Saturday, February 08, 2020

Race for the White House # 58

What a week...

There is no way I could even start to cover it all. I have been thinking of ways to organize this post in the best way possible. I think what I will do is list each day and have some stream of consciousness thoughts about what happened that day.

As for a theme? This was not a good week for Democrats. They should have expected much better, in regards to the news headlines out of Iowa. By conventional wisdom, many are saying this was a great week for Donald Trump. While this week certainly shows his reelection is very much possible, fans of the incumbent should be cautious. This week saw, for all its history and uniqueness, showed once again just who Trump is.


At last blogging, we were waiting for the final poll out of Iowa. This was a highly respected poll that could very well"nail" the final result. Well, the poll was never released. They said the results were not reliable. That couldn't be the final result on  Monday, could it? Think again!


The Super Bowl was a great game, but those watching for the commercials would have noticed a couple by the Trump campaign as well as one by the free-spending Mike Bloomberg effort. At the end of the night, the Chiefs had won and Donald Trump congratulated the state of Kansas. Just a bit off.. perhaps nothing a Sharpie could not fix. While the Tweet was corrected, Trump die-hards spent the week maintaining that congratulating Kansas over Missouri made more sense because that is where more season-ticket holders live. (Which I doubt by the way.)

Caucus day arrives and expectations are high. The Democrats have a solid turnout but nowhere near what they were hoping for or the historic levels of 2008. Early on, it seems obvious that Joe Biden might not have that great of a night. Television crews certainly show a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters at places where he was expected to run strong, but there are also a lot of Buttigieg people. They tend to dress a bit nicer than the Sanders people. In places where candidates cannot reach 15 percent, horse trading ensues.

In the meantime, Donald Trump wins the Iowa Caucuses for the first time ever. It was obviously not close as he captured 97 percent of the vote. Bill Weld narrowly edges out Joe Walsh for second place. Other dissatisfied Republicans express support for Mitt Romney. The rules state that people are allowed to give speeches on behalf of the "other" candidates, and of course Walsh is there at a Caucus himself to speak. At many places, they are allegedly not even recognized to speak. Others are shouted down by angry Trump supporters, who apparently were fearful of any dissent. How positively Soviet.

As the television networks wait for results, they do not seem to be forthcoming. Something is very wrong with the reporting of the results. The entire matter seems complicated but this is bad news for Democrats. A problem with the app? At least they did not try to claim it was the Russians. Jokes abound online as people wait to see if we will have any indication how the votes would go or if each candidate merely would get a participation trophy.

Eventually, Amy Klobuchar takes a microphone to speak and then all the other candidates in the state follow. She tried to crack some jokes. Joe Biden, speaking without a teleprompter (and who knew he did not have a good night) seemed to be visibly stunned. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both gave unyielding stump speeches. Pete Buttigieg spoke last before an enthusiastic crowd and basically claimed victory, which was completely proper without anything to suggest he did not win. Certainly, he had a better than expected night, and in his remarks Buttigieg was the only candidate this evening to even appear to be Presidential as he reached out to Independents and "future former Republicans."

With no results from Iowa, this was a black eye for the Iowa Democrat Party and a gut-punch to every voter in the state and every volunteer who spent countless hours trying to support the candidate of their choice for the better part of a year. Donald Trump must have loved this. Michael Bloomberg probably did as well.


Near the end of the afternoon, the party releases about 62 percent of the results. The anticipation was that Bernie Sanders would be first (and was perhaps screwed out of an Election Night "victory" by party insiders) and that Pete Buttigieg would be a surprising second. There were rumors that Biden and Klobuchar might be in a tough match for third.

The results that were released were somewhat confusing. It looked like Buttigieg was right to declare victory after all because he had won the most local delegates. However, it also appeared that Sanders got the most actual votes. Both thus had a claim to victory, although in the way the "game" is played (such as the Electoral College), Mayor Pete won. The Sanders people would be angry and the Trump acolytes, who much prefer to run against Sanders and who want to rile up his "Sanders or Bust" supporters all cry foul. In the meantime, with Elizabeth Warren having had a mixed result, coming in at a historically decent third, but well behind Bernie Sanders for the left-wing vote, it was definitely not a good result for Joe Biden. He only narrowly beat out Amy Klobuchar, who had to lament a lost opportunity. However, by being this competitive, she had a rationale to continue.

All the horserace speculation  would have to wait a bit as Donald Trump was about to give his State of the Union Address. No other Presidential candidate would be in the House chamber. In a surprise to some, Trump did not mention Impeachment nor the Iowa results or for that matter "ad lib" in any way. Still, his speech pissed off Democrats like nothing he had perhaps done before. He started by refusing to shake hands with Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker returned fire by not introducing the President with the usual honorifics. The speech was a mixed bad of appeals to both a right-wing base and outreach efforts to African-Americans. Like Barack Obama did at the exact same place four years earlier, Trump gave what was clearly a reelection speech designed to attack his predecessor and put the other party on the spot. There were some reality show elements that took the politics of the event to a new level.  One example was presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on the spot, to legendary conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, an immensely divisive figure who just a day earlier announced a dire cancer diagnosis. While any compassionate person should feel sympathy for Limbaugh, this was all pretty tacky. Nonetheless, it is very clear on that divisive wedge issues, where Democrats have moved very far to the left, Trump and his people know exactly how to get the best of them on those matters.

As Trump wrapped up speaking, Nancy Pelosi ripped up his speech. I could not believe what I was seeing when it first happened. Now, it seems like it might have been planned all along. This looked bad to many and the finger pointing about the whole evening has gone on since


Decision day in the U.S. Senate. As everyone knew would happen, Donald Trump was found "Not Guilty" on both Impeachment counts. Still, more Senators voted to convict him than any before in American history (although there have just been two impeachments, both of Democrat Presidents.) For the first time in history, the entire opposition party voted to convict. This might have been a tough decision for Doug Jones of Alabama (who is up for reelection this year) and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, but they joined their party in voting Guilty on both counts. The White House was said to be very surprised by Manchin's decision.

Something else happened for the first time in American history. A U.S. Senator voted to convict a President of his or her party. Of the 53 Republicans, only Mitt Romney showed the courage (on the first count) to vote to convict his longtime rival in the Republican Party, that he also "votes with" in the Senate about 80 percent of the time.

In an emotional speech to a near empty chamber, Romney cited his faith and his oath to G-d to be an impartial juror as the reason he had to put all political considerations aside as well as the fact he knew he would be roundly denounced and villianized by Trumpworld. Still, he did the right thing, and I could write many pages in praise of Senator Romney for this. It took true guts and as I said on this blog the day it happened, validated all the support I have given for Romney for nearly 15 years. When he cast his vote on the Senate floor, I went down at my workplace to where CNN was on mute and applauded for him. (I do not think anyone noticed but I would not have cared if they had.)


The media is full of discussion of both the Iowa debacle and the actual results, which continued to trickle out, albeit with many people openly distrusting them. Impeachment and the State of the Union were also still being talked about. In the meantime, the candidates had moved to New Hampshire, looking to either be able to portray themselves "the Comeback Kid" or to build on momentum gained in the unusual exercise of what was probably the last ever Iowa Caucuses.


The morning began with Joe Walsh, the only conservative running for President, dropping out of the race. He said his party had become a pro-Trump cult and that he would support any of the Democrat, no matter how far left, over the incumbent. I agree with him on the cult part but there is no way in hell I could ever vote for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. (I could probably force myself to vote for Michael Bloomberg.)

Then, there was the National Prayer Breakfast of all things, where Trump dismissed the advice of a previous speaker, and openly attacked Nancy Pelosi as she sat on the dais. He also attacked Mitt Romney for citing his religion along with proclaiming that Pelosi does not pray for him, despite her claims she does. The rhetoric would only be ratcheted up later in the day where in the East Room of the White House, the President had a formal "victory" party against his Impeachment charges. He rambled on for quite a while before a friendly crowd, continuing to attack Pelosi, Romney, and anybody else who ever questioned him going back to the Russian meddling allegations.

Last evening, seven Democrats took the stage in New Hampshire for a two and a half hour debate on the ABC network. For one thing, the candidates all seemed more awake and more engaged and less risk adverse than they did in the last Iowa debate. That is a good thing for their party. All of them tried not to be too personal with the others, but divisions are clearly boiling over and surrogates and volunteers are being quite heated when speaking about other campaigns. Attack ads are now also starting.

To many, Buttigieg looks like the new frontrunner, and he faced the most serious political assault he has yet to do. I think he took some hits but mostly survived them. I also think Joe Biden had a more energetic and personal performance but that it was probably too little to late. He concedes already he will not win New Hampshire. A third place finish for him would still be pretty bad and a fourth place one might be campaign ending, long before his "firewall" of South Carolina.

Among the candidates on the debate stage, Andrew Yang is likely to be out of the race by next weekend and Tom Steyer seems to exist only as a potential spoiler with Biden in regards to the black vote in South Carolina. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were said to have done well enough in the debate not to lose any support.

The biggest story may have been Amy Klobuchar, who some said had the debate of her life. They may have been right, but will it matter at this point? If she finishes ahead of Biden in New Hampshire on Tuesday it might, but otherwise, it will probably be the end for her.  She has the potential to rise very fast, but the window is very limited. It is said she raised a lot of money immediately following last night's debate.

Oh also on Friday, Donald Trump fired several people, including Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman from his White House job as well as Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Both of course were witnesses in the House against Trump's impeachment. Of course Trump's firing of them is "legal" but it sure is telling.


Ten Democrats are campaigning across New Hampshire (including Michael Bennet, Tulsi Gabbard, and Deval Patrick) but only the main seven are getting media attention. Of course, Republican Bill Weld is not either. Donald Trump is focused on November, even as his supporters try to think of ways to enact mischief into the Democrats' process, and Michael Bloomberg is looking to Super Tuesday and beyond.

Tonight, the main seven candidates are speaking at a big event in Manchester where their crowds are cheering them on (and also doing some booing of the rivals.) The stump speeches are set and tomorrow's talking points on the Sunday news shows will be obvious.

Who is riskier? A Democrat Socialist who has never gotten much accomplished? A young and unproven mid-size city Mayor? A "Washington politician of the past" running behind and desperate at this point? Is it worse to have billionaires donating to your campaign or to rule out all the help that could be provided against Trump? Democrats will be fortunate if the circular firing squad they are currently aligned in does not render too much damage.

In more traditional political times, we might be prepared for the point after this week where the nomination contest could be down to Sanders and Buttigieg. After all, it looks like the top two in Iowa will also be the top two in New Hampshire. However, this cycle is such that Warren, Biden, and Klobuchar may all still be able to hang on to hopes for a rebound elsewhere. Of course there is also Michael Bloomberg and his bottomless checkbook.

This will continue to be quite a ride. I will hold out hope that this summer in Milwaukee, after say an 8th ballot or so, Democrats toss their hands in the air and determine that nothing at all is as important as beating Trump, and thus offer their nomination to Mitt Romney.

I can dream, can't I?


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