Kamala Harris stumps for Bob Casey, sidesteps talk of 2020

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey exits the stage with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris at his campaign event at the AME Church Ninth Episcopal District Headquarters on Friday, July 13, 2018.

Was that an electoral echo resounding across West Philly on Friday?

Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, came to town to court voters with Sen. Bob Casey, a Scranton Democrat seeking a third term this year.

Harris is a much-discussed potential candidate for president in 2020, despite being just 18 months into her first six-year term as a senator.

A dozen years ago this month, Sen. Barack Obama was 18 months into his first term and a much-discussed potential candidate for president in 2008 when he turned heads with an invitation to be the headline speaker at a 2006 Iowa Democratic Party event that can serve as the starting gate for a White House run.

Harris on Friday, echoing Obama in 2006, insisted she is just looking to help fellow Democrats.

“I am on the road to reelect Bob Casey,” Harris said. “I am traveling to other states to support folks who I work with every day who are really fighting for the best of who we really are and fighting for some of the most fundamental issues that Americans care about right now.”

She added, “I’m not ruling it out,” when asked again if she might run for president in 2020.

During a rally in front of about 550 supporters at 38th and Market Streets, Harris rattled off a list of issues dividing Americans — distrust in government and its leaders, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism, stagnant wages, immigration, mass incarceration, and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

That last issue roused a roar of applause from the crowd.

“This is a moment in time that is requiring us collectively as a country to look in the mirror and ask this question: Who are we?” Harris said. “We are better than this. We are better and bigger and more powerful than those voices that are trying to sow hate and division among us.”

Her rally with Casey was bookended by lunch and dinner fund-raisers for his campaign.

Casey already holds a considerable cash advantage over his Republican rival, Rep. Lou Barletta of Hazleton, in the Nov. 6 general election. Casey on Tuesday announced he had raised $2.2 million in the second quarter of 2018 and had $9.8 million in the bank.

Barletta’s campaign on Friday said he had raised $1.3 million in the same quarter and had $1.6 million in the bank. His campaign is hoping to fill the coffers with a pair of forthcoming fund-raisers, with former U.K. Independent Party leader Nigel Farage in Harveys Lake on July 20 and with Vice President Pence at the Union League in Philadelphia on July 23.

The run-up to all presidential elections always features a certain political flirtation — the media try to get potential candidates to discuss the likelihood of a campaign, while the politicians try to say just enough to keep up interest without making a commitment.

The Washington Post last week ranked Harris at number three on its quarterly list of the top 15 potential Democratic candidates for president in 2020. That bumped her up from the fourth slot on the newspaper’s list in March. Harris, in the new listing, swapped places with former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Republican National Committee is certainly paying attention, knocking Harris this year as “a darling of the coastal elite resistance movement” while criticizing her on health care and immigration policy.