Saturday, November 30, 2019

Race for the White House 2020 # 48

Tensions were high at many Thanksgiving tables this past Thursday and relatives, friends, and people who may have never met before found themselves involved in political discussions. While there were not widespread reports of violence, there were likely some raised voices and angry pointed words from coast to coast. And that was just among the Democrats...

We continue to inch closer to the first contests of the 2020 cycle, as 18 major Democrat contenders continue to jockey for position for the right to face a divisive incumbent with subpar poll numbers who is literally about to be impeached. Yet their is genuine concern on the left about whether Trump can actually be defeated and fear about the various weaknesses that their frontrunners have.

What would be better for Democrats? A quick and orderly process in which a candidate wins early and wins often and wraps things up before many can either catch their breath? Or would it be better for the process to drag on, exciting voters about the process, with the ultimate winner having faced a gauntlet that will have proven his or her political mettle? There are risks involved in both scenarios. Political junkies and journalist still dream about the possibility of a "brokered convention" in which perhaps someone not even in the race gets nominated.

The evidence suggests that neither Joe Walsh nor William Weld have much of a path for success against Donald Trump in what is a shamefully rigged process this cycle. Still, both man deserve credit for what amounts to a kamikaze mission and raising needed issues about both Trump and conservatism to a party base that wants to avoid having to think much. Trump of course can make news by Tweeting out photos of himself as Rocky Balboa or for confusion about the gender of Conan, the hero dog. There are just so many jokes and sharpie drawings that could come into play. I was considering making this whole write-up just devoted to jokes on those two matters. I will save them for December perhaps.

So, most of the campaign action is on the Democrat side. This week, I will take a very perfunctory look, in alphabetical order, about the potentials (if they even remotely exist) and pitfalls of all 18 Democrats, i alphabetical order.

Joe Biden, the former Vice President is still looked at as the front-runner. He is also the strongest among African-Americans and Latinos, key Democrat constituencies. For that reason, he is leading the polling in the early states of South Carolina and Nevada. However, Iowa and New Hampshire come first and he may not win either, which would be an historically bad sign for any Presidential candidate. In fact, he could finish in fourth place in both states, if recent polls are to be believed. While many in the party respect Biden, and recognize that Trump seems to want to least run against him, there are many concerns about his age and mental fitness, whether those fears are justified or not. What is not in dispute is that Biden is a "gaffe machine" and has been for a very long time. This week, there were reports that even Barack Obama was taking a shot at Biden's ability to connect with voters.

Mike Bloomberg, the longtime Democrat turned Republican turned Independent Mayor of New York City, (who rejoined his current party after leaving office) is now officially in the race and the billionaire is spending some serious money on the airwaves as he plans to skip the earliest contests. He is also not taking a cent in donations, choosing to completlely self-fund his bid. There is some question as to if he will appear in any debate this cycle with his fellow Democrat candidates.  Bloomberg's ads are good and his earliest appearances look very professional, but he has pandered to some on the left in regards to his record in fighting crime as Mayor and seems unabashed in advocating nanny state policies. Nonetheless, he may be the last hope of those who fear that a far left "anti-capitalist" could be nominated and be unelectable. Many things will have to happen for Bloomberg to be in the game at the end, but chief among them will have to be a full implosion of Joe Biden's political career.

Michael Bennet, one of the most impressive vote getters in the field, by virtue of his tough victories for a Colorado Senate seat, continues to run, but in virtual invisibility. There is not much of a chance for Bennet to qualify for any future debates. There just does not seem to be much room for a low key "moderate." If he even stays in until Iowa, he will likely be out of the race before the sun rises the next morning.

Cory Booker, still has a reelection campaign in New Jersey to fall back on, but for now, he continues to run, hoping mostly that he can capture the kind of late African-American support that once boosted Obama to the nomination.  However, history can only be made once and for all of Booker's impressive speaking ability, he comes across as a bit unauthentic to many. He was initially hoping to run as a contrast to Trump in regards to being a unifying "love all the people" but instead just tried to run a campaign that he felt left-wing activists wanted to see. Since so many others are doing the same thing, this appears to be a lost opportunity.

Steve Bullock is entering his last year as Governor of Montana. He is the only candidate to have ever won anything in a state that Trump won in 2016, but like the case for Bennet, a "moderate" who is unable to get in the news cycle stands no chance, especially if they can no longer qualify for debates. Bullock will have to rely on as much free media as possible.

Pete Buttigieg, another "B' name is perhaps the biggest winner of 2019 for the Democrat candidates. When one considers that he entered the year as the virtually unknown Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, well short of 40 years old, the fact that he as of now looks like the front-runner in Iowa, close to the lead in New Hampshire, and within striking distance of the national lead is pretty incredible. Clearly, he has touched a cord with many voters. However, they seem to be almost exclusively white voters. Buttigieg is said to have very little African-American support, and if he is to be the nominee, that will have to change. Some say this has to do with his record as Mayor, while the candidate himself says he is just not that well-known with black voters yet. However, what often goes unsaid is that many black voters are uneasy with the concept of a gay President. This has become a delicate balancing act for "Mayor Pete" who found himself being criticized after the last debate by Kamala Harris, for what he seemed to suggest ( I think a bit unfairly) that he was trying to compare his experience as a gay man to that historic prejudices faced by African-Americans. For now though, Buttigieg has the potential to either rise or fall a great deal. Right now, he seems to be taking votes from both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren as some see him as electable ideologically but without the problem of being "too old." Does he have a problem of being "too young" though?

Julian Castro, the lone Latino in the field, and the last remaining Texan, seems to be running on fumes.  His campaign has just never taken off and he has been roundly criticized for having a bit of a mean streak to him. Facing fundraising problems and being kept off the debate stage seems to have Castro perhaps hoping for a chance to add diversity to a ticket next summer. It has come across to me that he seems to be trying to do Elizabeth Warren's dirty work.

John Delaney, was the first Democrat to enter the race, and has quietly worked in Iowa to gather support for a long time now. Unless, there is some secret clandestine base for him though, this all seems to be for naught. As mentioned, a low-key Democrat who talks about pro-business policies is running in the wrong party in the wrong cycle, as long as they are not a billionaire. Ironically enough though, someone like Delaney, if he were to be nominated, could probably beat Trump soundly.

Tulsi Gabbard, has reached the stage where she is portrayed as the "villian" in SNL spoofs of the Democrat debates.  The layers to her candidacy are complex and the various theories are numerous. She is not likely to win any contests except for the online Drudge Report surveys, but she appears more than willing to take on party orthodoxy and launch attacks against her fellow candidates. Many Democrats think she will somehow wind up endorsing Donald Trump. I do not think she will, but might snub the eventual nominee.

Kamala Harris is perhaps the greatest disappointment among the candidates in 2019. When she announced, she looked like a real frontrunner and was expected to surge after an early debate. However, she has proven to be out of her depth outside of California wholesale politics and there has apparently been much chaos on her team.Like Booker, she has seen how difficult it is to rally African-American voters in the post-Obama era, when many seem content to go with a white candidate with a more familiar name. She is betting it all on Iowa and will need to finish at least third place to survive.

Amy Klobuchar seems to be planning on slow and steady winning the race. She is probably going to be disappointed, but may actually have a better chance than many of the others. For this to happen for the Minnesota Senator, she will need Biden to implode, Buttigieg to never truly take off, fear of Elizabeth Warren and/or Bernie Sanders to be palpable, and a backlash against Bloomberg to persist. It is a tall order but I can at least see a small window. For all these female candidates though, there may indeed be a glass ceiling among the supposedly "woke" Democrats, particularly among older African-American and Latino voters about female Presidential candidates. After all, twice did Hillary Clinton fail to meet expectations as a candidate for the nomination.

Deval Patrick has entered the race late and when "Deval went down to Georgia" on the same night a debate was held there, only two people showed up and the event was cancelled. Other African-American candidates have struggled in this field as have other nerdy candidates. What chance does an African-American nerd have? He may just be hoping that somehow his old friend Barack Obama will endorse him.

Bernie Sanders remains the oldest candidate in the field, (albeit with some closer contenders) and the most anti-capitalist (again with at least one close competitor). He has continued to demonstrate strong fundraising and grassroots ability. However, his path is harder in a multi-candidate field. He continues to split a base with Elizabeth Warren that is preventing either of of them from being a clear front-runner. Asssuming his heart issue in the past, Sanders remains a contender. He may very well win Iowa and New Hampshire both, which would spell doom for Warren and generate panic within the party. Obama was said this week to claim he will personally get involved in the race to prevent Sanders from being nominated.

Joe Sestak was at one time the highest ranked member of the military ever to be elected to Congress. Now, he is the least known of the 18 "major" Democrats running for President. He has not appeared in a single debate and that streak will continue. His only hope is to be nominated on approximately the 109th ballot in Milwaukee.

Tom Steyer is no longer the richest candidate in the field. Why does he even want to waste his money anymore? He may be able to semi-buy some endorsements and get name recognition from his tv ads, which allows him to be in the debates, but he has not made much of an impact as a candidate. However, he can always at least claim that he was ahead of the herd on impeachment.

Elizabeth Warren has had a tough couple of months. Still, I would be very cautious about counting her out. She knows what Democrat activitsts like to hear and if she has struggled lately, it might be because she has attempted to water down her ambitious "plans." because many fear she is not electable.  How she does in Iowa and New Hampshire will of course tell all and of course Bernie Sanders plays a big part in her future in the race as well. She might indeed go even further to the left in order to establish her base when the voting starts. However, she is so divisive that even now, she runs weaker against Trump than the other major candidates.

Marianne Williamson is apparently still running, but since she is no longer in the debates, her fifteen minutes of political fame may be over. She would an endorsement form her old friend Oprah. The spiritual guru has said that Democrats needs to come to grips with the "dark toxic forces" in America that have elevated Trump to the Presidency and how it goes far beyond him as an individual. I think she may really be on to something there.

Andrew Yang is not going to be President, but he has done wonders for his branding. There's something oddly likable about him even as his campaign is quixotic and weird. While much of is may be due to the historic nature of the first ever major Asian-American Democrat contender, Yang has already outlasted and continues to outpoll bigger names. He should be proud of that.

There we have it. A rundown of all the contenders as the Holiday Season truly begins, to be followed by formal Impeachment season, and with voting likely to come soon thereafter if not in between.


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