

As attorney general, Harris also filed to prosecute Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada READ: Mnuchin refuses to provide Trump's tax returns Treasury Department rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns MORE who now is secretary of Treasury when he was the CEO of OneWest Bank. A memo on the investigation of OneWest by her office cited the firm for more than a thousand violations of California foreclosure laws. The investigation also cited the bank for "widespread misconduct."

Harris appeared to distance herself from the decision not to prosecute Mnuchin and OneWest when she said, "It was a decision my office made." This could be a big problem when Democratic primary voters are livid over the ethical failures of Trump and his associates.

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Harris' law and order positions, while she was California attorney general, are also a problem for some liberal Democrats. As the California attorney general, she pushed to use the death penalty and threatened to punish the parents of truant school children. She claims those positions were required in the role, upholding California law. Regardless, these positions may hurt her in the nomination campaign. But desspite law and order stance, she managed to win Democratic primaries in the biggest and most progressive state in the union and in San Francisco. 

Harris' tough law and order positions may even be an advantage in the general election campaign and insulate her from terribleTrump tweets attacks on her for being soft on crime. But that's a story for another day.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics.

This is the first piece in a series of profiles by Bannon on 2020 Democratic hopefuls. Read the second piece on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).