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President Trump has nicknames for just about every one of his adversaries in Washington. There’s “Sleepy Joe,” “Pocahontas” and “Alfred E. Neuman.” But one critic and potential 2020 rival who has yet to receive a belittling sobriquet from Trump is Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). When I asked Harris if the reason for this is because Trump is afraid of her, she had not a clue about his state of mind. But she was clear on hers.

“What I know is this. I know he has a reason to be afraid of me. That I do know,” Harris told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up” before dropping her brief against Trump. “He is a lawless president. He is lawless. He has no respect for the rule of law. He has tried to circumvent the law countless times. I have spent my entire career enforcing the law and protecting and defending the rule of law. He is a predator. I have had a lifetime ... career of going after predators. He is someone who profited from a for-profit college. I put one of the biggest for-profit colleges out of business, and I could go on and on. I am everything he is not.”

Before Harris can go toe-to-toe with Trump in the general election, she has to win the nomination. That’s become increasingly tough since her steady slide in the polls since June. But Harris said she isn’t paying attention to the surveys. “I don’t ride those polls, I don’t ride high. I don’t ride low, ever,” Harris said. “We just have to be steady. And maybe because I’ve had the experience of running very difficult campaigns before that, I’ve learned that you can’t focus on anything other than the voters. And so that’s where my mind is, that’s where my head is.”

The interview at a hotel in Columbia, S.C., was more compelling evidence to me that the liberation of Kamala Harris is in full swing, that the cautious campaigner has given way to the candidate of “real talk.” Harris told me that I was reading too much into it and insisted that she hasn't changed.

“I’m the same person. The same person in terms of all the reasons I got in this race is because I do believe that these are the issues that need to be spoken and they need to be spoken in a truthful way,” said Harris. “Even from the earliest days of my campaign I talked about that we need to speak truth uncomfortable though it may make people ... And that’s about having a direct conversation about the challenges that people face and talking about it in a way that’s just honest and direct.”

A big challenge for Harris is one faced by every candidate in the race not named Joe Biden: African American support. The former vice president sits atop the national polls and those in South Carolina because of it. But the hurdle is more daunting for Harris and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is also black. That's because of the unspoken fear among many black voters that white voters won't cast a ballot for another black person so soon after eight years of President Barack Obama.

“I’m fully aware of the challenge that we and my candidacy presents, which is asking people to believe in something they’ve never seen before. ...There have been 45 presidents of the United States and not one of them looks like me,” replied Harris. “I’m well aware of the challenge before us in that regard, but this is a challenge I’ve always faced. In every race I have run, Jonathan, I have been the first when I won.” Harris was the first African American district attorney of San Francisco and the first black state attorney general of California.

Listen to the podcast to hear Harris talk health care, the economy, criminal justice and foreign policy. She goes in on billionaires in the race for the nomination and how a trial of Trump in the Senate would impact her presidential pursuit. She talks about her Iowa Thanksgiving plans with two essential South Carolina ingredients. And she addresses head-on the criticism that she has been too cautious on the campaign trail.

“Mine has been a career of making very difficult decisions. ... Mine has not been a career of giving lovely speeches or ideas for bills that may or may not get passed,” Harris explained. “Mine has been a career of when I say something, it actually happens and when it happens it has a direct impact on somebody’s life. So, yes, I am very thoughtful about what I say.”

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

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