Monday, July 15, 2019

BTRTN: Swalwell Ends Well. Others Should Follow.


It wasn’t a major headline when Eric Swalwell dropped his Presidential bid last week. But Steve thinks we should pause to applaud his wise move, and to send a message to the other weak candidates.

Why are all the young candidates showing the supposedly experienced elders how it’s done?

Pete Buttigieg is the youngest candidate in the field, and he consistently comes across as more measured, thoughtful, and wise than either of those grumpy grandpas ahead of him in the polls.

Kamala Harris is a first term Senator and, at 54, a relative youngster compared Biden, Bernie, and Warren.  Yet in the debate, she showed 76-year-old Joe Biden how to efficiently fillet the main course in front of the guests.

And now Eric Swalwell, all of 38 years old, is the first Democratic Presidential candidate to demonstrate a genuine tether to reality.  He decided to withdraw from the race.

Didn’t know there was an “Eric Swalwell” in the Democratic field? Fair enough: he was one of those “refrigerator candidates” (that’s how we refer to candidates whose polling numbers are “Sub Zero”), and was so on the periphery that he stood at the very last podium stage right. For context, the candidate in the corresponding last podium stage left, Marianne Williamson, appeared to be representing the rings of Saturn. Badly, we might add.

Still and all, Swalwell did well... well enough in the debates to outperform some of the better known candidates. For one thing, he did not spontaneously combust into Spanish to elude a tough question about tax policy.  

But last week the young Congressman from California was somehow able to acknowledge what neither John Hickenlooper nor that loopy hick from Maryland, John Delaney, can bring themselves to admit. He accepted that he had no chance of winning, and decided that his energies were best expended elsewhere.

In Swalwell’s case, the logic is clear: why put his Congressional seat at risk on a longer shot than Knicks breaking .500? Swalwell sits on two vitally important and highly visible committees, and gets more air time on MSNBC than some of their weekend anchors. He appears to have concluded that he can do more for himself, his party, and his country by not running for President.

Who knows? Maybe Eric Swalwell decided that defeating Donald Trump is so important to the future of this nation that he wanted to get out of the way and let the party focus on the truly serious candidates. Maybe he did not want to contribute to the carnival atmosphere and reality tv trappings of two dozen candidates screeching for attention, many of whom appear to be engaged in vanity exercises.

Maybe he was actually putting his nation and his party ahead of his own ambitions. Wouldn't that be something?

Well, there are about a dozen other people in this race who should be thinking about making a hard turn onto Swalwell’s exit ramp. Some should just clear the stage so that the voting population gets to hear more from the legitimate candidates. And pundits are pointing out that some of the candidates should be serving a higher purpose than pursuing a slim-to-none chance at the presidency.

Let’s start with four candidates who could be doing their party and their country a great service by opting out of the Presidential race and aiming for the U.S. Senate. There’s both Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke in Texas, John Hickenlooper in Colorado, and Montana Governor Steve Bullock – and all are in a position to seriously challenge a vulnerable Republican for a Senate seat in 2020.

As James Carville might have put it, it’s the Senate, stupid. If the Democrats are fortunate enough to win the White House back in 2020, they would still be frustratingly hamstrung if they did not also secure control of the Senate. Sure, a Dem President would put forward a name for any potential Supreme Court opening, but do we really think the Republican majority living under the warped spell of Mitch McConnell would approve any progressive nominee?

The fight for the Senate is not getting the focus it needs. Donald Trump consumes so much media oxygen that he obscures the fact that two of his Republican cronies are taking a wrecking ball to the Constitution. William Barr, Trump’s Attorney General, seems to believe that “separation of powers” means separating the other two branches of government from power. And Mitch McConnell, as Senate Majority Leader, has done more to inflame the polarization that is destroying our democracy than anyone. 
 
McConnell, you see, actually knows how to intentionally subvert the Constitution. With Trump, you get the feeling that he has absolutely no understanding of democracy, government, the Constitution, separation of powers, the designated hitter, arithmetic, gravity, or syntax. He is merely an ignorant infant who seeks to destroy any obstacle in his path using whatever means are most lethal. When Trump careens toward a Constitutional Crisis, it is because he has no idea what he is doing, and wouldn't care if he did.
   
But McConnell does. He knows the Senate rules and the Constitution, so he knows when he can maneuver around its intent even as he appears to abide by its literal language. If Newt Gingrich created the politics of polarization, Mitch McConnell gave them their nuclear warhead. It was McConnell who famously declared in 2009 that his purpose as Senator Majority Leader was to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term President. Yes, he announced out loud that the central focus of his public service was to cause the president to fail. That's McConnell's idea of patriotism.

Then, in 2016, McConnell parked his butt on top of Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. It was McConnell who torpedoed the clear intent of the Founding Fathers by trumping up a bogus rationale for refusing to allow the Senate to consider Garland’s nomination. It’s that simple: no Mitch McConnell, no Neil Gorsuch. Roe v. Wade would not be imperiled. Gerrymandering would be unconstitutional. McConnell cheated progressives out of the Supreme Court Justice that was rightly Barack Obama’s to appoint.

Mitch’s problem, however, is that he only gets to wield his wizard’s wand of wickedness when the Republican Party has the majority of seats in the Senate. That is when he is the Senate Majority Leader, one of the most powerful positions in our Government. When the Democrats control the Senate, he is the Senate Minority Leader, essentially a meaningless, ineffectual nothing job. He is just McConnell from Kentucky, the hyper-jowled, pinched-nosed nerd with the resting Mitch face.  A Democratic majority is pure, unalloyed kryptonite to McConnell’s power.
  
Three seats in the Senate could easily be the difference between a progressive Supreme Court Justice and yet another Brett Kavanaugh. Three seats in the Senate save Roe v. Wade. Three seats in the Senate can help solve healthcare. 

It is time to get focused on the big picture. The 2020 election is not just about defeating Donald Trump. It is regaining control of government. Trump is just one particularly ugly piece of the picture. 

The United States Senate is currently controlled by the Republicans, with 53 seats, to only 47 for Democrats. This means that if the Democrats win the White House in 2020, they must flip at least three seats to control the chamber… as a Democratic VP would be able to vote to break 50/50 ties. But it’s quite likely that the Dems will have to win four, as it is questionable whether Doug Jones will be able to retain his seat in overwhelmingly Republican Alabama. 

Four Senate seats to be flipped. That is a very tall order. 

Which is why we have to make sure that the Democratic Party is not simply selecting the Presidential candidate with the best chance of beating Trump, it must also make sure it has the Senate candidates with the best chance of beating their Republican rivals… most acutely in States where a Republican is the incumbent running for re-election. Particularly where those Republican Senators are known to be vulnerable.

Colorado is one of those states. A reliably Republican state just a decade ago, it is morphing blue, and Senator Cory Gardner is now the only Republican holding statewide office. Gardner eked out his Senate win in 2016 by a mere 40,000 votes, and was once viewed as a man willing to buck his party. Now he is now shackled to Donald Trump. 

A number of well-respected Colorado Democrats have declared their intent to challenge Gardner, but none have the name recognition and popularity of John Hickenlooper, former two-term Mayor of Denver and two-term Governor. The name Hickenlooper may seem whacky in 49 states, but it stands tall in the mile-high state. He would be the Dems’ best bet against Gardner. 

But where is Hickenlooper? Tilting at windmills, running for President. Look, the only scenario in which Hickenlooper emerges as the President of the United States would involve an asteroid, a flood, or a pandemic, and might require all three. Stop, John. Stop, now. Don’t wait for the April, 2020 filing deadline. We need you in the Senate. Do the right thing.
 
Similarly, no one is looking at Montana Governor Steve Bullock and seeing Franklin Roosevelt. Bullock started his Presidential campaign too late to have a real chance at qualifying for the opening debates (which is, arguably, itself an indication of insufficient political savvy). But in Montana, Bullock is big. He is a Democrat who won statewide office in Montana. There’s a Senate election there in 2020 with a Republican incumbent. Bullock would give the Dems a real shot at. Do it, Steve. Do the right thing.

Let's talk about Beto O’Rourke. It’s hard to look him in the eyes, ask him to risk losing a second Senate election in the same state within two years, and then try to tell him it’s a shrewd career move. The problem, however, is one of O’Rourke’s own making. Fresh off his dazzling near-miss in 2018, when he stormed out of nowhere to nearly defeat Texas incumbent Senator Ted Cruz, O’Rourke decided that 2020 was his moment.

However, for every brilliant move he made in his Senate campaign, he has laid an egg in his nascent Presidential bid. The Vanity Fair cover was more than its fair share of vanity. His propensity to leap onto countertops to give campaign speeches screamed style over substance. His campaign lags far behind his rivals in policy specifics. And his debate performance – where his natural charisma should have shone – was a dud.

Also in Texas we find the charming Julián Castro, who did very well in the debates, but had nothing to show for it in post-debate polling. Like O'Rourke, Castro is a young man. Both could serve two terms in the Senate and still run for President before they turn 60!

Sure, these two can read their clippings and justify staying in the race, but the O’Rourke/Castro phenomenon is shaping up to be an epic missed opportunity. The Democrats have two immensely appealing, capable, and well-qualified Texans who would have a strong chance to flip an important Republican Senate seat held by John Cornyn. And they are both passing on the opportunity.

C'mon, guys! Do the right thing!

Each of these candidates – Beto, Castro, Hickenlooper, and Bullock – should view the upside in their position.  On election night, 2020, they could either be sitting at home, largely forgotten, or they could be huge stories in some of the most critical Senate elections in the nation. Gentleman, if you don’t want to do it for your party or for your country, do it for yourself. 

But these candidates are hardly the only ones who should follow Representative Swalwell’s brilliant decision and opt out of the Presidential campaign. The essential dynamic of this race has already taken shape. There is a very clear top tier of the five leading contenders: Biden, Warren, Harris, Sanders, and Buttigieg. These are all well-funded, widely supported, well-developed candidacies, and all have staying power.

Then there are are candidates who are doing just well enough in polling and in the debates to carry on: Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar. We’d certainly put Castro and O’Rourke in this group, but still view them to be far enough behind the field that the Senate option seems wise at this point.

The rest? Despite the fact that there are at least seven firmly-entrenched, well-funded competitors out in front of them, a large number of "one percent" candidates persevere. Why

Sure, you can say that it is way to early to expect people to step aside. Really? The fact is that this race began in earnest six months ago. In that time, some candidates have made enormous progress. Others haven't made a dent.
 
There is a theory circulating that one of the reasons that there are so many Democratic candidates is because there is no downside to running… just upside, in the form of name recognition, elevating one’s personal brand, and career opportunity. Make a run for the Democratic nomination, and who knows? Maybe the VP nod? A cabinet post? How about a sweet gig on MSNBC? A few years raking in the dough as a big time lobbyist? What’s to lose?

Well, nothing… unless you put some stock in personal dignity and reputation.

For the incumbent Senator from New York to be lagging far behind the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana is not helping her brand. 

It’s one thing to make a serious, respectable run for Presidential nomination and not win.

It’s quite another thing to run for President and generate anemic support, become an easy target for late night comedians, and fail to even be taken seriously enough to be considered as in the top two tiers of candidates.

At that point, all you are proving is that you have no following, no visceral appeal, and no ability to rouse or motivate supporters. Keep it up, and all you will accomplish is to convince everyone that you’d bring nothing to the party as a VP candidate or even as an MSNBC contributor. 

Those who think that a failed run for the Presidency is a good path to the VP slot would do well to review recent history. Most VP candidates this century never entered the race for the White House: Tim Kaine, Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, Joe Lieberman, and Dick Cheney. The two exceptions are interesting. In 2004, John Kerry chose John Edwards as his running mate precisely because he had demonstrated powerful voter appeal as the runner-up in the Presidential race. And in 2008, Barack Obama selected Joe Biden… a candidate for the nomination who had dropped out very early in the race when he recognized that he was not a viable candidate.  So if are simply in it for the VP slot, (1) don’t run for President, (2) run such a strong campaign that you prove you can help in the general election, or (3) drop out early before it’s becomes apparent that you bring nothing to the table. 

There you have it, de Blasio, Moulton, Ryan, Gillibrand, Inslee, Gabbard, Delaney, Bennet, Messam, Sestak, Williamson, and Yang.

All you are doing right now is adding to the carnival atmosphere that makes the most important election of our lifetime look like a game show with an applause-o-meter and a buzzer. You are making this campaign look like a reality tv show, which, unfortunately for you, may be named The Biggest Loser.

Follow the fine example of Representative Swalwell.

He's not hanging around to further quantify his campaign's lack of viability.

Clear the deck. Get off the debate stage. Let the serious work of choosing the Democratic candidate begin.

Wouldn’t it be great if in next debate, we saw only the strongest candidates, and each got two to three minutes instead of sixty seconds to communicate their beliefs and proposals on, say, global warming, healthcare, immigration policy, income equality, protecting our elections from foreign subversion, Middle East peace, repairing relationships with allies, women’s reproductive rights, decaying infrastructure, voting rights, gerrymandering, racial bias and conflict, prescription drug pricing, fixing public education, addressing biases and inequities in law enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration, gender equality, comprehensive tax reform, dealing with the opioid crisis, balancing the budget, reducing the national debt, job creation, revisiting international trade and security alliances, and arresting the spread of nuclear weapons? 

You know, substantive dialog on the real issues. It's the thing that separates Democrats from Trumpublicans.

Clear the stage, wannabees.

If you won’t do it for your Country, do it for your party. And if you won’t do it for your party, do it for your own narrow self-interest. 

Coming in 17th out of two dozen candidates will not make you a hometown hero. 

Becoming a rounding error is unbecoming.

Having your name memorialized as a synonym for lack of self-awareness is not the legacy to leave for the grandchildren.

Recognize that a certain point, you are getting in the way of the most urgent task of our time: regaining control of our government before Trump, Barr, and McConnell destroy it. 

Representative Swalwell, thank you for your fine example.

As for the rest of you marginal candidates: if you persist in your pipe dream, you are destined to become a comedy or a tragedy, but most certainly not a President. 

Get out now.

Because the way things are going, it's only Swalwell that ends well. 



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Friday, July 12, 2019

BTRTN 2020 Vision: Was Biden Really Hurt That Badly in the Debate?

Tom with our BTRTN monthly feature on the 2020 elections, with all the latest numbers and commentary.
Image result for 2020 vision
As Mark Twain might have said, the reports of Joe Biden’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.  One might think Biden was practically a goner based on the spate of headlines following the second night of the Democratic debates, when Kamala Harris eviscerated Biden on busing.  Some typical headlines:  “Biden Fades, Harris Gains with Voters after Debates”; “Joe Biden Tumbles 10 Points After First Debate”; “Joe Biden’s Lead Plummets in Post-Debate Poll.”  We have our own interpretation of the polls – all the polls, not just a single poll here and there that might have been the impetus for those headlines.  But first, let’s set the Democratic field.

THE FIELD

Wait a minute, wasn’t the field already set, with the 23 candidates we identified last month?

Not so fast.  We’re now at 24 candidates, with three changes to report.  Eric Swalwell has officially dropped his bid, having rather logically concluded that his candidacy was not catching fire, and deciding to focus instead on getting reelected to his California House seat.

But that did not result in a narrowed field.  Indeed, despite that bit of common sense, the field actually expanded in the month.

Another Californian, billionaire Tom Steyer (he is referred to as “billionaire Tom Steyer” so often that “billionaire” seems to be his first name) has entered the race.  Steyer is the ex-hedge fund mogul who has spent millions on “impeach Trump” ads, after having made his initial mark in politics by devoting his post-hedge fund time and ample resources to environmental issues.  (In the interest of full disclosure, Steyer was a business school classmate of mine.)

And former Pennsylvania Representative Joe Sestak threw his hat in the ring as well.  Sestak has been a figure in swing district elections in the past (winning and losing Pennsylvania’s 7th district and losing a bid for the Senate in 2010), and although he has not held office for almost a decade, he is a credible candidate.

So we now have 24 Democrats in the field, as follows, ranked by the average of the national polls over the last month.

Candidates
Age
Announcement  Date
Credentials
Latest National Polls (May 16 to Jun 15, 2019)
Joe Biden
76
4/25/2019
Ex-VP and Ex-Senator, Delaware
29%
Bernie Sanders
77
2/19/2019
Senator, Vermont
15%
Kamala Harris
54
1/18/2019
Senator, California
15%
Elizabeth Warren
69
12/31/2018
Senator, Massachusetts
13%
Pete Buttigeig
36
1/22/2019
Mayor, South Bend, Indiana
4%
Beto O'Rourke
46
3/14/2019
Ex-Representative, Texas
3%
Cory Booker
49
2/1/2019
Senator, New Jersey
2%
Amy Klobuchar
58
2/10/2019
Senator, Minnesota
1%
Kirsten Gillibrand
51
1/15/2019
Senator, New York
1%
Julian Castro
44
1/10/2019
Ex-Secretary, HUD
1%
Andrew Yang
43
11/6/2017
Entrepreneur
1%
Michael Bennet
54
5/2/2019
Senator, Colorado
1%
Jay Inslee
67
3/1/2019
Governor, Washington
1%
Tulsi Gabbard
37
1/11/2019
Representative, Hawaii
1%
Steve Bullock
52
5/14/2019
Governor, Montana
1%
John Hickenlooper
66
3/4/2019
Ex-Governor, Colorado
0%
Tim Ryan
45
4/4/2019
Representative, Ohio
0%
John Delaney
55
7/28/2017
Representative, Maryland
0%
Marianne Williamson
66
1/28/2019
Self-help author
0%
Wayne Messam
44
3/28/2019
Mayor, Miramar, Florida
0%
Seth Moulton
40
4/22/2019
Representative, Massachusetts
0%
Bill de Blasio
58
5/14/2019
Mayor, New York City
0%
Joe Sestak
67
6/23/2019
Ex-Representative, Pennsylvania
n/a
Tom Steyer
62
7/9/2019
Billionaire hedge fund manager
n/a


THE MONTH

The campaign news of the past month – from June 15 to July 15 – was almost entirely dominated by the first round of debates – and their aftermath -- that were held in Miami on consecutive nights in late June.  The debates were limited to only 20 of the 23 candidates, apparently on the grounds that a maximum of 20 serious nominees could be accommodated.  This ignored two obvious alternatives:  having three debates over three night, or, going the other way, limiting the debates to only those who had made any sort of inroads in their campaigns.  Instead, three contenders were lopped off, leaving 13 others who were polling at 2% or less, most at 1% or 0%.

But regardless of the merits, the 20 went at it over the two nights, gamely battling for air time (faithfully recorded by media outlets, as if “time talking” was actually a valuable barometer of anything).  The main highlight (of course) was Kamala Harris taking on frontrunner Joe Biden midway through Night Two, with a far left jab with which Harris managed to both personalize the busing issue (“that little girl was me”) and demonize Biden, who was left blustering over context and the role of local government in busing decision-making.

This was universally viewed as a major event in the race, one that exposed the worst of Biden – his long track record full of compromises, his lack of agility and basic campaigning skill, his age – and elevated Harris, who has alternately shined and wobbled on the campaign trail.  Harris took full advantage of this first major testing ground, performing well in her other sound bites apart from the Biden blow, and she easily “won” Night Two.

The pundits generally gave Night One cleanly to Elizabeth Warren, with her tightly argued policy riffs neatly interwoven with her personal story.  She dominated the “undercard” (she was the only “tier one” contender present on Night One).  Other strong performers, according to most pundits, included Julian Castro, Bill de Blasio, Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker, while only a few of the also-rans were dissed, John Delaney, in particular, with Marianne Williamson, the self-proclaimed “love candidate,” making her own surreal mark.

In the aftermath, Joe Biden puffed out his chest and defended his civil rights record to mixed reviews, before he finally found his Uncle Joe persona again.  This came in the form of a direct apology for any inference that he was an admirer of long-ago segregationists (and Senate colleagues of the once-upon-a-time-we-worked-across-the-aisle young Joe Biden) James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge.  Biden showed the nimbleness of a true, um, 76-year old in taking three weeks, rather than three minutes, hours or even days to realize this was the only logical course to take if he wanted to retain the African American support he has earned over the years, and desperately needs to maintain.

The only other truly consequential news outside of the debates for the month was the real-time drama of Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the not-quite-so-idyllic mid-America South Bend, Indiana turnaround story he has been touting.  For years Mayor Pete has been more or less persona non grata with the African American community in South Bend, ever since he fired the black police chief of the town just three months into his term.  In addition, there is a strong sense among that community that they have not equally shared in the boomlet the town has enjoyed under Pete’s reign.

But these resentments burst into public view with the death of an African-American man at the hands of a white police officer who happened to have turned off his body cam before the killing.  Buttigieg did a credible job handling the issue in both the debate and a town hall in South Bend, effectively walking the tightrope that Biden fell off, by both establishing his credible efforts to improve race relations in South Bend and conceding that those efforts have thus far fallen short of success.  Pete is half Biden’s age but a hundred times more deft.  Having said that, it is extraordinarily difficult – near impossible – to win the Democratic nomination without the support of the African American community, and Pete has a mountain to climb there. 


THE NUMBERS

What is the verdict on the debate, and all that Sturm und Drang among the leaders?   Below is a chart summarizing presidential preference polling in bellwether Iowa (on the left) and national numbers (on the right).  Look at the column headings carefully – in Iowa they are basically single poll results (except where noted), and must be interpreted with care, as comparisons are harder due to polling technique differences, and consequently trends are more difficult to establish.  The national polls are more robust, with anywhere from nine to fifteen polls represented in each column; note that the last two columns separate the past month into “pre-“ and “post-debate” periods.

These charts show a somewhat different story than that being splayed in the headlines.

·        Kamala Harris has indeed clearly made strides in both Iowa and nationally, and the debate performance is just as clearly what propelled her.  The Iowa jump feels real (again noting that it is based on only two polls, by two separate organizations).  The national jump, however, is far less of a spike than commonly perceived, from 7% to 11% on average, and it still leaves her in third place

·        But while Joe Biden’s support is dropping, it is at a much more modest rate than commonly reported.  The data indicate that Biden has been gradually slipping nationally since his excellent launch, and essentially is now back to his “pre-launch” level of 30%.  And the debate does not seem to have dramatically altered his standing nationally, with a loss of two points and still quite a large lead.  The single Iowa poll reveals a somewhat more significant drop, but again, back to the level he had throughout the spring.  So the bottom line is:  while still a poor performance, Biden did not suffer too much from the debate.

·        For all the praise for her Night One performance, Elizabeth Warren made no movement in either direction.  She is still in the 13% range in both Iowa and nationally.

·        Both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg appear to have lost ground in Iowa (again, with due caution on the one poll), while holding serve in national polls.

Candidates*
Iowa Polls

Average of National Polls
DM Reg/CNN Mar 3-6
Mar 16 - Apr 15 (2 polls)
DM Reg/CNN Jun   2-5
CBS/ YG    May 31- Jun 12
USA/Su Jun 28 -  Jul 1 (post-deb.)

Mar 16 - Apr 15
Apr 16 - May 15
May 15 - Jun 15
Jun 16-25 (pre-deb.)
Jun 26-Jul 14 (post-deb.)
Biden
27
26
24
30
24

31
37
34
32
30
Harris
7
10
7
5
16

9
8
7
7
11
Warren
9
9
15
12
13

6
8
10
13
13
Sanders
25
20
16
22
9

23
18
17
16
16
Buttigieg
0
11
14
11
6

3
7
7
7
6
Booker
3
6
1
3
2

4
3
2
2
2
Klobuchar
3
2
2
4
2

2
2
1
1
1
O'Rourke
5
5
2
4
1

8
5
4
3
3
Gabbard
0
0
1
1
1

1
1
0
1
1
Yang
0
0
1
0
1

1
1
1
1
1
Castro
1
1
1
0
1

1
1
1
1
1
Delaney
0
0
1
2
1

1
0
0
0
0
Bennet
n/a
n/a
1
0
1

n/a
1
1
0
0
Bullock
n/a
n/a
0
0
0

n/a
n/a
0
1
1
Gillibrand
0
0
0
0
0

1
1
1
1
1
Inslee
1
1
1
1
0

1
1
0
0
1
Hickenlooper
0
0
0
0
0

1
1
0
0
0
Williamson
0
0
0
0
0

0
0
0
0
0
Ryan
n/a
n/a
0
0
0

n/a
1
0
1
0
Swalwell
n/a
n/a
0
0
0

n/a
0
0
0
0
Messam
n/a
n/a
0
0
0

n/a
0
0
0
0
Moulton
n/a
n/a
0
0
0

n/a
0
0
0
0
DeBlasio
n/a
n/a
0
0
0

n/a
n/a
0
0
0
Other/NA
19
9
13
5
22

8
6
14
14
12


As for the rest, no second tier candidate broke through in the debates and vaulted into the top tier, or made any sort of move whatsoever. 

·        For all the Night One talk of Julian Castro’s takedown of fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke (and his otherwise solid effort), neither moved an inch nationally.  Perhaps Beto was hurt a bit in Iowa, but Castro made no move, nor did any of the other pundit-rated strong performers.

·        Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, despite decent debates, appeared to go in the wrong direction in Iowa and made no move nationally.  Both have squandered the early advantage they had with at least some degree of name recognition (relative to most of the field), and Klobuchar, in particular, has also missed an opportunity to bite a chunk from Biden in the “centrist/moderate” lane of the party.

·        And, having been given a first opportunity to raise their profiles, none of the other 11 candidates on stage capitalized, remaining unknown and unloved in both Iowa and in national polls.

·        And the three who were left off the stage, Wayne Messam, Seth Moulton and Steve Bullock, might have benefited more from the swirl around their exclusion than if they have been on the stage, though that is surely conjecture; they did not move either.

So, we remain with five and only five top tier candidates.  Each of the five merged with a major question they need to answer:

·        Biden:  Can he significantly sharpen his game and hold the line in the African American community?  Though Biden was not as severely damaged as commonly perceived, he is falling back to the pack and needs to stop the bleeding.  His post-debate performance has been more encouraging, but, still, he does not inspire any confidence that he can suddenly turn into a presidential campaigning dynamo. 

·        Harris:  Can she develop more consistency in both her policies and her performance?  In the aftermath of the debates, Harris waffled on her own positions on busing (essentially stating a position that seemed to sound strikingly similar to Biden’s, that it was a local matter), and also on Medicare For All – she was one of the “hand raisers” in the debate when the candidates were asked point blank if they supported it, but was equivocating, or at least dissembling, the next day.  And she needs to demonstrate that she can maintain the energy and clarity of her debating style in the months ahead.

·        Warren:  Does her upward momentum have a natural ceiling within the party? Perhaps she was dealt a poor hand by appearing at the Night One “kiddie table” and thus could not display her policy chops and overall articulation directly against her major competitors.  But it is surprising that her performance did not translate into a rise in the polls -- perhaps all those far left positions, so stridently articulated, are indeed scaring off mainstream Dems and marginalizing her appeal.

·        Sanders:  Is Bernie done?  The Iowa poll is scary.  Single digit support in Iowa cannot be helpful, and the rise of Warren and Harris appear to have done more harm to Bernie than to Biden.  Bernie needs some sort of catalyst to re-energize his appeal.

·        Buttigieg:  Can he make inroads to the African-American community and get some votes?  The forecast here is not favorable.  Biden can draw on a long track record, especially his eight years with Barack Obama; Harris can claim this segment as her own; and Warren and Sanders both espouse appealing far-left policies to this segment.   Buttigieg is starting in a hole and has no easy way up, apart from the strength of his natural empathy and poise. 

SHOW ME THE MONEY

One thing Pete has going for him: he is a fundraising superstar.  Despite his fifth-place standing, Pete raised $24 million in the quarter, leading the field.  Joe Biden could argue that by raising about $22 million in just two-plus months (after his launch, when the official reporting begins), he wins if you extrapolate.  Sanders and Warren both had solid quarters, though Bernie dropped versus Q1 while Warren gained, neatly mirroring their poll standing.  And while Harris slipped a bit, the debate, which occurred late in the quarter, should help that considerably.

Fundraising         ($ Millions)
1Q 2019
2Q 2019
Buttigieg
7.0
24.8
Biden
n/a
21.5
Warren
6.0
19.1
Sanders
18.2
18.0
Harris
12.0
12.0


WHO CAN BEAT TRUMP?

Democrats have indicated in polling that they are more likely to back the candidate they think is most likely to beat Trump, rather than the one that best matches their own views, by roughly a 2/1 margin.

There have been two head-to-head post-debate polls pitting Trump versus each of the top tier Dems, and the results continue to show Biden at the head of the class versus Trump and the others struggling.  This is an ominous sign for those Dems who want to see fresh faces and/or major progressive ideas at the top of the ticket. 


ABC/WaPo
Emerson
Trump Versus:
Jun 28 - Jul 1
Jul 6-8
Biden
Biden +10
Biden +6
Sanders
Sanders +1
Sanders +2
Harris
Harris +2
Trump +2
Warren
Tie
Trump +2
Buttigieg
Tie
Trump +2

To win the nomination, Biden has to reassure the left that he is squarely on their side on the great issues of our time.  But if he fails, and someone else is nominated, they will have to reassure America that the change they represent is not too extreme.

And here is one more poll of note, from Public Policy Polling (PPP), a highly reputable polling group with a sense of humor.  And if you don’t know who Megan Rapinoe is, wake up!

Pres. Preference
%
Rapinoe
42%
Trump
41%

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