Saturday, November 02, 2019

Race for the White House 2020 # 44

Believe it or not, the Presidential election is just one year from tomorrow. One year. That feels a lot quicker than I expected it to be. I wish I could be more excited about it all. In past elections, I had a candidate that I was excited about and wanted to see elected President. That is not technically the case this year, although I would find it a proud and defiant moment to cast a primary ballot for Joe Walsh (assuming I do not pull a Democrat ballot for the first time ever to vote in a local race), this Presidential election year is mostly about just hoping someone in particular loses. Then, I will be on to opposing whomever gets elected in a year and a day. There could always be a miracle though...

Lots has happened this week and I am certain to forget something that I wanted to touch on. Earlier this week, the Washington Nationals won the World Series and this was quite a story for that franchise and for that team this season.  I could write a whole blog post just about that, but I am a Cubs fan of course, so there is no reason to do so. I am glad they won though, and amazed that a road team won all 7 games of the series. So, that means last Sunday, the National lost to the Houston Astros, with Donald Trump in attendance for part of the game. While he and Melania were surrounded by Republican Congressional acolytes, the reaction from the crowd when he appeared on the scoreboard was pretty clear. He was booed lustily. Crowds of people started chanting, "Lock him up!" By Trump's reaction, he was either very surprised or quite pissed. Likely both. I am glad we have a free society where such an expression of opposition to the leader is allowed. To be sure, many other Presidents would have been booed at a big sporting event as well, although perhaps not with this much unanimity. For this particular venue though in Washington D.C., where the crowd was filled with predominately wealthy people who might have some sort of tie to the government or related business, the reaction to Trump was actually bi-partisan, and that sets him apart from other Presidents who would just get booed by devotees of one party. This was perhaps the most bipartisan moment in the nation's Capitol since September 2001.

After weeks of Republicans claiming that there was a lack of transparency in regards to impeachment proceedings, Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave in and scheduled a vote to officially launch the impeachment inquiry. Republicans then complained about that too. They are very interested at this point in arguing about the process rather than the substance. On pretty much a party line vote (with two Democrats joining Republicans and Independent libertarian Justin Amash joining the Democrats) the measure passed. Official public hearings will begin this month and could go a long way in shaping public opinion as to what Trump did and how people feel about it. The "leaked news" from the closed door proceedings has tended to paint a dark picture for Trump in which it appears clear that many people assumed that he was asking Ukraine for a quid pro quo. A highly decorated Lt. Colonel who listened to the call and expressed concern spoke to the select group this week. Some Trump allies are shamefully trying to attack his patriotism or the fact that he was born in the Soviet Union before fleeing at the age of 3 with his family as Jewish refugees. Other Republicans have thankfully fired back against those who would question Col. Vindman's patriotism.

On the Democrat Presidential front, the pack shrank a bit yesterday in a bit of a surprise announcement that former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke was calling it quits. He went from being one of the most highly touted politicians in the country last year, when he came close to beating Ted Cruz for a Senate seat in Texas to a bust of a Presidential candidate. The timing was right for O'Rourke to try to capitalize on his moment of fame and run in this cycle. He just was not a good candidate and that is why very few Democrats flocked to him. It is just not the same when your opponent is not Ted Cruz. So "Beto" came across as a bit of an empty suit and much of his campaign was seen as gimmicky and desperate. The comparisons to Barack Obama are probably going to pass, although it is very possible that O'Rourke will run for something again.

Another one highly touted Democrat prospect is California Senator Kamala Harris. When she entered the race, she was declared one to watch and after one debate, was expected to rocket towards the top. Instead, her campaign has gone the opposite direction and she is now laying off staffers in New Hampshire and said to be gambling it all on Iowa. These kinds of choices have of course been made by candidates from both parties in the past. Sometimes they work, but usually they are a sign of impending doom. Many point to a clash in another debate with Hawai'i Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard as the start of Harris's slippage. At the time, Harris said she was not concerned about being attacked by a candidate who was polling as poorly as Gabbard. Now, there are polls showing Gabbard running ahead of Harris. Hillary Clinton may have something to do with that fact as well.

Last night in Des Moines, it seemed like all the candidates took part in a big event for the party that always gets a lot of attention when Democrats are seeking the White House. Forever, it was called the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, but those past Presidents clearly have some historical problems, so now the event is named "Freedom and Equality" or something like that. The candidates all have about 10 minutes to make a stump speech and they bring in scores of supporters to chant and wave signs and all that. It is definitely a sign of organization and who might be able to get their people out on Caucus night. Twelve years ago, this was a big boost for the Obama campaign in Iowa. Watching portions of this event reminded me how exciting it was when Republicans had big "cattle calls" in the 1996 and 2000 cycles.

While Joe Biden gave a pretty energetic speech at the event, it was clear that he has nowhere near the biggest or most enthusiastic cheering section. That seemed to definitely be Elizabeth Warren with Pete Buttigieg perhaps not that far behind. Even some other candidates looked like they sold more tickets than the Biden campaign. For whatever political ceiling he may have in South Carolina or elsewhere, Buttigieg is clearly surging in Iowa and the Midwesterner is well-organized in the Hawkeye State.

In regards to this event, the candidates sort of spoke in a theater in the round kind of deal with people sitting in the arena at different angles. They tended to walk around the stage with a hand held microphone which is typical for this event. (I noticed that Bernie Sanders seemed to be the only one who had a podium brought out, which was interesting.) Some on the right are taking clips of Biden out of context because he at times was speaking to people in the crowd with his back to the television camera as he tried to engage the live audience. This has led to all sorts of goofy talk among right-wingers online about how Biden was "losing it" and addressing a blank screen.

Iowa polls are beginning to show Biden could potentially finish fourth in Iowa which would be hard for his campaign to spin. I still have a hard time seeing Warren and Sanders both being strong enough to make the Top Three though. Whatever happens in Iowa will set the table though for what is to come for the Democrats moving forward. There is a clear divide now over the "Medicaid for All" proposal backed by both Sanders and Warren but opposed by Biden and Buttigieg. Last this week, Warren released details of a plan she said would not raise taxes on the middle class, but it was roundly panned as unrealistic.

These have been just some quick observations over a very busy week in politics. I can just think of one thing more worth mentioning. In a pretty historic Presidential move, the incumbent has officially changed his state of residence. While he hopes to continue living in the White House, Donald and Mrs. Trump have officially changed their home state from New York to Florida. Many others have done this though over many past decades, but especially recent years.

Whether this is about paying less taxes or being in a better position to fight efforts by New York Democrats to get Trump to release his taxes, the current President is now officially a citizen of the Sunshine State, where he has owned the estate Mar-A-Lago for many years now. Florida is one of our most well-populated state and he is the first President to ever be from there. (I would have picked at least two other Florida Republicans last cycle of course well before him.)

Florida is of course well known as the place people retire to and many watching this campaign unfold will hope that will soon be the case for Trump. There are also those headlines about all sorts of weird crimes and behavior that come out of Florida.

One thing is pretty clear. Before long there will be a headline declaring, "Florida Man Gets Impeached."


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