California Attorney General Kamala Harris, on paper, is about everything the Democrats want these days.
At 50, she's relatively young compared with other national Democrats. And as a multiracial (half-black and half-Indian) woman, she embodies several parts of the coalition of the ascendant, the voting bloc that was so important to President Obama's rise.
Her resume, as partially described in her Senate announcement, is a mix of things conservatives love (fighting crime), and things progressives love (equal rights). She also brings a record of fighting and winning against big banks that will please the Warren wing of the party.
All of this is why she has been dubbed by some as the "female Obama."
From her new campaign Web site:
I want to be a voice for Californians on these issues and others that impact our state in the U.S. Senate. I will be a fighter for the next generation on the critical issues facing our country. I will be a fighter for middle class families who are feeling the pinch of stagnant wages and diminishing opportunity. I will be a fighter for our children who deserve a world-class education, and for students burdened by predatory lenders and skyrocketing tuition. And I will fight relentlessly to protect our coast, our immigrant communities and our seniors.
For national Democrats, she will likely be a cash cow, attracting donors big and small. She will also provide a connection to the initial excitement of the Obama era; Harris, after all, was one of Obama's early backers.
Emily's List, which hasn't formally endorsed her (yet), quickly put out a statement, noting the boxes she checks, and the DSCC also put out a statement that some saw as a quasi-endorsement. (The heads of those two organizations, Stephanie Schriock and Montana Sen. Jon Tester, encouraged her run, according to the Los Angeles Times). Both of these groups will be anxious to promote her.
But checking boxes is one thing, and fulfilling that promise and winning a race that could be the most expensive ever is another. So far, Harris has built her career in law enforcement, and she must now pivot to a much more broad base of issues, even as she balances her current job. Her record as attorney general will certainly be scrutinized, but so will her views on foreign policy.
While she enters as a the clear front-runner, it's not clear that other Democrats are willing to give her a free ride. Challengers could include billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who said she is "seriously considering" a run.
And then there is this intangible factor. Can Harris live up to the hype? Being the "next big thing" is always a risk in the fickle world of politics, bringing added expectations and scrutiny. She earned a speaking slot at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, but her speech was kind of "meh." (Giving a political speech in an arena is incredibly hard, and few are good at it. But it's part of being a rising star.)
Strategists and pundits have often remarked on the Democrats' thin bench -- both for president and in many key states. Harris could be the counterpoint to that -- evidence that the next generation of Democratic leaders is indeed there, lurking beneath the surface.
It's precisely that mix of pressure and potential that will make Harris so fascinating to watch.