Still, Ms. Harris had already qualified for the next presidential debate, scheduled for Dec. 19, the only non-white candidate to do so thus far. Without her, Democrats may have an all-white debate stage after beginning the primaries with the most racially diverse field in history, though candidates like Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and businessman Andrew Yang may still qualify in the coming days.
“No matter your candidate, you have to recognize that going from the most diverse field ever in January to a potentially all-white debate stage in December is catastrophic,” wrote Leah Greenberg, a co-executive director of Indivisible, a national progressive group, on Twitter.
It was on an earlier debate stage when Ms. Harris generated one of the most electric moments of the race so far, when she challenged Mr. Biden over his record on race and busing in June. “I do not believe you are a racist,” she began. Mr. Biden was so taken aback he cut off his own answer short. “Anyway, my time is up. I’m sorry,” he said.
Money poured into her campaign and she spiked in the polls, rocketing to second place in several and generally peaking at 20 percent support. But her poll numbers declined steadily since then, beginning when she undercut her star turn when had difficulty articulating her own position on mandated busing.
Ms. Harris’s online fund-raising slowed in recent months and large donors increasingly turned away from her campaign. In the days leading up to her withdrawal from the race, she grew increasingly desperate in her search for campaign funds. She surprised one donor who had hosted an event for her but is not a major Democratic bundler by telephoning him to see if he could reach out to his associates who had yet to give, in hopes of finding her additional checks. Another donor recommended to her that she leave the race.
A pair of California-based Democratic strategists, Dan Newman and Brian Brokaw, had just secured the money and the implicit sign off from Ms. Harris’s campaign to begin a super PAC in support of her candidacy. The group, named People Standing Strong, was to begin a million-dollar ad buy in Iowa on Wednesday in hopes of boosting her chances. Her campaign itself had been unable to afford ads in the state since September.