In a packed Democratic presidential field, the half-dozen candidates polling at the top get most of the attention. But there are more than a half-dozen candidates polling below 2%.
One of those long-shot candidates, Marianne Williamson, the author and spiritual adviser, brought her campaign to Charlotte Wednesday night. She was the keynote speaker at an election season kick-off event hosted by local party chapters and Young Professional Leaders at Heist Brewery.
Williamson, known for her progressive positions such as providing reparations for slavery, went viral on Twitter for some of her ethereal remarks at last month’s Democratic debates.
Among other things, she said her first phone call as president would be to the prime minister of New Zealand to tell her “Girlfriend, you are so on,” and in her closing remarks, she addressed President Donald Trump directly and said she would “harness love for political purposes.”
She found out about Charlotte’s event and asked to speak, organizer Andrew Fede told the crowd. It was one stop on her tour through the Carolinas, where she spent most of her time meeting with voters and public officials across South Carolina. Just over 100 people crammed into a stuffy back room of the bar to listen to her.
“We have to decide who we are,” she told the crowd, captivating them with a speech about challenging the political establishment and going “deeper” into the issues facing the country.
A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal has Williamson polling nationwide at 1% with seven other candidates, including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. That’s better than a half-dozen candidates under 1% in the poll. In North Carolina, she’s polling below 1%, according to an Emerson College poll.
Though the odds at this point seem stacked against her, she dismisses those odds altogether.
“You’re the same people who said Donald Trump wouldn’t win,” she said, referencing experts from the 2016 election.
She said there are two political universes: polls and the media, and real people. Talking to the real people is “all that matters,” she said because they have a way of doing what they want to do regardless of polls. And her people, like two attendees at Wednesday’s event who traveled from the Raleigh area, are vocal in their support.
“Every time I see something negative posted about her, there’s this backlash of support that comes, so I don’t buy into the polls,” attendee Tracy Gray said, later adding that she is registering to vote just for Williamson.
“I think right now a lot of her (supporters) are still in the closet. They’re not sure how to open up that door to vote for somebody, to push for somebody that they don’t know yet,” fellow attendee Howie Lindeman added.
Until next year’s primary, it’s likely going to be an uphill battle for Williamson because she hasn’t had a breakout moment yet, said Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer. He said who can raise money and who can generate the most “buzz” will drive competition between the lesser-known candidates of this primary race.
And though Williamson has famous connections to people like Oprah Winfrey, “she ultimately has to stand alone with her policy perspective and her political views,” Bitzer said.
Williamson will need broad support from the Carolinas in the primaries if she wants a chance at the nomination because the states will likely be key in next year’s presidential election, he said. South Carolina is one of the first primaries on Feb. 29, and North Carolina’s is on Super Tuesday, March 3.
Until then, Williamson is hoping she can continue to build on the energy she said her supporters have already. At the very least, she said she believes her campaign can alter the conversation on what issues matter.
“A lot of what my campaign is about is letting the cat out of the bag,” she said.