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

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Amy Harder, author of Generate
4 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes. A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.

Biden to Trump: "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life"

Former VP Joe Biden pushed back Thursday against allegations from President Trump, saying he had never profited from foreign sources. "Nothing was unethical," Biden told debate moderator Kristen Welker about his son Hunter's work in Ukraine while he was vice president.

Why it matters: Earlier on Thursday, Hunter Biden's former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, released a statement saying Joe Biden's claims that he never discussed overseas business dealings with his son were "false."