CNN reporter Maeve Reston said Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) could have a "big problem" with her habit of dodging direct questions, pointing on Tuesday to a town hall where the presidential candidate consistently said she wanted to have a "conversation" but wouldn't commit to policy stances.
Anchor Brooke Baldwin introduced a montage of Harris dodging direct answers to policy questions at Monday's CNN town hall with Democratic voters in New Hampshire, calling the "conversation" line Harris's "go-to." Harris is considered one of the top Democratic presidential candidates, although she's lagging considerably in early polling behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), the former of whom isn't a declared candidate yet.
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On the voting age being lowered to 16 ("I'm really interested in having that conversation"), supporting reparations ("we should study it and see"), eliminating student loan debt ("I support anything that is about reducing the debt of student loans, and I think that's an important conversation to have"), and extending the vote to convicted killers like the Boston Marathon bomber ("I think we should have that conversation"), Harris wouldn't give straight answers to questioners on Monday.
"On a debate stage, you have to respond in real time," Baldwin said. "How many more times will a default answer be sufficient?"
Reston called it Harris's "graceful dodge."
"She does this all of the time on the campaign trail when voters asked her questions where she's not quite sure what position she's going to stake out yet, but she wants to kind of convey the idea that she might be on your side," Reston said. "So you hear that phrase over and over again with her, and it's part of her trademark caution throughout her career and could be a big problem for her going down the line."
"I don't think that voters really like that kind of caution," she added. "They want someone to really lay out at least kind of what they're thinking, and she often has gone back and looked at the polls and talked to advisers and is just really careful about these kind of questions. Is that what voters are going to want? I don't know."
Harris was forced to walk back an answer in January where she called for the abolition of the private insurance industry. In one of her direct responses on Monday, she said she would take executive action on gun control if Congress didn't act in the first 100 days of her administration.