After Setback-Filled Exploratory Phase, Gillibrand Joins Giant Democratic Presidential Field

March 17, 2019

In a campaign launch video aimed squarely at President Donald Trump, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) entered the 2020 presidential field on Sunday.

After a two-month exploratory committee phase marked by bad headlines and worse polling, Gillibrand officially joined the wide field of candidates battling for the White House. Pitting herself as "brave" and unafraid of progress, with the national anthem as a theme, Gillibrand released a somber video taking shots at Trump administration policies.

"Brave doesn't pit people against each other," Gillibrand intoned. "Brave doesn't put money over lives. Brave doesn't spread hate. Cloud truth. Build a wall. That's what fear does."

In another sign she's framing herself as the true anti-Trump candidate, Gillibrand's official launch speech will take place March 24 outside the Trump International Hotel in New York City. Other contenders, meanwhile, have sought to avoid talking about the president. Gillibrand has voted against Trump's nominees more than any other lawmaker.

Citing the United States going to the moon in her launch video, Gillibrand said such progressive goals as universal health care, paid family leave, gun control, passing a Green New Deal, and getting money out of politics are all possible.

One image showed a split-screen of hats, one bearing Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan and the other reading "Equality," as voices in the video asked "will brave win?"

Gillibrand won't if her campaign, which has focused on women's issues, remains stuck in the mud. Her highlights during the exploratory phase for the presidency were numerous:

She held hands with Stephen Colbert as she announced the formation of her exploratory committee.

Two New York newspaper editorial boards slammed her for misleading voters about her White House aspirations when she campaigned for re-election in 2018.

A woman scooted past Gillibrand in order to get ranch dressing while she campaigned in Iowa City.

She claimed flip-flopping was not "part of my record" in spite of numerous apologies for past conservative stances on issues like illegal immigration and gun control.

She pronounced herself willing to remove parts of the existing border barriers.

She didn't secure the endorsement of a single member of New York's 21-member congressional delegation. Even former Rep. John Delaney (D., Md.) got the support of one Maryland House member.

She canceled a South Carolina campaign event less than half an hour before it was set to begin.

She finished third among New York politicians in a poll of Empire State voters for president, behind Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.), who said he isn't running, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who eventually decided not to run. She finished just ahead of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), who is too young to run.

An Iowa poll showed Gillibrand as the first choice of zero people out of 401 likely Democratic caucus voters—she also trailed entrepreneur Andrew Yang nationally in another survey.

A staffer quit last summer over how Gillibrand's office handled a sexual harassment complaint against longtime aide Abbas Malik, and the staunch #MeToo advocate didn't fire him until this month when Politico handed over evidence of additional wrongdoing.

A co-host of a recent, ritzy Beverly Hills fundraiser for Gillibrand was charged in the massive college admissions scam that included actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

She joins a huge field currently being led in polls by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D., Texas), with former Vice President Joe Biden considering entering the race as well.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes will interview Gillibrand on Monday for a town hall.