Saddle Up! The Dem Nomination Race Begins!

I’m actually feeling pretty good about the Dems’ chances of taking back the White House in 2020. And I’m feeling reasonably confident that we’ll get a decent POTUS who will lead in a progressive direction as a result. I have no idea who that POTUS is likely to be, but that’s okay.

The Washington Post has created a list it calls “power rankings” (scroll down) of declared and likely candidates for the Dem nomination. The ranking itself means nothing now and will change dynamically once debates and voting begin. But I think anyone in the top 9 has a respectable shot at the nomination, and some below that could move up once people get a look at them. (Conspicuously absent from the list entirely: Tulsi Gabbard. She’ll drop out in a few weeks.)

I am feeling good about the list because, at long last, the “centrists” who are such a drag on the party are not feeling the love.

The rising Democratic enthusiasm for big government liberalism is forcing a trio of leading 2020 contenders to rethink jumping in, several sources tell Axios.

What’s happening: Michael Bloomberg and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, each of whom were virtual locks to run, are having serious second thoughts after watching Democrats embrace “Medicare for All,” big tax increases and the Green New Deal. Joe Bidenwho still wants to run, is being advised to delay any plans to see how this lurch to the left plays out. If Biden runs, look for Bloomberg and McAuliffe to bow out, the sources tell us.

IMO the beloved theory that Democrats must put aside what they really want in a candidate and instead settle for someone “safe” and “centrist” to win elections had its last hurrah in 2016. It failed. Not all potential candidates got the memo, but it seems to me the electorate has been unleashed. No more “settling.”

That said, Joe Biden — a nostalgia candidate — is sitting at Number Two after Kamala Harris. I like Joe Biden as a person, and it wouldn’t absolutely kill me if he got the nomination, but I hope he doesn’t. Alex Shepherd notes that Biden is one of the most popular politicians in the country now, but that popularity is partly the result of his being on the sidelines of politics.

Biden’s public image has been bolstered by his distance from public life. Even as vice president, he largely kept his hands clean of everyday politics in Washington. If Obama was seen as the brain of the administration, Biden was its heart and soul: an emotional man of the people, simultaneously macho and unafraid to cry in public, who famously pressured Obama (albeit accidentally) into supporting gay marriage. That perception has only grown in his retirement, as Trump’s rise has fueled a nostalgia for more decent times in American politics.

But if Biden runs, his past will be raked over—and his political record looks increasingly checkered in today’s light.

Anita Hill? Bankruptcy bill? Iraq War? Clinton-era crime bill? Nostalgia only goes so far. “A Biden candidacy, like Clinton’s, would serve as a reminder of the many flaws of a party establishment that an increasing number of Democrats would like to overthrow (or at least overhaul),” Alex Shepherd writes. See also Frank Bruni, “I Like Joe Biden. I Urge Him Not to Run.”

Of the remainder on the list, there’s not one who isn’t a mixed bag in one way or another. That’s because they are all human beings with public records. Nobody gets involved in the messiness of politics and stays completely pure. I doubt even Jesus could do it.  Yet there are those looking for purity. I’m seeing the various tribes of the Left pigeonhole the candidates based on their worst attributes.

Cory Booker, for example, is now the Big Pharma candidate based on one vote, and he’s being dismissed as a corporate stooge. But he also co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” bill, supports the Green New Deal, and he has some bold ideas on criminal justice reform and affordable housing. And I love his “baby bonds” idea. But, yeah, Booker has close ties to Wall Street and to some Israel lobbies that are worrisome.

Kamala Harris is Number One on the list. I suspect she will do very well. Her record as a prosecutor is going to hurt her with people who want criminal justice reform. But, damn, is she fun to watch in a Senate hearing. One on one against Trump, she’d make him look like such a pansy.

Dear Bernie Sanders probably will  make another run at it, but his age will be an issue, and the Clinton Bitter Enders who still irrationally blame him for her loss in 2016 will try to block him any way they can. I don’t think he will do as well against a big field as he did in 2016, against just Clinton.

I’ve liked Sherrod Brown for a long time. I can’t say I’ve heard any negatives about him, but he’s not being talked about as much on social media as are other candidates.

Beto O’Rourke needs to run for the Cornyn Senate seat in 2020, IMO. His voting record in the House is very much a mixed bag; he often voted with Republicans, I understand. I suspect he’s not the progressive savior people make him out to be, and I suspect he’s less electable than many believe. He’s more good looks and charm than substance.

I’ve liked Elizabeth Warren since I first heard her speak. IMO the “Pocahontas” smears are ridiculous, but they may be effective to keep voters away from her.

I hear good things about Amy Klobuchar, but some of those good things are coming from people like George Will, which makes me suspicious. I need to see more of her to form an opinion.

Kirstin Gillibrand is too often remembered as the woman who ran Al Franken out of the Senate. And even though she was my senator for several years, I still don’t have a strong sense of who she is.

That’s the top nine. For all the minuses I think any one of the top nine — well, not sure about O’Rourke — would do a decent job as POTUS. I would have no problem at all voting for any of them in a general election. Of course, I’d vote for road kill rather than Trump.

Michael Bloomberg is at Number Ten; he doesn’t have a prayer at the nomination. At least, I hope he doesn’t. He’s all wrong for the mood of the voters. His record as mayor doesn’t stand up well under scrutiny; he supported “stop and frisk,” for example. There’s nothing wrong with being a rich guy, but he’s a rich guy who has no apparent connection to working people at all.

There are other people further down the list who are respectable candidates who could move up into the top ten with a good debate performance. Who is likely to survive to the last few primaries is anybody’s guess, and I am not guessing.

Will the 2020 Dem nomination fight get as nasty as it did in 2008 and 2016? I think it will not, for the simple reason that Hillary Clinton won’t be in it. She is absolutely brilliant at setting people at each other’s throats. The #NobodyButBernie crowd will stir up acrimony on social media if they think Bernie isn’t getting a fair shake, but that’s about all they can do. Let’s hope Bernie gets a fair shake, though. I think his chances of being the nominee are slim, but his perspective needs to be represented in the debates and in forming the party platform.

I appreciate that, so far, the Dems are running on issues. They’re talking about health care, taxes, criminal justice. They’re putting out big policy ideas that are not just little incremental tweaks to the status quo. This, of course, provides Republicans with ammunition. But Paul Waldman writes,

First, a Democrat proposes a new policy idea — such as Medicare-for-all or tax increases on the wealthy. Then Republicans say, “My god, are you insane? If we do this we’ll become Venezuela!” Then some polls are taken and it turns out that the crazy socialist idea is, in fact, extremely popular among the American public.

For instance, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proposed a wealth tax on fortunes of more than $50 million, conservatives were aghast, crying that this was horrifying socialism. But the progressive group Data For Progress just polled the idea and found out that people supported it by a rather dramatic margin of 61 percent to 21 percent.

Likewise, a 70 percent marginal tax rate on income of more than $10 million, which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has proposed, garnered the support of 59 percent of respondents in one poll, which isn’t too surprising given that taxing the rich more is consistently one of the most popular ideas in American politics. And for years, polls have shown majorities of the public favorably disposed to Medicare-for-all.

You could quibble with one or another of those results, or argue that they’ll change if you alter the wording. But the point is that, on their face, these supposedly wacky socialist ideas Democrats are proposing are things Americans think are perfectly worthwhile.

The Republican Party is invested in two big ideas: Cutting taxes on the wealthy and investigating Hillary Clinton. Both are getting old. If Democrats start winning elections by making bold, progressive policy proposals, maybe the George McGovern curse will finally be lifted.

What are your impressions of the Dem candidates so far?

18 thoughts on “Saddle Up! The Dem Nomination Race Begins!

  1. I'm in agreement with you on Beto, Harris, Warren, and Biden.  The sad thing is, I remember the warmth and hope of a Bernie my former students invited me to attend with them.  I wish he had gotten the nomination.  I'd rather have lost with him than with HRC.  She is competent but not a communicator.  Bernie's ideas had support and were more of what we needed.  But the ReTeaVangeliKKKlan was on the rise, led by Drumpfsterfire.  He has burned too many bridges to win again, I hope. 



  2. Harris: very popular in CA but no idea how she'll do in IA and NH. She asked probing questions of Kavanaugh, like 'have you had conversations with anyone at XYZ law firm?" that made me think she was setting up for a big reveal…. then nothing. She never let on what that was about at all. So I have some skepticism about her, her prosecutorial record, etc etc. She has little record making laws, also.

    Biden: Too old, too centrist.

    Beto: Too centrist, too little legislative record. He's riding the fumes of his national attention. He'll likely move left if he runs but he doesn't carry the gravitas and organizational skill of Obama.

    Booker: actually pretty progressive. If he goes for small donors to break his Wall St ties, he could be formidable.

    Sanders: on Twitter, I get the impression that lots of women and Black activists hate him. Not sure if that's reflective of the general public, though I do think Hillary supporters could kill his chances. He'd be the oldest prez – by 8 yrs – in history. IF he runs, he'd pretty much HAVE TO win Iowa to have a shot. I likely won't be pushing anyone till after the third primary in SC.

    Pete B: I don't think his mayoral chops are enough experience to get him some traction.

    Klobuchar: somewhat centrist, but not right of center like Hillary was. But she may resonate in the Midwest.

    Brown: like him, solid progressive. His wife's a champ too. His main two negatives: if he leaves the Senate, Ohio is prone to replace him with a Republican. Also he's waffling on Medicare-for all. On the plus side, I think every Dem candidate should heed his call to appeal to progressives AND working class voters. YesyesYES, perfect advice.

    Warren: Never underestimate her. Like Hillary, she was raised Republican PLUS she voted Republican through Reagan and GHWBush. She's been the best at tackling Wall Street, getting the new agency established even before she became a Senator. Unlike Hillary, she does seem to hear the working class and doesn't appear to rub old white guys the wrong way.

    Castro: I think he'd help a ticket from the VP slot but generally he seems cut from the establishment neolib mode. So I'm not liking him at the top of the ticket.

    Merkley or Inslee from OR and WA: if they jump in, either would be very progressive.

    At the moment, Warren, Brown, Sanders and Booker are my faves of the announced-or-visiting-Iowa set. 


  3. I can't say I love any of them, though Elizabeth Warren comes closest.  My pick was Al Franken, but the loathsome Kirsten Gillibrand, the Tracy Flick of this election, made sure to get him out of her way.  ALL of them would be better than Trump, but that's a pretty low bar.  I think we're going to end up with some kind of mushy centrist, no matter how much they talk a good game about Medicare for All now.  Because the Democrats aren't going to change their stripes overnight.

    I guess we now have to thank Ralph Northam for keeping that Clintonista hack Terry McAuliffe out of the race.  He looks bad now for pushing Northam over Tom Periello in 2017.

  4. Mostly agree with your assessment, a couple thoughts:

    – Beta O'Rourke is married to money. His wife's family is connected to some big real estate concern in El Paso, IIRC who wanted to put in a big development that would've displaced a lot of poor/middle income people. He ruffled some feathers by working to make it happen when he was in local government. He needs to become senator from Texas first.

    – I think Bernie has had his 15 minutes of fame (if you think about it, after decades of public service, he opened the door for all the fresh faces we're cheering today).  Joe Biden embodies the politics from a couple decades ago. The world has more than moved on from that.

    – Amy Klobucher – have seen her on Rachel Maddow a couple times. Rachel really loves her – she invited Amy to announce her candidacy on her show, should she decide to run; she's always encouraging Klobucher to: run, Amy, run. Klobucher just sounds so down to earth and midwestern practical. She absolutely would have the broad appeal that George Will likes. She's a lawyer and sharp as a tack, and just exudes a modest yet cheerful practicality.

    Where Kamala comes off as an agressive attack dog (as a progressive, that's what I want), and won't take any crap from Trump, my sense is this same characteristic could be off-putting to folks in the middle who don't know Kamala. Klobucher makes you feel relaxed, by contrast.

    It's interesting to watch the mood of the country change. We endured Peak Trump until Nov 2018, and a few days ago Pelsosi called "check" on their program. Just wait till Adam Schiff and the others get real investigations going, let alone Mueller's report, when it appears. I've noticed that the local trolls have largely crawled back under their rocks when it comes to climate change. There's a huge crop of people running on the left, some who aren't afraid to use the word "socialism". And the right's mouthpieces are getting weaker with each rebuttal that gets thrown at them.


    I want to be sure we do not "eat our own" this time.

    I think Joe Biden is past his time.  But he would be a great candidate.

    I think Elizabeth Warren can do more good in the Senate.  Plus

    Beto needs to prove he can win outside of El Paso.

    I like both Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar.

    I think the obsession about "No centrists" is a Bad Idea, since any Democratic centrist not named Joe Manchin would be infinitely better than Trump.

  6. I think Harris has the best chance but I have more of a connection with some of the other candidates. I would happily vote for her if she was the nominee but I may not vote for her in the primary.

    My first choice is Gillibrand. I've followed her closely for quite some time and I think she has a lot going for her. She's been consistently fighting for sexual assault victims (specifically in the military) long before #metoo went viral. She been pushing for more women to run with the goal of having the senate have 51 women so it properly represent the American public and now we have more women in Congress than ever before. She also aggressively fought for 9/11 first responders, is vocal about criminal justice reform & decriminalization of marijuana, and supports the green new deal & Medicare for all. Also, while all the possible candidates have 1 flaw people fixate on, I find her's the most irrational. It is not her fault Franken was accused of groping by 8 women. Considering that her centeral issue is ending sexual assault & when the allegations came out she was repeatly saying Moore should drop out of the race & Trump should resign because he has a number of accusers, it would have been hypocritical for her to say nothing. After the Kavanaugh hearings I don't see how anyone could say giving Franken's accusations a review would have led to anything more than bullying the women who came forward. Even if he stayed in the senate, he would've be marked for the rest of the career by the allegations. Also, other dems that are running agreed with Gillibrand and called for his resignation. No one in the primary are going to bring it up. Trump might but I think he's more likely to hold previous support for the Clintons against her. I think she's smart to be so aggressive in Iowa & NH so early. She seems prepared to meet every single person in Iowa.

    I know some people who think Klobuchar is our only hope and I don't get it. Her & Brown seem like great people but I think we need someone with star power along with good policy in order to get a word in against Trump.

    I felt Sanders ran last time less to become President but more to,influence the Democratic platform. He achieved that and now most of the candidates are promoting policies he champions. I heard he made some comment that we don't need identify politics. If that is his stance, he's not going to have the same impact he had in 2016 when there are women & people of color who want Medicare for all etc. He has his devotees but he's not the only progressive running. 

    I'm hoping since the candidates seem to all like each other we have an opportunity to focus on policy & decide what the future of the party should be.  

  7. " The rising Democratic enthusiasm for big government liberalism "

    Gee I hope that's not going to be a bumper sticker. Say what you will about the center, the Democratic Party is the center; conservatives are really moderate democrats. Big Government Liberalism is like Trumps wall, won't work never did. AOC are energy that we old crusty democrats need. But the center has always belonged to the left.

  8. It's February. The first debate is in June. The first Primay is a year from now. YES, we are in primary season and it's important but nobody has to make a snap decision. If you have decided, I will listen to why you favor him/her but do NOT go on attacks against other primary contendors. That's the recipie for forming a circular firng squad – which serves Trump well. The field will thin out on it's own – let it.  

    I like Warren. She's got the money in politics thing figured out. That happens to be my fetish but not everyone puts the emphasis on MIP that I do. (IMO, it's all about the money.)

    Bernie is the real deal, but I'm concerned about his age relative to the rigors of the office. 

    Kamila would be formidable against Trump in debates. She came out of the gate progressive on Medicare for All. If she'd move closer to where Warren is on MIP, she'd win me over. I'm watching to see if she's willing to go against Wall Street. 

    I'm watching Amy K. I listened to her on Maddow and was impressed. Can she play in the big leagues? 

    Biden is like Sanders, possibly too old for the demands of the Office. 

    Booker has been cozy with big pharma re money accepted. He may not have chased that money but Big Pharma believed in Booker. If he swears off PACs and big donors and fights the formation of sympathetic superpacs, I can accept it's a true change of heart. If he follows the HRC formula for raising corporate money I don't care what his platform is.

    Beto is good at running but there's no history of delivering. 

    It's a big field of contenders and many have the qualifications and voter support to be bold. I'm optomistic.



  9. Whoever wins the nomination, Biden should stump for them, carrying the message of support for working people. He is plainly passionate about their welfare, and can win hearts and minds.

  10. I'm not sure who I prefer in the primaries yet.

    But in the general, any of the announced candidates will get my enthusiastic support – except for that House twit from Hawaii.  And if SHE'S the one chosen to go against tRUMP, she'll still get my vote.

    I want to see a good, tough debate which focuses on the issues, and NOT on personalities (though THAT'S certainly important).
    May the best man or woman win!

  11. I just had a mental flash (at 70 it may have been something else, but….).  I wonder if Franken always figured his comedic past on video would come back to bite him?  Or can he step back in front of the cameras as a campaigner or candidate?  


  12. I'm fine with the top ten, with Harris at the top of the heap; any of them would be an improvement over Trump of course.  Harris or Warren  with either Booker or Brown as veep are my current dream-team picks.  But its just way too early to put a stake in the ground at this point.   Although Biden and Sanders are not who I would prefer as President, they do bring value to the process with their experience and ideas, respectively that can only help hone whoever the nominee eventually is.

    Best of all, democrats appear to have learned their lesson from the disaster of 2016, of running an effectively closed primary with an establishment-selected, "presumptive nominee" right out the gate.  Having many candidates free to voice their take on a baseline of democratic ideas popular with a majority of voters, as well as hearing how they respond to right wing attacks sure to come, will be a good thing.

    One rule I hope the democrats can agree on is, to refrain from direct, negative attacks on other primary contenders, but to stick to positive appeals. We don’t want to repeat the ugliness of 2016.

    I want whoever the democratic nominee is to not just have beating Trump as their only goal, but someone who can help lead the birth of a new progressive era that, judging by the issues voters face, their desire for change in a real and not just campaign BS sense, voters are more than ready for.   


  13. I can't find the article, but I am a bit concerned about California's move of their primary to March 3rd 2020, "Super Tuesday", which is the date for 8 other primary elections, including Texas (it formerly was later, in June).

    What it means, the article argues, is an early winnowing out of the candidates, because 1) it costs so much to campaign in CA, and 2) CA will likely determine the nominee. We potentially could get stuck with someone who isn't vetted that well, or who doesn't play well across the rest of the country. I hope CA Democrats don't regret this move.

    Of course, the counter argument could be made: why should small states like Iowa have such an early and outsized say, but I would argue that it's better to place small hurdles first, weed out the obvious non-contenders, then work your way up to the big ones.

  14. I don't know enough about the issues of each candidate to make an intellectual comparison at this point.  My feelings are more in play right now.  In my defense, I read an article recently that people are more swayed by emotions than intellect.  That makes me feel better at least I know I'm human.  Anyway, I can only say who I like and who I don't whatever the  reason.  I like Kamala Harris because I see her as a strong woman.  However, I think a lot of people will consider her too pretty to be president.  Warren is also a strong woman but I think she is more effective as a senator.  I really like Biden but I agree that he may be too old and too "experienced".  Sanders probably is more in line with my views but again I think he is too old.  I hate to think that way but I am being honest about my feelings.  Still, it is early and I do  plan to become more educated about all of the candidates and pray that I can balance my emotions and my intellect.

  15. @Amanda wrote: My first choice is Gillibrand.

    I like her too. To me it’s going to be interesting how the top women – Harris, Gillibrand, Warren, and potentially Klobucher – differentiate themselves and poll with the rest of the country.

    It’s almost like casting the lead in a movie or theatrical production, who has the greatest stage presence / star power (forget about their ideas or track record).

    Like it not, voting in this country is a lot like running for Student Council in high school – a popularity contest.

  16. Great follow-on to ^the above, by the formidable Michelle Goldberg in the NYT:

    …America has never before seen a presidential primary in which this many women compete against one another. It could help to normalize female political ambition, allowing the candidates to be individuals rather than archetypes. Voters who are hungry for female leadership won’t be forced to rationalize away the flaws of a lone woman contender. Real progress is not just being able to vote for a woman, but being able to vote for the best woman.

    But if and when the best woman wins, she is going to face off against Trump in yet another battle royal over patriarchy. The Trump presidency has been a brutal, boot-on-the-neck insult to many women, a daily reminder of how far away gender equality remains. To see Trump vanquished by a woman would start to heal the injury of his repulsive reign. Yet there’s an awful possibility to consider: If sexism helped elect him, might it help re-elect him, too?…


  17. Moonbat – Great article. Sexism dominates the thinking of a lot of voters, probably the majority of voters if you consider that some won't vote for a woman while others are debating which woman they want to run against Trump. As I said before, Warren is my favorite but her gender doesn't play a part in my decision in any way. (At least, I don't think it's a factor.) My concerns about Booker are related to his relationship with big money which I said could be cleared up.However, many Trump fans (of both genders) see Trump as the Alpha male and don't care about any of his policies. Other voters are purely reactionary and only want the woman who can humiliate Trump – policy irrelevent. Both attitues suggest we have a way to go in this country.

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