Sen. Kamala Harris often says she doesn't have the name recognition or the funds other candidates used to start their 2020 presidential. But she does have the Rolodex, and she's topping every other candidate in endorsements in what could be one of the most important primary state races this election.
Just last week, California Congressman Salud Carbajal became the fourth Hispanic caucus member to endorse Harris, who now has more than 160 endorsements from her home state.
Citing her plan to expand health care and her work with immigration, Carbajal said, "I have worked with her often to provide for our state...I know she will bring her same tenacity to fight for all Americans.”
California is a state that could show signs of a potential jackpot for Harris -- as voters there re-elected the senator to her current office twice. The diverse, delegate-rich state, particularly with its newfound placement in the primary calendar to Super Tuesday in March, with early voting in California starting the same day as the Iowa caucuses on February 3rd, means California's more than 400 delegates are in a position to hand a candidate a massive electoral prize early enough to sway the presidential primaries.
But despite the home state advantage for Harris, a Public Policy Institute of California poll conducted in the beginning of November shows former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with a strong lead over other candidates at 24% and 23% respectively, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 17% and Harris trailing behind at 8%.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's entry into the race could chip away at some of the polling for the moderate candidates. He's already dedicated over 30 million dollars toward an ad buy, with commercials already airing in California.
Harris' ability to represent communities of color, based in part on having won elected office in California, is a big part of her pitch. But it's a pitch that resonated for a moment nationally, and then appeared to tank.
After the first presidential debate, when Harris challenged Biden on his record on busing policy, a July Quinnipiac University poll showed her leading the pack of candidates with around 23% support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. But in the months following, those numbers plummeted, prompting even her communications director to blow off the moment as a "sugar high" on a call with reporters.
In a recent ABC News and Washington Post poll, Harris only garnered 2% support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents.
On a recent call with reporters, Harris addressed reporter's questions about the California Democratic convention.
"Look, I'll never take California for granted," she said. "California knows what I have delivered for its homeowners, for people who have needed reform in the criminal justice system, [and] for seniors..."
But signs that Harris' home state and the communities of color her team thought would boost her have been complicated, some experts say, by the decisions she made during her tenure as a San Francisco district attorney and as California attorney general.
"I think it absolutely has to do with her record, especially for people who live here, she has over and over again embraced policies that harm communities of color," said Lara Bazelon, a law professor at the San Francisco School of Law and the former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles. "No one knows that better than the harmed communities themselves."
Bazelon also says until Harris was a senator, she didn't support eliminating cash bail, money the state charges to release a suspect from custody while they await their trail, a practice which opponent say primarily impacts low income communities.
"Money bail is a perhaps the number one way that communities of color are devastated because it's weaponized against poor people and black people in San Francisco at least seven to 10 times more likely to get locked up, which she should know as a former San Francisco DA."
"As Attorney General, Harris refused to defend the bail system in court...as senator, where she has the position to change policy versus just following the law, she has aggressively confronted the issue by proposing a bipartisan federal law to end cash bail," Ian Sams, a spokesman for the Harris campaign told ABC News.
Bazelon says Harris hasn't been consistent on requiring officers to wear cameras full time, "... she supported it for the attorney general's office but she wasn't going to mandate it statewide and that was what the bill was going to require. She didn't support the bill, which angered a lot of people."
Her campaign paints a different picture, pointing out that while there was some backlash from opponent to her position when she was DA, she was elected to statewide office after that multiple times.
"She has always believed in the use of body cameras for law enforcement, including increasing investments that allow local law enforcement agencies to expand their use," Sams said.
Kent Mendoza, a Los Angeles County activist, says that most people can't even necessarily name examples of Harris' record, but knowing that she used to be the state's top cop is enough for them.
"Kamala Harris used to be a prosecutor ... it makes it difficult for people who have no trust in law enforcement," Mendoza said.
Activists like DeRay Mckesson, an activist and supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement says he doesn't take issue with many of Harris' past decisions that frequently come up. But he's not necessarily impressed by her current proposals either, including her criminal justice plan.
"There's just no big idea there. It's like is this an end of mass incarceration plan? Is this a tip toe toward the end of mass incarceration - is this a do less harm plan? It is odd in the sense that she is the one person that this has been her only career," he said.
Melina Abdullah, the co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter and a professor and former chairwoman of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, says she doesn't think Harris' past is a problem either and likes her "personally.",
However, Abdullah takes issue with Harris still touting the word "prosecute" even when she uses it against President Donald Trump.
"That may not resonate for black folks or Latino folks who might be looking to support her....when you use the term prosecute, it really has a lot embedded in there. It's a system that prosecutes. It could also be sending messages around the idea of acting on behalf of a system that doesn't treat black people fairly," Abdullah said.
Other experts pin her low polls in California, not on her past or her plans, but on her performance in other states.
"California voters don't live in a news vacuum. they hear about how the campaign is progressing in Iowa and New Hampshire, and of course they're going to be influenced by that," said Dan Schnur a political communications professor at University of California, Berkeley and the University of Southern California. "The only way she can turn around California is to win Iowa and South Carolina".
Harris just wrapped up three days in South Carolina, where she held a town hall a part of the Black Women's Weekend of Action, and introduced her mental health plan policy alongside radio host Charlemagne tha God. And her efforts in Iowa have more than doubled from a few months ago; her campaign has shut down offices in New Hampshire and slashes jobs at their Baltimore headquarters to divert resources to the Hawkeye State.
And this Thanksgiving weekend, when many candidates are going back to their home cities, Harris' family is flying out to be with her for dinner and events in Iowa. It's all part of a bigger plan to carry momentum into the places where she'll need it the most, like her home state California.
Editors note: The coalition that Kent Mendoza works for was removed from this report because he was not speaking on their behalf.