Saturday, February 01, 2020

Race for the White House # 57

If one felt like last week was full of news, hold on to your hats for the week that is to come. Every day, something major will be happening on the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In less than an hour, the final Iowa poll from the Des Moines Register will be released and candidates and political watchers will be tuned in to see results. Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday in which a Blue State team will play a Red State team in a purple state. (For the first time ever in a Super Bowl though, both teams have red as their primary color.)

Monday is the Iowa Caucuses in which we will find out the first real result as to which Democrat might get to face Donald Trump. On Tuesday, the incumbent President will deliver his State of the Union Address before a highly divided Congress in historic times, and then on Wednesday, we will find out if Mike Pence will take his job or not.

Ok, we know the answer to that. It has not really been in doubt, but the Senate will formally vote on the Impeachment charges against Trump on Wednesday. It appears every Democrat will vote Guilty which will be an historic first. If history holds sway, every Republican will vote Not Guilty, but there is certainly a chance that Susan Collins of Maine and/or Mitt Romney of Utah will make history and vote to oust a President of their party.

These two Senators, who are of course taking much heat among Trump acolytes, were the only two Republicans to vote to subpoena former National Security Advisor John Bolton to be a witness in the Senate Impeachment trial. Last Sunday, a story came out in which Bolton's  book claimed that Trump did indeed make it clear he had a quid pro quo for Ukraine to receive designated aid in exchange for investigations of the Biden Family. This appeared to be a bombshell and many believed that several Republican Senators would now vote for witnesses and that this trial would last extra weeks with much uncertainty.

However, Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell followed orders to bring most everyone in line. On Thursday and Friday, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska came out against witnesses. This all but assured that the trial was over and that Trump was going to be acquitted without hearing what Bolton (and others) had to say.. at least before the vote. Interestingly, the vote to acquit could have already happened by now, but McConnell apparently made a deal with Senate Democrats to allow speeches to be made early next week before a final vote on Wednesday. This means that Trump will not formally be able to "declare victory" over the U.S. House on this Tuesday address. He will certainly try though. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if there are any efforts made towards a formal Congressional Censure.

To be brief, as someone who was once a proud Republican, going back to the age of 10, these continue to be pretty sad and pretty aggravating times for me as my party has sold its soul to Donald Trump (mostly out of fear) and I feel American democracy is suffering because of it. I am still proud to be a longtime Mitt Romney supporter and hope he will do the right thing on Wednesday, even though the anger that would be unleashed at him from the right would be overwhelming. If the Democrats were a normal party, this might be the week I became a Democrat, at least temporarily. However, I do not at all fit in with their ideological direction and am far from convinced that Democrats would be acting with any more principle if Trump was *their* President.

As the saying goes, this will ultimately be up to history. Clearly, the American people wanted to hear from witnesses in this trial but that was gleefully shut down by Trump's defenders because they feared what would be said. That is a cover-up, pure and simple. The short-term will determine this year whether this costs Trump the White House or Republicans their Senate majority. Both things deserve to happen but it remains to be seen that as much as "normal Americans" can differentiate between right and wrong in this, if they are willing to make an issue like this first and center in their mind. After all, the economy is strong and we were told back during the Clinton Administration that was all that should matter. The stock market had a very rough week though with fears of the Coronavirus from China.

The cowardice of Senate Republicans seems amplified by the fact that many are now conceding that it was not a "perfect call" and that Trump acted inappropriately. That much is obvious and if he were a Democrat, they would not have hesitated a second to call for his removal from office. In his mystifying statement, Alexander basically concedes that the House Democrats proved their case that Trump did it and thus there was no need to hear from witnesses. I agree, but how does one then vote Not Guilty? The retiring Senator said he simply could not take part in a process to remove a President from office during an election year for this reason and that voters should decide. Ok, "Lamar!" as a voter, are you calling for Trump to be ousted? Take a stand. If it is up to the people, then allowing witnesses to formally say their piece should be part of the equation and not covered up. Other Senators, such as Marco Rubio and Rob Portman also are saying Trump did something wrong but that even something that is "impeachable" should not equal removal from office. Wow.

So, at the end, only Susan Collins, who faces a tough reelection in blue-leaning Maine and Mitt Romney, the former standard bearer of a party we can hardly recognize anymore did the right thing. At least that's better than nobody.

Moving on towards the Democrats, the Iowa Caucus remains hard to predict. It looks like it might come down to a photo finish between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders (and considering their ages, it might be a very long process to develop the film) but so much remains unknown, including if there are going to be different ways to even declare a "winner" and what will happen if backers of candidates who do not reach 15 percent align with another campaign.

The field is now formally at 11. Former Congressman John Delaney, the first to announce, virtually years ago, is now out. Tulsi Gabbard, Deval Patrick, and Michael Bennet are non-factors in this race and will definitely be out by the end of this month. Andrew Yang has won a fanbase, but he is not going to go anywhere, minus a major shock. (Let me take a moment to point out that Republican Joe Walsh, the sole conservative to be seeking the Presidency, is working hard in Iowa for every anti-Trump Republican vote he might be able to find, to virtually zero media coverage.)

This leaves seven Democrats who might possibly have a path to winning the nomination, though only five will be in play in Iowa and could potentially bunched closer together. Billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer have been spending lots of money on the airwaves but have not focused too much on Iowa. Steyer will be looking to surprise in South Carolina, while Bloomberg is laying the groundwork in states that other candidates might not have even touched yet, in preparation for a long-slog once the field is winnowed down and his name recognition is being reflected as he slowly moves up in national polls.

So, that leaves Biden, Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar. I would be surprised if anyone other than Biden or Sanders actually comes in "first" but not surprised at all if any of these five finish second.  Buttigieg is said to have a great organization in Indiana, but there might be some signs that he peaked too early both there and nationally. Warren has had a tough couple months but is said to be leading as the "second choice" candidate, and that could matter on Monday night. There could also potentially be a late surge towards Klobuchar with voters thinking about electability. Of course the former Vice President is very much in this race (after finishing with 1 percent in Iowa in 2008), and could win, which would be a great headline for his campaign. When he first got into this race, expectations for Biden were quite high, but his performance as a candidate has lowered them.

The betting money though is perhaps on Sanders, who had a big campaign event last night without him, as he is of course "stuck in Washington" for the Impeachment. His supporters and surrogates made headlines for the "booing" of Hillary Clinton, who continues to publicly complain about the Sanders 2016 campaign. For their part, the Sanders campaign is now openly mad at the DNC for having perceived anti-Bernie people in various positions for the party. In the meantime, Biden and Sanders continue to cautiously snipe at each other while Buttigieg tries to call out both men as symbols of the "past." It is likely to only get nastier after Iowa.

Sanders winning Iowa would be a huge idea. After all, he could quickly follow that up with another victory in his neighboring state of New Hampshire. In open races, only Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry have ever been able to do that, and they of course were nominated. So, this is getting very real for Bernie supporters. Much like the Republican Party dramatically changed itself four years ago, the same winds of change might be at play in the opposition party.

All of this leads to an interesting question. Who would be hated more currently between the most recently defeated nominees of the two major parties? Mitt Romney at a Trump rally or Hillary Clinton at a Bernie one?


At 10:33 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

No results more then 12 hours later....

Democrats are in political knife fights while Donald Trump lies and gets over!


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