Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is the natural heir to Hillary Clinton. After all, she took over her seat in the Senate, so why not take over her role as challenger in a rematch against now-President Donald Trump? There's just one problem, of course: no one seems to want Kirsten Gillibrand anywhere near the Oval Office, including a vast majority of Democrats.
And it's all Al Franken's fault — at least according to Kirsten Gillibrand.
Gillibrand's campaign reports in FEC documents filed this week that she took in a meager $3 million in the first quarter of 2019, one of the lowest recorded totals for any candidate competing for the 2020 Democratic nomination — and that's saying something. There are more than a dozen "frontrunners" for the nomination, and Gillibrand was expected to be among them.
Instead, she's been bested in the money-making department by newcomers like Beto O'Rourke, who pulled in more than $6 million on just his first day, and relative unknown South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who raised $7 million — twice Gillibrand's haul — before he'd ever declared his intent to run for president.
Neither O'Rourke nor Buttigieg is expected to get the Democratic nomination. That honor will most likely belong to either Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or former Vice President Joe Biden, if he ever decides to get into the race, but there's no joy in polling behind two men who have never won statewide office, much less run a national campaign. And make no mistake, Gillibrand is running far behind both.
The latest polls taken by Emerson and Morning Consult show Gillibrand struggling to command even 1% of likely Democratic primary voters.
Why the trouble? The easy explanation is that there are just far too many people contending for the Democratic presidential nomination and Gillibrand has no qualities that set her apart from the pack. She adopts each pre-suggested progressive policy idea in turn but is more likely to jump on other campaigns' ideas — reparations, the Green New Deal, radical changes to the Electoral College — than formulate her own. She's also not a standout personality. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) commands the "policy wonk" crowd, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) commands the "woke" crowd.
But Gillibrand has another theory as to why she can't gain headway on her campaign: she's suffering backlash from sexists who objected to her calling out now-former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) for his inappropriate, sexually charged behavior, and spearheading his removal from the Senate.
The Hill reports that Gillibrand's campaign is circulating a memo saying that there is "no question" Gillibrand is suffering for having championed the rights of women as a legislative leader.
“There’s no question that the first quarter was adversely impacted by certain establishment donors — and many online — who continue to punish Kirsten for standing up for her values and for women,” the memo reportedly reads.
It's a variation on a theme. Gillibrand said something similar on the campaign trail last month: "If there are a few Democratic powerful donors who are angry because I stood up for women who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, that's on them."
The truth is that Gillibrand may be the ultimate heir to Clinton in the "excuse" department: there's no indication at all that anyone is either blaming or punishing Gillibrand for Franken's downfall. How could they? Gillibrand waited until there were at least five separate sexual harassment allegations to come out against Franken, and even then, it wasn't immediately clear she wanted him punished.
If progressives oppose her for booting a fellow progressive from the Senate, she'd be hard-pressed to convince them they're sexists.
Gillibrand's campaign may not be around for long, regardless. She needs to command at least an additional 4% of the vote to make it into the Democratic primary debates (an impossible task), or prove that more than 65,000 separate individuals donated to her cause. Her campaign is keeping mum on exactly how many people gave Gillibrand money, which isn't a good sign.