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2020 Dem Primary Briefing: Warren Moving Up, Beto Moving Down, and Booker Takes a Swipe at Kamala

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | March 19, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | March 19, 2019 |


We have a very long year ahead of us, and a lot of 2020 candidates for the Democratic Primary. We’re going to do our best to stay on top of them all, and keep our readers informed of the latest developments, in part because it’s necessary and in part because it sure beats the hell out of writing about Trump.

I do want to say this before we get started because Seth and I were discussing it yesterday: It’s not a new or original thought, but the primary system is not set up well for the Democratic Party. Early January sees a caucus in Iowa and the first in the nation primary in New Hampshire, and there’s not really another contest until the end of the month, which means that Iowa and New Hampshire — relatively small states with little diversity — get to determine the frontrunner, and who has the momentum for three or four weeks before the South Carolina primary and, a few days later, the California primary (which at this point, seems like Kamala Harris’ to lose). Who comes out of Iowa and New Hampshire is not a foregone conclusion — Obama did win Iowa in 2008 — but the primary system sure seems set up to favor the three Bs: Biden, Bernie, and Beto.

What’s the alternative? I actually like that the primary campaign begins with small states. A candidate can’t speak to everyone in America, but she or he can speak to a whole lot of people in a small state, and that would be fine if that small state were more representative of the rest of America. It’s a pipe dream, of course, but if we were the leaders of the Democratic party, we’d pick a small and diverse state to lead the pack, and we narrowed it down to two choices: New Mexico — the 15th smallest state, and the 6th most diverse — or Delaware, the 5th smallest state and the 16th most diverse. We ultimately settled on Delaware because, as Seth notes, “Delaware, first state, first primary. The slogan writes itself.” (The problem, I suppose, is that in 2020 this would give an unfair home-state advantage to Joe Biden, but we’re trying to look ahead).

In any respect, the “new left,” as Joe Biden wants to call many of us, seems to have dismissed the former VP, although he’s still obviously the frontrunner with the rest of the party. Biden is angling now to run on the more progressive policies of the Obama Administration rather than the more centrist policies of Biden as a Senator. That’s smart. He’s also claiming that he’s the most progressive candidate in the race, which, yeah, no. However, Uncle Joe may be making a sly move that could appeal to a lot of lefty Democrats. He’s considering selecting a running mate early on. My first thought was, “That seems ill-advised, since most of the best VP candidates are also in the running.” But it turns out, Biden met privately with Stacey Abrams last week, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to choose her as his running mate, I gotta admit: I wouldn’t be mad at a Biden/Abrams ticket. It’s not my first or even second or even third choice, but it might be the choice that gives Democrats the best chance of beating Trump in 2020. And ultimately, that is a crucial factor.

Meanwhile, I have noticed an uptick in support for Elizabeth Warren in both our comments section and social-media at large. It looks like she may have weathered the DNA-test snafu, for now, and TBH, she is putting forward some of the best policy ideas. She’s always put forward some of the boldest, most progressive policies, but last week, she proposed breaking up the Google, Facebook, and Amazon monopolies, which is appealing as hell. Meanwhile, last night, she proposed abolishing the electoral college.

I ain’t mad at that idea, either, and I wouldn’t be upset if Warren recaptured some of her 2016 magic.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Beto O’Rourke is running a campaign without a lot of policy proposals but a whole lot of positivity. After he announced, the media gave him a few days of glowing coverage, but now they’re starting to look into his policies, and, well, they’re lacking. I have a theory on that, based on this quote in the Post:

“He’s just so positive — that’s what I like,” said Olga Sanchez, 70, who drove more than two hours Saturday from the Des Moines suburbs to Waterloo to see O’Rourke speak and deliver a campaign donation. “He’s not saying ‘straight Democrat,’ he’s not saying ‘independent,’ he’s not saying ‘just progressive,’ and he’s not saying no to ‘Republican’ — that’s just it, he includes everyone. . . . I’m all for inclusivity.”

That’s great! I’m all for positivity and inclusion, too! But once you establish a policy, not everyone is going to agree with that policy, which makes it more difficult to be “inclusive.” Beto just wants to appeal to everyone, but it’s hard to do that as President, because you have to make decisions, and not everyone is going to love all of those decisions, which leads to alienation. I’m a bigger fan of the way that Jason Kander ran for Senate in Missouri in 2016, which was to confront voters who might have disagreed with his policies and explain to them why he thinks they’re also good policies for them. While they might not necessarily agree, at least they know that 1) he’s put a lot of thought into it, and 2) he’s listening to them (also, I miss Kander, and I hope he’s doing well).

There’s not a lot going on with Kamala Harris at the moment, although I found this headline from a few days ago interesting.

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And that’s the thing about Kamala: No one is really gunning for her. She is the “outlast” candidate. She’s not riding a wave. She remains consistent and unflappable, and she’s smartly spending a lot of time in South Carolina right now, where I suspect she believes she can reverse whatever momentum Biden/Bernie/O’Rourke might receive in Iowa/New Hampshire, ride it into California, and theoretically wrap up the nomination on March 3rd. She’s still the odds on favorite in my book.

I think the other Democrats know that, too, because Cory Booker — who might be employing a similar strategy — took a swipe at Kamala Harris yesterday for bragging about her past marijuana use. From Fox News:

“We have presidential candidates and congresspeople and senators that now talk about their marijuana use almost as if it’s funny,” he said, in comments first picked up by Marijuana Moment. “But meanwhile, in 2017, we had more arrests for marijuana possession in this country than all the violent crime arrests combined.”

“Do not talk to me about legalizing marijuana unless in the same breath you talk to me about expunging the records of millions of people that are suffering with not being able to find a job,” he said

While Booker did not name any candidates, his comments on “bragging” appeared to be aimed at least in part at Harris, who in a radio interview on “The Breakfast Club” last month said she listened to Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur while smoking pot in college.

I concede Booker’s point, but also, this is not how to make it, by implicitly dragging another candidate. Even putting aside the source of this piece, Fox News, which is probably trying to stir some drama, it makes Booker look kind of humorless, which is not going to help the man’s rep as a sort of political robot.

Over in Senator Gillibrand’s camp, yesterday she defended her decision to call for Al Franken’s resignation, and she acquitted herself well.

Unfortunately, there’s a segment of the party that just doesn’t care — they think it’s unfair that Franken had to resign when so many Republicans who have committed much greater sins have not. I understand their point, but also, it’s on us to be better.

Finally, for today at least, Mayor Pete loves his husband, y’all.

It’s gonna be a long year. But I gotta tell you: I like covering the Democratic race. It feels good to write about policies and positivity and personalities instead of the latest Trump scandal or tweet.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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