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Sen. Kamala Harris takes a selfie on the campaign trail. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a crowded 2020 race, Sen. Kamala Harris' consistency in national polls is impressive as a top 5 Democratic candidate, but her placement among voters is still mismatched, Molly Ball writes for the latest TIME magazine cover story.

“People like Harris too; they just can’t quite place her. Like the acquaintance you recognize but can’t recall how you met, she seems both familiar and yet mysterious. Is she a liberal or a moderate, establishment or populist, reformer or radical?”

The state of play: Harris' polling numbers in her home state of California have been woeful, with the junior senator falling way behind candidates Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who are consistently polling around at least 20% each.

  • Harris, meanwhile, is at about 8%, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll that had her at 19% in July.
  • "Harris’ message has been muddled and her agenda unclear," writes Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton, who has covered politics and government for more than 50 years. "That shouldn’t be a surprise given her unremarkable record as state attorney general. She was overly cautious."

The big picture: Critics say Harris is sometimes elusive in her policy plans, but her supporters picture her taking on President Trump on the national debate stage with "her icy prosecutor’s glare," per TIME.

  • "This guy has completely trampled on the rule of law, avoided consequence and accountability under law," Harris told TIME when asked about Trump. "For all the sh-t people give me for being a prosecutor, listen. I believe there should be accountability and consequence."

Harris fired a few successful shots at Joe Biden during the first debate over his opposition to federally mandated busing in the '70s, but has yet to follow up with any plan or position of her own.

  • Her tendency to prioritize pragmatism over sweeping ideas has caused her to lose out on activist support, while she has at the same time positioned herself too far left for most moderates, Time reports.

The bottom line, per Molly Ball: "Campaigning to fix what keeps people up at night, she might just cure America’s insomnia by putting us to sleep with platitudes."

Go deeper: Kamala Harris' campaign says it raised $11.6 million in Q3

Go deeper

Birx: Trump White House could have reduced COVID deaths by 30 to 40%

Deborah Birx, then-coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a news conference in the White House last November. Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deborah Birx, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator under former President Trump, told a House subcommittee this month that the Trump administration could have prevented tens of thousands of deaths during the early stages of the pandemic.

Driving the news: "I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining ... and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30% less to 40% less range," Birx said in closed-door testimony to the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, according to excerpts provided by the panel.

Study: Fear of debt keeps Latinos out of college

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fear of never being able to pay off school loans is keeping many young Latinos in the U.S. from going to college or completing a degree, according to a report published in September.

State of play: Latinos tend to have more difficulty repaying school debt than white student borrowers, according to Federal Reserve data, at the same time that they need more loans in order to afford tuition.

4 hours ago - World

Scoop: Biden administration objects to Israeli settlements plan

Israeli PM Naftali Bennett (L) meets with Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty

The Biden administration has privately protested to the Israeli government over its plan to approve the planning and construction of more than 3,000 new housing units in the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: The approvals for new homes in the settlements will be the first since President Biden assumed office, and come after Biden and his top aides personally pressed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to restrain settlement activity and decrease the number of new housing units.