Let Warren wonk out, they figured. Let Beto O’Rourke take a road trip searching for himself and journaling about his experiences on social media. Let others try to stake out corners of the field for themselves in order to stand out.
Read: Kamala Harris’s Trump-size tax plan
Harris is pitching herself as the one who can actually put together a winning coalition of voters, which Democrats have obsessed about ever achieving again since their 2016 shocker loss.
Harris’s logo is inspired by Shirley Chisholm, who in 1972 became the first black woman to run for president. But she is resisting attempts to pigeonhole her: On Monday afternoon, she deflected a question about her Indian heritage by saying flatly that she’s an American, and she refused to talk about how she’d make any particular appeals to black voters because, as she sees it, people have the same worries, “be it a mom in Compton, or a mom in Kentucky.”
King’s most famous speech, a Harris adviser pointed out (on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign thinking) after she finished speaking with reporters in Washington, didn’t just include “I have a dream,” but “Let freedom ring.” The animating spirit of the civil-rights movement, the adviser added, was that people are “called based on our common language and our common spirit.”
The candidate who announced on Martin Luther King Day Jr., the adviser argued, is the one to do that: “The American dream’s under attack, and our American values are under attack. You have to tie those things together.”
Harris isn’t the only candidate making a bigger argument. Booker, who hasn’t announced yet but is on the verge, included a long message Sunday night to go with an Instagram picture of him with the civil-rights icon and Representative John Lewis, along with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.
“I believe we need a revival of civic grace in our country. We have so much common pain in America—from the lack of affordable health care to the opioid crisis to dignity assaulting jobs that don’t pay a living wage or offer basic security and so much more. We have a common pain, but we lack a common purpose,” Booker wrote in a clear preview of what he’ll soon be saying on the trail. “Now more than ever, we need each other to do great things; we need the limitless power that we can manifest through our collective efforts.”
Harris’s early reception was intense. For a candidate whose entry wasn’t at all a surprise, it generated buzz all day. Harris aides bragged that she’d received donations from all 50 states within 30 minutes of announcing, and that her launch video had surpassed 3 million views by the late afternoon. She passed Warren in Instagram followers, they noted, and had 300,000 engagements with her posts there on Monday alone.
By trying to speak to a broader problem, though, what Harris doesn’t have at this point is many specific solutions. Her announcement came with an email to reporters pointing to a bill she wrote that would provide a $500 monthly tax credit to families making under $100,000 per year, another that would reform the bail process, and another aimed at tackling implicit bias in health care that leaves black women three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.