Harris hopes to make ‘magic’ with black women in SC (copy)

Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph (left) looks on as Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris speaks during a November roundtable on black women's issues in Columbia. Harris dropped out of the race Tuesday. File/Meg Kinnard/AP

COLUMBIA — U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris dropped out of the 2020 presidential race Tuesday, ending a bid that had focused heavily on the early primary state of South Carolina.

In an email to supporters, the California Democrat cited a lack of financial resources needed to continue in the race.

"I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete," Harris wrote. "In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do."

The decision came as Harris has struggled in recent months to regain the apparent momentum she had when she entered the race in January in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 in her hometown of Oakland, Calif. Multiple media outlets had recently reported that Harris also was grappling with internal campaign tension.

Harris centered her campaign strategy almost entirely on delivering strong performances in Iowa and South Carolina, the first early-election state with a large bloc of black voters.

She built an extensive campaign operation in South Carolina and spent more time in the state than any other candidate since the start of the campaign, along with the other African American senator in the race, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Though Booker remains in the contest after filing to join the South Carolina ballot Monday, both found it difficult to chip into former Vice President Joe Biden's massive lead in polls of Palmetto State voters.

Less than two weeks ago, Harris spent several days in South Carolina working to specifically energize black women, the largest single voting faction in the state's Democratic electorate.

In an interview with The Post and Courier at the end of that visit, Harris said many voters were still just getting to know her for the first time, making it difficult to overcome well-known politicians who have been on the scene for decades, like Biden.

Harris is expected to travel to South Carolina and the other early states in the coming days to thank her campaign staff and supporters, according to a campaign aide.

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Harris said in the email to supporters that she will continue to fight for the policy platform she laid out during the campaign, including raising teacher pay, taking measures to reduce gun violence, protecting women's rights to get an abortion and pushing for more racial equality.

South Carolina supporters of Harris lamented what they viewed as a months-long attempt by her critics to push her out of the race through negative media coverage but acknowledged that the campaign had made missteps along the way.

"Ray Charles could probably see how there was a concerted effort on the part of a number of people to minimize the work she was doing and to highlight the mistakes she was making," said state Rep. JA Moore, a Goose Creek Democrat who was one of her earliest endorsers in South Carolina.

In a historically diverse Democratic primary field, Harris was the only non-white candidate who had qualified for the December debate — Booker, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii have not yet registered enough support in the polls, though there is still time left to qualify.

Harris will remain California's junior senator. Her term ends in 2022. 

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.