Thursday, April 25, 2019

BTRTN: Joe's In. Now How Can the Dems Avoid Another "Circular Firing Squad" in 2020?


Joe Biden is in the race, and he and Bernie Sanders are the front-runners. Will the two aging warriors simply re-enact the philosophical rift of 2016 and thereby put the 2020 election at risk? If we can see it coming so clearly, Steve asks, can we do something about it?

Well, if finally happened, but it took the long-awaited release of the Mueller Report to do it. After six weeks of riding a media meteor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was temporarily knocked out of the A bloc on cable news last week. 

Building for weeks, PeteMania reached critical mass when the boyish mayor of South Bend spoke brilliantly in formally announcing his candidacy for President. Pundits drooled at the weapons-grade resume, fly-over charm, and the seemingly bottomless wellspring of wisdom, reason, and insight flowing from the young mayor, creating a black hole for news coverage that sucked the oxygen out of competing campaigns. And when he sent his condolences about Notre Dame to the people of Paris in perfect French… Alors! Sois tranquille mon coeur!

Joe finally knew that he better stop Biden his time, Amy probably realized that she’s getting clobber-chared, and Swalwell’s that ends well... just that quickly, Pete had muscled his way into the top tier.

Bernie Sanders was the only candidate able to hold his media own in the midst of the Butti-fest, gamely going toe-to-toe with Fox News hosts in a town hall meeting. Loaded for Bret Baier, Bernie left his Fox hosts stunned when the audience lustily cheered for Bernie’s Medicare-for-all proposal, and were generally enthusiastic about his challenge to Donald Trump to match Sanders’ release of ten years of tax returns.

Today will be Joe Biden’s day in the sun. The Party's √©minence grise, eternal happy warrior, and occasional grandpa faux pas formally has announced his third run for the White House, a full thirty years after his first try.

What with Mueller, Barr, talk of impeachment, PeteMania, and now Joe's launch, it’s fair to assume that you may have missed two lesser tidbits that have interesting implications for the Democrats going into 2020.

A few days back, speaking in Germany, Barack Obama spoke about the danger of rigid philosophical positions and extremist views in the progressive space. He issued a clear warning to the Democratic Party: the danger of ideological litmus tests is that they alienate Democrat from Democrat, and can create the sliver of an opening that is all Donald Trump will need to be re-elected.

"Among progressives in the United States ... is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, 'Uh, I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be…creating what's called a 'circular firing squad' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues."

Barack Obama has generally been very reserved about leveraging his role as the senior statesman of the Democratic Party. When he chooses to speak, we would all be wise to listen.

His message was a warning that the growing rift between ideologically-fixed progressives and centrist pragmatists could rip the party asunder, much as the Tea Party did to the Republican Party, turning the once-proud GOP into a soulless swamp of spineless suck-ups, sycophants, and slime. We have met the enemy, Obama was saying, and he or she may be us. Donald Trump may not be able to beat the Democrats, but internecine warfare could. 

Please, the forty-fourth President seemed to be pleading, please don’t do that again.

However deftly delivered, Obama’s message probably landed like salt on unhealed wounds among those who continue to litigate the 2016 campaign. Supporters of Hillary Clinton still harbor resentment at what they perceive to have been the tepid support Bernie Sanders offered for their candidate. Bernie supporters, in turn, believe that the Democratic establishment rallied in 2016 to guide the nomination to a flawed and ultimately losing candidate. Perhaps even more profoundly, Sanders’ supporters may believe that the centrists had their shot in 2016, and that 2020 is their time. 

Have any doubt that the animosity lingers? That leads to the second news item that was overwhelmed by Mueller Madness and PeteMania. The New York Times reported that Sanders had sent a def con 5 letter to a liberal think tank with close ties to the Clintons claiming that it was “using its resources to smear him.” Sanders charged that The Center for American Progress was using the news that Bernie’s best-selling book had made him a millionaire as grounds for characterizing his “common man” appeal as disingenuous. 

The unfriendly fire smolders. Still.

Call it a case of ABiden’ Heart Bern: it is the fear that the ideologues and centrists have already cast their support in stone. The most progressive wing of the party could rigidly align behind Sanders or Warren, and may not be wholly committed to a ticket that does not have one of these candidates on the top. That would be an extremely dangerous situation for the Democrats. In an aggregated look at recent polls, the Sanders/ Warren segment of the party represents a full a quarter to a third of the voters.

Exacerbating the problem: these candidates may be more polarizing than the centrists. A recent Monmouth University poll of Iowa voters showed that the two candidates with the highest “unfavorable” ratings among Democrats were Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. It could be that the very extremity of their positions invites a binary reaction. So centrists are likely to return the favor… if Sanders or Warren wins, they may be cool to the ticket, and less likely to turn out to vote.

No wonder Barack Obama is already worried. It’s pretty easy to see that the internecine battle of 2016 could be rekindled with Bernie re-enacting his role as the “outsider,” and Joe Biden inheriting the Hillary Clinton role as the pragmatic centrist, the darling to the party establishment. If the epic struggle between the two wings of the party is replicated in 2020, the collateral damage could be handing the White House to Donald Trump for a second time.

Add to the toxic soup one final dollop of unsavory reality: the younger of these two guys was the one born eleven months after Pearl Harbor. The two front-runners for the Democratic Presidential nomination for most profound election of our lifetime are two aging white guys who each now lead the opposite ends of the ideological split that is rending the Democratic Party. 

It is a formula for disaster.

But if we can see it so much more clearly this time – and so far in advance – can we not take steps to avoid the type of bitter alienation that costs the party the votes it will need to beat Trump?

For starters, this backdrop might begin to explain the startling appeal of a 37-year-old gay mayor of a small mid-western city. Sure, Pete Buttigieg is brilliant, articulate, original, and has a ready answer to every question that is thrown his way.  But perhaps a different reason for his appeal is that a portion of the Democratic electorate has already intuited that it must cut bait on the debacle of 2016 and find an entirely new answer. The answer to Donald Trump does not lie in going back to the grizzled party veterans. It is time for a clean slate, fresh blood, no biases, and no clan-like behavior.

A bit like what happened in 2008 with a fresh newcomer named Barack Obama.

It is, as Mayor Pete has so eloquently noted, time to reframe the essential issue. The very existence of Democratic “sub-brands” (“progressive ideologues,” “democratic socialists,” and “pragmatic centrists”) cuts the party into slivers at a time when it most needs to be united. Buttigieg is trying to define this election in new terms by providing a holistic framework that is not based on old labels. While his competitors seem to be drifting toward single issue candidacies – Kamala Harris with education, Cory Booker with justice, Jay Inslee with climate change – Buttigieg has created a generational and values based message that unifies a wide range of policy issues. The youngest candidate is creating the biggest tent.

Which brings us once again back to the wisdom of Obama. 

In sending his warning to the ideological wing of the Democratic Party, Obama is making a simple point: ideologies do not win elections. Human beings do. The best ideas conveyed in a weak vessel will not win. And just as surely, a wobbly message in a charismatic vessel is not going to carry the day either, as Beto O’Rourke is discovering as he is works his way toward his own clear and differentiating message. 

Obama is asking that we make sure that we have both, in balance. A powerful candidate who can connect with voters, and whose heart and whose policy mostly in the right place. Passionate policy ideologues believe that the candidate who is most aggressive in espousing progressive ideology is the right candidate.  The most strident advocates of the most “democratic socialism” policies – single payer healthcare as the most obvious example – have already picked their candidate. Most likely it is Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. They have already decided.

But the centrists, on the other hand, are more inclined to see who emerges as the most effective, compelling, and persuasive campaigner. They are scattered across a wide spectrum of candidates, and are likely most found in the “no preference” category in the early polling. By definition, they are more open-minded to learn about each candidates. It’s easy to know what policies candidates support. But only time will tell if they can prove themselves to be winners. 

Ideologues are lukewarm about centrists candidates because they think they are wishy-washy on policy. Centrists are lukewarm about ideologue candidates because they think their extreme policy stances and rigidity make them unelectable.

Here’s a crazy theory: one wonders if “Joe Biden” is actually really that high up in the polls, or if “Joe Biden” is simply a placeholder for a candidate who is really named “the person with the best shot at beating Trump.” Whereas a Bernie supporter is passionate because he or she believes that universal healthcare is critical, a “Biden” supporter passionately believes that the most important task is to beat Trump. 

Barack Obama is telling us not to shoot each other over rigid policy litmus tests, but to find out which candidate has the best chance to beat Donald Trump, and then rally behind him or her.

Which, in the end, is the entire point. How do Democrats slog through a year of internecine debate, conflict, possible animosity, and lingering anger, and manage to emerge completely unified in the urgent need to defeat Donald Trump?

Here’s a wild wish: we all ought to make our donations to Democratic candidates conditional. What if we demanded that every candidate offer this option on their fundraising page:

“I am sending this check to Juli√°n Castro on the following conditions:

1. That Mr. Castro commits to rigorously supporting the candidate who emerges as the winner of the Democratic nomination. 
2. That Mr. Castro vows that he will not run negative attack ads against fellow Democrats.
3. That Mr. Castro will provide access to his list of donors and supporters to the Democratic Party for general election purposes whether he is the candidate or not.

If Mr. Castro fails to meet this standard, I will demand the return of my contribution.” 

It may be crazy, unworkable, and unrealistic. But it makes a point. The dollar I am giving to you is in part supporting you, but it is also an investment in beating Donald Trump. I demand a full return on my investment.

Which brings us back to the soaring ascent of Pete Buttigieg, who is simply proving that Barack Obama is right. People vote for human beings, not for policies. Only the human beings who win the White House are in a position to enact policies. People are responding to Mayor Pete's authenticity, his reason, his decency... and perhaps, above all, that he seems intent on taking the fight to Trump, not to his competitors for the nomination.

No one in the democratic, liberal, or progressive space can afford the heart bern of a divided Democratic party handing over the White House, the government, our democracy, and the future of the planet to another four years of Donald Trump.

Yeah, lots of people are intrigued by Pete Buttigieg. Kamala is an immensely compelling candidate. Bernie Sanders has been the most influential thought leader in the party for years. Joe Biden is an essentially very good human being who could get this country back on track. There are lots of terrific candidates on the Democratic side.

Barack Obama is telling us to not be open or closed to any candidate because they do not meet some ideological litmus test. He is urging us to be open to all the candidates. To listen closely and to learn as much as we can. And then to accept that whoever wins the nomination is the candidate of all of the Democratic Party.  

Most important: he is urging us not to inflict needless wounds and collateral damage on the very individuals we may turn to in order to save this country from Trump.

In the end, we -- as voters -- should make a pledge that mirrors what we would ask of candidates: 

"Whoever wins the nomination, I pledge that I will fight tooth and nail for his or her election. This election is too important to let disappointment, alienation, anger, or frustration cause any one of us to turn away from job #1: ending the Presidency of Donald Trump."

Listen to the words of the greatest President of our era, who warned us of circular firing squads. 

Be open minded. Listen. Learn. Take your time. 

Sure, you can tell your friends that you already know who you are going to support.

Tell them that his or her name is “the person with the best shot at beating Donald Trump.”



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Sunday, April 21, 2019

BTRTN: The Real Reason to Impeach Donald Trump


They are calling it Mueller’s Genuine Draft, not the watered down stuff you get at the Barr. Now it is out, and Democrats are fretting, squirming, stalling, wringing their hands, second guessing, and debating whether it is politically unwise to move aggressively on impeachment. Steve sees the clear reason to move forward.

Hey, we get it.  

All the savvy strategists like Nancy Pelosi think that impeaching Donald Trump is a bad political move. 

Sure, they say, you could probably pass the motion to impeach Trump in the House, but all that does is trigger a trial in the Senate to determine whether Trump is removed from office. And there, the shrewd pols opine, you will never get seventeen Republicans to vote against Trump, because they are all terrified of being primaried if they do. Impeachment? The big strategic thinkers will tell you it is just a big waste of time and effort, and in the end it will boomerang and badly damage the Democrats. When the Senate fails to convict Trump, he will once again scream that he has been vindicated, exonerated, and that all along he has been victimized by savage Democratic partisans who won't let go of their "witch hunt."

Yes, they go on, impeachment will only serve to damage the chances for the Democrats to win the White House in 2020, as they will look like they are obsessively trying to take Trump down. Just as the impeachment of Bill Clinton ended up damaging the Republicans, so too the Democrats will be the only ones hurt by trying to impeach Trump. Right?

You bet, says Nancy Pelosi. "He’s not worth it."

It was very easy to follow her logic, particularly when she ended with the very reasonable conclusion that we should all wait and see what the Mueller report actually said. Fair enough, we thought. Let’s wait and see what it says. 

It’s here, Nancy. And it is far bigger, far more ugly, and far more revolting than the fairy tale version William Barr was twirling so hard to spin.

Let us begin with the single most delicious sentence in the full 400 pages.

"The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that was largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

You heard it right. This quote from the Mueller report actually includes the phrase “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation.” This sentence, in its very grammatical construction, is predicated on the assertion that the President intended, tried his best, and was somewhat successful in obstructing justice. The criminality of obstructing justice is not contingent on the extent it was executed successfully. Mueller is saying that the president tried his darndest to obstruct justice, and was "mostly unsuccessful" because nobody paid attention to him. But the grammar is clear: he tried to obstruct justice, and some of the time he was successful. There's not a lot of wiggle room there. Mueller is saying that Trump committed a crime that has been repeatedly used as grounds for the impeachment of the President.

Attorney General William Barr tried to convince us that Robert Mueller simply could not decide whether the evidence warranted a formal charge of obstruction of justice. This was a wildly inaccurate statement. But give Barr points for chutzpah: he managed to obstruct justice while trying to make the point Trump did not obstruct justice.

In fact, Mueller made clear in his report that he felt that Department of Justice policy specifically forbade him from indicting a sitting President. He therefore had a choice: to either clear the President completely, or to convey in the report that the evidence that Congress should weigh in considering whether to impeach the President. Here is the crucial quote:

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Translated from the legalese: “I do not have the option to indict a sitting President, but if I thought he was innocent, I would tell you. And I cannot.” Boiled down further, it appears clear that Robert Mueller was taking a very specific position: that there is considerable evidence that Trump is guilty of obstruction, but that Mueller cannot bring charges against him. Only Congress can act on the information in this report, so he is providing Congress with everything it will need to make that judgment.

The Mueller report goes on to detail blatant efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation, most pointedly, Trump’s obvious efforts to have Mueller fired. Trump instructs White House Counsel Don McGann to have Mueller fired because of “conflicts of interest,” which is a, uh, Trumped up reasoned to mask the real rationale.  McGann refuses, saying that he would rather resign. When word leaks to the press that Trump has issued the order, Trump orders McGann to publicly deny that Trump said it. McGann refuses.

There’s Trump’s handling of the disclosure of the Trump Tower meeting, in which he personally changes a press release to allege an innocent purpose for his son’s meeting with Russians, and then denies that he was involved in drafting the press release.

There are Trump’s repeated efforts to send signals to witnesses Manafort and Cohen that loyalty to Trump would be rewarded.

There they are, folks. Those are the smoking guns you’ve been asking for. They are guns, and they are still smoking. Corroborated testimony from reliable witnesses that Donald Trump made repeated attempts with conscious intent to hinder, thwart, inhibit, and undermine the Mueller investigation, by trying to fire the Special Prosecutor himself, by witness tampering, and by urging subordinates to lie to the Special Counsel.

Donald Trump obstructed justice.

Last time we looked – when Bill Clinton was impeached, and when Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace – obstruction of justice was an impeachable offense. Whatever a “high crime or misdemeanor” is, obstruction of justice is definitely one of them. 

So, Nancy, what do we do now?

Sure, Nancy, we understand. We can’t just decide after 24 hours with a redacted report to embark on an impeachment. We have to act cautiously and carefully and get all those ducks in a pristine row. Sure, we have to get our hands on the unredacted report. Let’s call William Barr and Robert Mueller in for sworn Congressional testimony. Let’s do that with McGann, too… let’s get him to repeat his allegation on national television. Let’s do this correctly. And meanwhile, Nancy, sure… let’s focus on the real issue… beating Trump in 2020.

Is that really what the Democratic leaders want us to do? Or are the leaders of the Democratic Party just playing rope-a-dope, adding new boxes to be checked in order to avoid having to grapple with the “I” word?

Let's be real: the White House will never accede to any request for documents, any subpoena, any Congressional testimony. Both Republicans and Democrats seem to be agreeing to perpetual delays. Democrats can look like they are actually doing something without having to actually impeach Trump. Republicans are trying to avoid giving any more damaging information (redacted material, Trump's taxes), with the hope of running out the clock... getting to election day, 2020, without any further damaging disclosures.

Which brings us to the essential issue of the day: if Congressional Democrats are confronted with essentially irrefutable evidence that the President of the United States committed a “high crime or misdemeanor,” do they even have the option to ignore it?

Or does the Constitution of the United States require that Congress act on such findings?

Can Speaker Pelosi make the decision that she will not invoke the Constitutional process designed for this situation because she thinks it would be bad politically?

Think about the ethical abdication of this position. 

Acting purely on the basis of an amoral political calculation rather than Constitutional principle is what Trump people do. That’s what the world's ranking hypocrite, Mitch McConnell, would do: glorify the Constitution when it works in his favor and ignore it when the Constitution is inconvenient.
  
That is the reason Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are giving for hiding from impeachment: it’s a bad political strategy. Could cost us votes in the 2020 election. Can’t risk that.

It is ironic that Nancy Pelosi was quick to invoke ideals and principles when she famously refused to spend a dime on Trump's border wall because it was "immoral." The hard thing about acting on principle is that it can't be an act. People who invoke principles selectively are not really living by principles.

Democrats are supposed to act on principle, casting political considerations aside when a principle is at stake. The principle here is that a man who has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” should not be the President of the United States. Congress should not be waiting until the next election and outsourcing that responsibility to voters on the hope that they will do the job that Congress is afraid to do. 

Yes, it is a hard road. It will be tough. Some people will question your motive. But if you believe that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, the framers of the Constitution gave you a remedy for this exact circumstance. They expected we would use it.

Ok, Nancy, let’s play this game on your terms. Allow me to challenge your essential premise: is your approach really all that savvy politically? You seem convinced that if the Senate fails to convict Donald Trump, it will cause a backlash of shame and embarrassment for the Democrats just as the 2020 election nears.

Here’s a different take.

If the Democrats do not move to impeach Donald Trump, it will be interpreted that you are not contesting Trump’s view that the Mueller investigation was a witch hunt. It will appear that you have caved in and accepted William Barr’s interpretation of the Mueller report. By not fighting Trump on his mantra that there was “no collusion, no obstruction,” you are conceding that he was right all along.

So you think that is a savvy political strategy?

There is an entirely different way to look at the political reading of this situation. It is entirely possible that a Senate trial of a sitting president would be the most compelling and all-consuming reality TV show of all time, and would dominate the airwaves in the months prior to the 2020 election. In such a “must see tv” event, witness after witness could be called to testify to the criminal, deceitful, and borderline treasonous behavior of this President and his White House. Trump would be revealed, day after day, for the amoral, corrupt manipulator that he is.

And finally -- finally -- the people who only watch Fox News might actually hear the other side of the story.

An impeachment trial, played out day after day for weeks on end, would be extremely damaging to Trump. It is reasonable to argue that the drama of an impeachment trial would trigger far more public involvement than the slow drip of Congressional hearings.

As a final comment on our evaluation of this decision from a purely political perspective, let's challenge your  premise that Republicans were badly damaged after their effort to impeach Bill Clinton failed. Numerous pundits have made the point that it is by no means settled history that the Republicans were hurt more than Democrats by that impeachment trial.  We must remember that Al Gore intentionally sidelined Bill Clinton -- the best Democratic campaigner in a generation -- because he did not want to be tarred with that association. Could that have been one reason that Republicans won the Presidency in 2000? If the Republican impeachment of Clinton took him out of the 2000 Presidential campaign, the argument can be made that the Democrats were far more damaged by the impeachment than the Republicans.

Let me add one last reason why the Democrats have to face up to their duty to move toward impeachment.

Right now, only two presidents have ever been impeached… Andrew Johnson, and Bill Clinton. Neither were removed from office. In fact, the alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors” committed by these two presidents are literally a fraction of the misdeeds committed by Trump in his six months in office.

But both of those presidencies carry the scarlet letter "I" of shame... the only two presidents ever to have been impeached.

Donald Trump should have that scarlet letter, too. History must record that Donald Trump was the worst President in United States history. We must ensure that history preserves the record of his Presidency at the greatest assault on our constitution, our rule of law, and our democracy in the life of our nation.

And it should be public record that we all knew it. We knew it while it was happening. 

Yes, pass that resolution in the House, bring those charges to the Senate, televise those hours of sworn Congressional testimony, and then make those Republican Senators say “not guilty” out loud. 

Trump may indeed be acquitted. But I would rather see that happen through the proper Constitutional mechanism than see him claim exoneration by virtue of the white flag of surrender that Democrats seem intent on waving. 

Stop being afraid to take a moral stand because you are frightened of how it will play politically. 

Do the right thing. 

In my lifetime, I have been repeatedly reminded that doing the hard thing -- the right thing -- so often ends up being a vastly superior solution – by almost every measure -- than the cheap, easy, and expedient option.

The founding fathers invented impeachment for this level of duplicity, corruption, deceit, criminality, and disregard for the rule of law.

They didn't create it to be an optional exercise to be used only when politically advantageous.

Nancy Pelosi says Trump “isn’t worth it.” 

Let's concede that, Nancy. He isn’t.

But our country is.

The Constitution is.

The rule of law is.

And yes, winning the White House in 2020 is, too. 

In the end, the real reason that Democrats should move forward with impeachment is that it is the right thing to do for every reason: morally, constitutionally, politically, and historically.  

Stop pretending there are reasons to delay, Dems. Do your job. Do the right thing. 

And get to work now.




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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

BTRTN 2020 Vision: Biden Surviving and Mayor Pete Rising

Tom with our BTRTN monthly feature on the 2020 Elections, with all the latest numbers.

Image result for 2020 visionThe Democratic field keeps growing, up to 18 strong, and still without Joe Biden.  And the GOP field is almost certainly set, with the emergence of the Barr summary of the Mueller report, and its announced larger truths that no one disputes:  that Mueller found no evidence of criminal conspiracy, nor could he bring himself to declare there was obstruction of justice (though he also fell short of exoneration).  There will be no impeachment hearings during the balance of Donald Trump’s first term, and no challenger (other than Bill Weld) will emerge to “primary” Trump from among those who might have been waiting for a more damning verdict.

But the most consequential developments of the past month for the 2020 presidential race were not these developments, but rather those involving Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, as we shall discuss further on.

THE FIELD

In the last month, there were three more entrants to the Democratic field.  You may have missed the late March announcement of the “other” mayor now in the race, Wayne Messam, who presides over Miramar, Florida, with a population of 140,328, larger than Buttigieg’s South Bend (102,245) and dwarfing Wasilla, Alaska (which was about 8,000 when Sarah Palin was on the GOP ticket in 2008).  But you’ve probably heard about Representatives Tim Ryan of Ohio and Eric Swalwell of California, who both entered in April.

Remarkably enough, the field may not yet be complete, even apart from Biden.  Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (who is, of course, considering an independent run) remain potential entrants.  Grumbling Democrats may not consider this a swell field, on the whole, but it is certainly a swelling one.

Thus the entire Democratic field, as of now (that is, the announced candidates plus Biden) looks as follows, ranked by the average of the national polls over the last month (more on the polls below): 
  


Potential Candidates
Age
Announcement  Date
Credentials
Joe Biden
76
TBD
Former VP, Former Senator, Delaware
Bernie Sanders
77
2/19/2019
Senator, Vermont
Kamala Harris
54
1/18/2019
Senator, California
Beto O'Rourke
46
3/14/2019
Former Representative, Texas
Elizabeth Warren
69
12/31/2018
Senator, Massachusetts
Cory Booker
49
2/1/2019
Senator, New Jersey
Pete Buttigeig
36
1/22/2019
Mayor, South Bend, Indiana
Amy Klobuchar
58
2/10/2019
Senator, Minnesota
Jay Inslee
67
3/1/2019
Governor, Washington
Kirsten Gillibrand
51
1/15/2019
Senator, New York
John Hickenlooper
66
3/4/2019
Former Governor, Colorado
Julian Castro
44
1/10/2019
Former Secretary, HUD
Andrew Yang
43
11/6/2017
Entrepreneur
John Delaney
55
7/28/2017
Representative, Maryland
Tulsi Gabbard
37
1/11/2019
Representative, Hawaii
Marianne Williamson
66
1/28/2019
Self-help author
Eric Swalwell
38
4/8/2019
Representative, California
Tim Ryan
45
4/4/2019
Representative, Ohio
Wayne Messam
44
3/28/2019
Mayor, Miramar, Florida

THE MONTH

The month was dominated by a gut-check for Biden and the rise of Buttigieg.  Biden became embroiled in controversy when a Nevada assemblywomen, Lucy Flores, accused him of inappropriate physical contact with her when he was campaigning in 2014.  This charge was quickly followed by other women coming forward, and video emerging that quickly confirmed Biden’s traditional use of an old school, touchy-feely brand of retail politics.  Biden was slow to respond, did not get it “right” off the bat, and was clearly reeling from the charges.

None of these charges were “#MeToo”-esque in nature; none of the women who came forward were accusing him of inappropriate sexual behavior.  And while there were some who called for Biden to not enter the race, plenty of others were willing to cut him some slack, and not anxious for a repeat of Al Franken’s swift expulsion.  There is little question that Biden was hurt by the issue, since, at the very least, it hit him in his biggest area of vulnerability, that he is old and out of touch with today’s values. 

Pete Buttigieg, quite simply, has broken through.  And while he has a fascinating resume, as impressive as it is, it is not the resume that is causing the fuss.  It is the man himself, how he speaks, his common-sense, straightforward take on the issues, his personal appeal, that is driving the “Mayor Pete” wave.

As is well chronicled by now, Buttigieg is young, the youngest candidate in the field, at age 37, barely eligible to run for the office.  As Mayor of South Bend, he has among the slimmest portfolios among the 18 candidates.  But he has packed a great deal into that short life, as a Rhodes Scholar and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer who served in Iraq (as well as an undergraduate diploma from Harvard and a stint at McKinsey).  Add into the mix that he is openly gay, and you have an utterly unique candidate who may be as right (or ahead of) the times as Biden appears to be a relic of the past.

Buttigieg made his formal announcement this past Sunday, and the reaction has been astonishing.  The talk is of JFK and Obama, two previous winners who ran, respectively, on “the torch has passed to a new generation” and “hope and change” messaging.  Both were young, fresh and credentialed, and astonishingly different from their opponents in both the primaries and in the general election.

But all of this visceral reaction has translated into an impressive jump in the polls, more so in Iowa, where it seems almost everyone is paying very close attention.  Quite simply, none of the other candidates have generated anything approaching Buttigieg’s appeal.  He has surpassed Beto as the shiniest new object of the race.

The only thing hotter than Pete Buttigieg on this planet is James Holzhauer.  And if you have never heard of him, you simply have not been paying attention.



There have been few GOP polls, but the smattering out there indicate that Trump would crush a GOP challenger, with the margins between him and, say, Romney, at 50+ points.

THE NUMBERS

The Democratic race remains in three tiers now, both nationally and in Iowa.  We have ranked the candidates by their Iowa poll numbers, which we consider the most important right now.  There has been limited New Hampshire polling, but the most recent is quite similar to that of Iowa.

Biden and Bernie Sanders remain firmly alone in Tier One, with Biden materially ahead.  (You may have seen an omnious Emerson poll earlier this week, showing him trailing Sanders 29/24 nationally, but another poll just yesterday by Morning Consult had Biden up 31/23 over Bernie.)

Buttigieg has jumped into Tier 2, leaping from 0% to 11% in Iowa, and from 0% to 3% nationally.  No other candidates showed any similar movement up or down.  Amy Klobuchar fell from Tier 2 to Tier 3, her candidacy sinking under the weight of negative press on how she treats her Senate staff, and her moderate message that may be well off the party’s lefty tendencies.  Kristen Gillibrand has yet to make a mark, and she too finds herself struggling with the governors, the representatives and the offbeats that are filling out the field right now.

"Tiers"
Candidates*
Iowa Polls

Average of Naional Polls
Tiers
Emerson Jan 3 - Feb 2
DM Reg Mar 3-6
Mar 16 - Apr 15

Jan 16 - Feb 15
Feb 16 - Mar 15
Mar 16 - Apr 15
Tier 1
Biden
29
27
26

29
29
31
Tier 1
Sanders
15
25
20

17
23
23
Tier 2
Buttigeig
0
0
11

0
0
3
Tier 2
Harris
18
7
10

11
11
9
Warren
11
9
9

7
7
6
Booker
4
3
6

4
5
4
O'Rourke
6
5
5

7
6
8
Tier 3
Klobuchar
3
3
2

2
4
2
Tier 3
Castro
2
1
1

1
1
1
Inslee
0
1
1

0
0
1
Gillibrand
1
0
0

1
1
1
Hickenlooper
0
0
0

1
1
1
Gabbard
0
0
0

1
1
1
Delaney
0
0
0

0
0
1
Yang
0
0
0

1
0
1
Williamson
0
0
0

0
0
0

Other/NA
11
19
9

18
11
7

* Chart includes all announced candidates except the just-announced Messam, Swalwell and Ryan;
includes only Biden among the unannounced

Also worth commenting on this month are the fundraising figures announced by the candidates for the first quarter, a perhaps even more important scorecard than the polls.  It is fairly easy to tell the winners from the losers.


First Quarter Fundraising
$ Millions
Sanders
18.2
Harris
12.0
O'Rourke
9.4
Buttigeig
7.0
Warren
6.0
Klobuchar
5.2
Booker
5.1
Gillibrand
3.0
Inslee
2.3
Hickenlooper
2.2
Gabbard
2.0
Yang
1.8
Williamson
1.5
Castro
1.1
Delaney
0.4
Messam
0.1
Swalwell and Ryan announced after
April 1; Biden has yet to announce


The next Democratic candidate to make a buzz?  Look for Andrew Yang.  For a total unknown, the social entrepreneur raised a decent amount at $1.8 million, and he has made a minor mark in recent national polling.  Those are signs that portend a rising profile.

WHO CAN BEAT TRUMP?

There have been several polls that pose the central question for Democrats in the 2020 primary process:  are you going to vote for the candidate that best matches your policy views, or the one that you think is most likely to beat Donald Trump?

One such poll, by USA Today/Suffolk University, shows Democrats more inclined to back the one who can beat Trump over their ideological twin by a 55-35 margin.

And so Democrats will be paying attention to head-to-head polling, and at this early stage of the game, that is a plus for Joe Biden.  There have not been a ton of these polls, nor do they cover each of the Democratic candidates, but we have combined the results of two recent ones (Emerson and PPP) that cover a half-dozen candidates.   Biden easily outpaces Trump in them, while Bernie is even. 

This outcome would seem to reinforce a fear within the Democratic Party that veering too far to the left – toward Bernie or, say, Elizabeth Warren – for the nominee would give Trump a better chance to win. 

Dem
vs. Trump
Biden
+10
Harris
+4
O'Rourke
+4
Warren
+1
Buttigieg
+1
Sanders
0

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