Kamala Harris made her first trip to Iowa with the national press in tow one year ago this month. The senator from California was fresh off another star performance cross-examining the then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I watched as women literally collapsed in her arms, crying with gratitude about how she had stood up for them. Harris had a pitch she was working out on the trail that her advisers felt was perfect for the moment: the prosecutor for president, a way to make her biography seem tailor-made for taking on Donald Trump in 2020. She was widely seen as a front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
One year later, Trump is likely to be impeached in the House, sending him to trial in the Senate. Harris is in the minority in the Senate, stuck on the sidelines for this process, and she must assert that she is a “top-tier candidate” to skeptics who look at her single-digit poll numbers and middle-of-the-road fundraising and see a campaign that seems to be sputtering.
Instead of a prosecutor for president, Harris is now a prospective juror of a president, one of 100 senators who will potentially hear the case from the House members who will serve as impeachment managers. But Harris and her aides are determined to lean into her being the on-air legal analyst, especially as most of the rest of the field steers clear, apparently unsure of how the story will turn or a way to wiggle into it. Harris’s team is looking to have her on TV constantly in the coming weeks. She’s already called for Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to be disbarred, and has called for Twitter to suspend the president’s account, the latter of which has created massive engagement online and managed, amid everything else, to draw a response from the White House. (They’re calling her “authoritarian.”) Now the media requests are coming, and with them, some new online fundraising.