It was only three months ago that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) was taunting Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) for not being a "top-tier" candidate.
The tables have turned.
A new poll now puts Gabbard ahead of Harris in the fight for the party's 2020 nomination.
What's the backstory?
During the second Democratic presidential debate on July 31, Gabbard went after Harris for her record as a prosecutor and as California attorney general. It was an attack Harris did not see coming.
Gabbard blasted Harris for putting "over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations," for "block[ing] evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so," for having "kept people in prison behind their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state," and for fighting "to keep a cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst way."
The verbal beating Gabbard delivered resulted in "#KamalaHarrisDestroyed" trending on Twitter a day later. The Harris campaign responded by alleging that Russian bots might have been helping Gabbard's campaign. (A couple months later, twice-failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would make similar comments about Gabbard's campaign.)
After the debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Harris about Gabbard's attack.
"Did you expect that from Tulsi Gabbard? Had you had interaction about that in the past? And how do you think it went?" Cooper asked.
Harris replied, "This is going to sound immodest, but I'm obviously a top-tier candidate, and so I did expect that I would be on the stage and take hits tonight, because there are a lot of people who are trying to make the stage for the next debate."
"For a lot of them, it's do or die," Cooper interjected.
"Well, yeah," Harris responded, " especially when people are at 0 or 1 percent or whatever she [Gabbard] might be at."
What does the polling show now?
A USA Today poll posted Wednesday afternoon shows Gabbard with a 1-point lead over Harris — 4 percent to 3 percent.
Though neither candidate could now be called "top-tier" or is even remotely close to the poll's leader, former Vice President Joe Biden, who sits at 26 percent backing of Democratic primary voters, the polling trends for the two women is notable.
Rubbing salt in Harris' wounds, USA Today listed who are now the "top-tier" candidates — notably Harris was not among them:
The Democratic field now has a top tier of four candidates – Biden, Warren, Sanders and now Buttigieg, whose standing rose 4 points from the August poll. They were followed by Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at 4% – up from less than 1% last time – and entrepreneur Andrew Yang at 3%.
California Sen. Kamala Harris was also at 3%, a drop of 3 points from August. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, credited with a strong performance in the last debate, was at 2% – not a big number, but better than in August, when she registered no support. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker also was at 2%.
As Politico's Zach Montellaro noted, this could have major implications for the coming November and December debates.
The debate ramifications: This gets @TulsiGabbard ONE POLL away from qualifying for the November debate. She's also… https://t.co/3MGdOFiYAI— Zach Montellaro (@Zach Montellaro) 1572459987.0
Feeling her oats
Gabbard has been making hay of Hillary Clinton's recent attacks on her campaign.
Taking to Twitter, two weeks ago, Gabbard called Clinton "the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long." She then blasted the former first lady for trying to "destroy my reputation" through "proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine."
Gabbard then issued a direct challenge to Clinton: "It's now clear that this primary is between you and me. Don't cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly."
Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton. You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of th… https://t.co/YEuqRfheT0— Tulsi Gabbard (@Tulsi Gabbard) 1571430043.0
... powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose. It’s now clear that this… https://t.co/VwnGBYPFrc— Tulsi Gabbard (@Tulsi Gabbard) 1571430043.0
I'm running for president to undo Mrs. Clinton's failed legacy. From Iraq to Libya to Syria, her record is replete with foreign-policy catastrophes. It's a primary reason why I resigned as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to endorse Bernie Sanders. Mrs. Clinton and the powerful media and political network she built up over decades have never forgiven this slight. The smears have been nonstop ever since.
With talk of Clinton possibly hopping into the 2020 race, this fight might just be at its beginning stages.