11182019What's Hot:

Harris challenges Axelrod over criticism she’s too ‘cautious’ on trail

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris gestures in front of Rep. Barbara Lee before speaking during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco, Saturday, June 1, 2019. | AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

SAN FRANCISCO — Sen. Kamala Harris on Saturday pushed back at the emerging narrative that she’s been too timid while campaigning for president, using a POLITICO interview to challenge her naysayers to come watch her field questions on the road.

Harris’ uneven national TV appearances, in particular a pair of CNN town halls, have drawn repeated critiques from former top Obama strategist David Axelrod, now an influential political commentator and podcast host from his perch as director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

Story Continued Below

Last month, after Harris vacillated on several CNN questions — including whether violent felons should be allowed to vote — Axelrod predicted the California senator’s lack of directness could backfire.

“She is an incredibly compelling personality; a very bright and accomplished person,” he said in post-town hall analysis that aired on CNN. “But she’s very cautious — and that caution was pretty apparent in a lot of her answers.”

In a Los Angeles Times report Friday, Axelrod credited Harris for her tough questions during Senate hearings, but again pounded away at the impression that she plays it too safe.

“She’s a brilliant person, there’s no doubt about that,” Axelrod told the newspaper. “But what we’ve learned so far is that she’s great at asking questions but timid at answering them. She’s going to have to correct that to navigate this process.”

true

Asked by POLITICO about Axelrod’s concerns — part of a line of criticism that Harris aides and allies broadly believe is tinged with sexism and not applied in the same way to the men running for president — Harris paused for a few seconds before saying, “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Axelrod was on the road with Barack a decade ago,” she added. “I’ve invited him to come on the road with me … (and he’d see) “contrary to what he thinks is happening.”

As for whether the critiques of her are grounded in sexism, Harris said some of those making the charges about her “should do a better job of performing themselves.”

Despite the slip-ups, Harris has been fairly crisp at campaign events — and her supporters contend that when her Democratic rivals have been evasive, they’ve received praise for their ability to parry tough issues. They note that unlike some others — particularly Sen. Bernie Sanders, but also former vice president Joe Biden during the early weeks of his bid — she regularly takes questions from reporters and voters.

And Harris, some argue in a rosier assessment of the candidate, takes the time to consider an issue, unlike President Donald Trump and his shoot-from-the-hip style.

Axelrod pointed out that national media narratives around a candidate are largely shaped by mass media.

“Most folks are not on the road, so how a candidate presents on TV matters,” he wrote after POLITICO tweeted Harris’ response. “I was just commenting on what I see. That said, it is early. @KamalaHarris is certainly in the thick of this race.”

Some allies, though, wished she’d responded differently.

“I would have said, ‘What did he say? I didn’t read it,’” said Willie Brown, the former San Francisco mayor. “‘Axel-who?’”

This article tagged under:

Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning — in your inbox.

Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic