Saturday, January 25, 2020

Race for the White House # 56

It has felt like somewhat of a normal week, amid surreal times. That in itself speaks to the weirdness in American political life as 2020 continues to unfold.

The Iowa Caucuses grow closer and closer as polls and endorsements come into greater focus. At the same time, the incumbent President is on trial in the United States Senate, with his job on the line, in what we are told involves very tough circumstances for all 100 Senators being forced to listen intently and only drink water or milk. However, there seems to be little evidence that America as a whole is very much engaged in the Impeachment saga. Supporters of Donald Trump hope that it may all formally be over next week, but that remains to be seen.

To be brief, the consensus is that nothing much seems likely to change from the eventual outcome of a party line or close to party line vote to acquit Trump. Still though, there is the possibility that four Republican Senators will join all Democrats in voting to hear from witnesses and that will lead to all sorts of unpredictability. The early test votes in the Senate, before the opening arguments began, were strictly along party lines. The Senate, with the Chief Justice presiding, stayed well past the midnight hour to agree upon rules. The next day, the House Democrat managers put on their case and continues for the next three days. It is hard to deny that the facts are on the Democrats' side as to what Trump did. As always, the contention is whether people think it matters or not. The managers, led by California's Adam Schiff put on a strong case, but also a partisan one, and Republican Senators were said to be somewhat offended by things said by Schiff or by his colleague Jerry Nadler of New York. Might it have been a better idea to include Michigan' s Justin Amash, a former Republican turned Independent as one of the impeachment managers?

Today, to the complaint of Trump, who said that not many people would be watching on Saturday, his White House and outside attorneys had their say and did not take up much time, at least this first day.
Obviously, Trump acolytes had a hard time sitting through three straight days of nothing but the Democrats laying out their case and were anxious for rebuttals. This period is likely to be similarly frustrating to the anti-Trump junkies who are following this. The end result though is that if there is nothing that the House can say to convince many Senate Republicans, that there is nothing that Trump's lawyers are going to say that will change the mind of Senate Democrats... or in anyway change what Trump did and why. As I have said before, the American people will have their say in November and history will have the ultimate say for eternity.

There are far more mixed signs coming out of Iowa, where candidates are either campaigning or relying on surrogates during the time they are mandated to sit quietly without electronic devices at their Senate desk. Tonight, in a bit of a surprise, the influential Des Moines Register endorsed Elizabeth Warren. She certainly needed something as her campaign has continued to lose momentum. The week began with the New York Times making an unorthodox endorsement of both Warren and Amy Klobuchar .I had thought the local Iowa paper might endorse the Minnesota Senator as well. Clearly though, this development cannot hurt Warren.

Some prominent Iowa politicians are endorsing Joe Biden (as well as rumors that former candidate Kamala Harris may do the same) but polls out of Iowa show that the former Vice President might finish anywhere between first and fourth. There are pretty big symbolic differences between all those showings. While he may not be the favorite of editorial boards, he does continue to gain positive attention for his "human touch" such as the video that went semi-viral of the African-American security guard at the New York Times building who expressed her love for Biden, before he offered to take a selfie with her. People sharing those kind of clips online may be more valuable than a major newspaper endorsement.

Still, the crowds for Biden are said to be not impressive and other candidates are believed to be better organized and have more money. Polls show that Bernie Sanders, making his second consecutive run has some major momentum in the Hawkeye State. If he wins there, followed up by a victory in his neighboring state of New Hampshire, (where he won big four years ago), the septuagenarian socialist from Vermont is well on his way to clinching the nomination. The same should of course be said if Biden, Warren, Pete Buttigieg, or anyone else goes 2 for 2 in the opening contests. The possibility that Sanders might actually be nominated should scare the heck out of Democrats worried about electability in the fall. The race for now looks quite fluid though, but little by little, Mike Bloomberg seems to be gaining nationally and might very well be in the position of benefiting from "buyer's remorse" and political panic.

As the possible front-runner, Sanders made a lot of news this week. It started with him apologizing to Joe Biden for one of his surrogates authoring a piece which painted Biden as being tied to corruption. Mostly though, it was legitimate stuff about Biden's past Senate votes. Other candidates continue to somewhat walk on eggshells around Biden.

Then Hillary Clinton weighed in. We all know she has harbored ill feelings for Sanders since she lost to Trump, but she made comments that totally left no doubt about just how deep her rancor goes, making any conciliatory remarks she once made about her former rival moot. She said that "nobody liked Sanders" (which may be news to his many donors and people who attend his rallies) and that she could not agree that she would be able to support him if he won the nomination. After a big firestorm against Hillary, she sort of walked the last part back a bit. Clearly though, bad blood remains. To his credit, Sanders did not take the bait, though he might have been able to gain by firing back at the now very divisive most recent loser in the party. Instead though, he is taking the high road (while many of his supporters continue to try to scorch earth online). If Sanders ultimately winds up nominated, it will be a tremendous political story and speak volumes about how far left Democrats have gone and how ideological purity will potentially lead them to not even putting the greatest emphasis on defeating Trump.

Not taking the high road against Hillary Clinton is Sanders' fellow candidate, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawai'i. She is suing her party's most recent nominee for millions of dollars, insisting that Hillary's remarks about Tulsi being a "Russian asset" has greatly hurt her campaign for President and done lasting damage. Obviously, this is a ploy for Gabbard to gather media attention. The legal rationale behind her lawsuit appears quite dubious. However, any sort of courtroom proceeding between these two women might be popcorn worthy.


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