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Posted by on Dec 13, 2018 in 2020 Presidential Election, Politics | 0 comments

Handicapping the Democratic Presidential Field

Two disclaimers to begin. First I am god-awful at predicting winners and losers in political contests. The only time I was right I sincerely regret. That was predicting that Donald Trump had a real shot at beating Hillary Clinton. Second, the Democratic field is anything but static at this point.

For purposes of this exercise, I’ll take CNN’s assessment of the ten most likely Democrats in the presidential sweepstakes, then provide an assessment, more personal than professional, of each, with an invitation to others to chime in via comment. I look forward to seeing what others think. Here they are in CNN’s numbered order:

  1. Kamala Harris – A multi-racial and seriously talented female candidate, she presents an attractive option to top the Democratic ticket. Her intelligence and background make her someone I could enthusiastically support. Her downside is not her fault, but it is a downside. She is from California. California is a Democratic given; she brings no red or swing state into play, and “California liberal” remains a pejorative to some Midwestern and Southern voters.
  2. Beto O’Rourke – An interesting progressive, whose youth, energy and charisma can be infectious.   He is possessed of gut level political skills that could maybe rival those of a Donald Trump. He is not without vulnerabilities though. Can he carry his home state? And what about those arrest records and the persistent rumors that he used family connections to avoid conviction? Young voters, who Democrats will need, will likely move in his direction, but I am wary. I’d feel more confident if had defeated Ted Cruz.
  3. Joe Biden – There was a time when I was not a fan of Joe Biden. When Obama selected him as VP, I thought it was a weak choice. Over the years Joe has grown on me, and I like him more now than I did 10 years ago in 2008. He knows his stuff and has excellent relations with both domestic legislators and foreign leaders. He could probably accomplish a great deal. But, he is old, and I think the Democrats need a younger generation of leadership to contrast with the aging image of the Republicans. I wish Joe well, but I think his opportunity passed him by.
  4. Cory Booker – Confession. I don’t like Cory Booker. His pro-Big PHARMA votes after taking Big Money from them bothers me, and I don’t buy all the “explanations” and rationalizations. On the plus side, he’s an excellent orator, and my wife likes him. Still, at the end of the day, I worry about him being too “bought” and would have trouble supporting him. Caveat: against Trump I’ll support almost anyone, including Cory Booker.
  5. Elizabeth Warren – Senator Warren is the opposite of Joe Biden to me. While I once regarded Biden lightly, I once regarded Warren highly. While Biden has worn well and earned my respect, Warren has worn poorly and commands less respect in my mind today than when she first came to my notice eight or nine years ago. She is certainly progressive enough, intelligent enough and creative enough. But her schtick has grown old for me and I suspect the “Indian thing” will be hung around her neck like an albatross by the Republicans if she is the nominee. Like Kamala Harris, she also suffers from being from a deep blue state without a proven ability to flip red and purple states to her favor.
  6. Bernie Sanders – Always an interesting character, Bernie had his shot and didn’t make it. Many of his progressive ideas have been adopted by others, much like FDR adopted the ideas of the Democratic Socialists of his day like Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas. This usurpation of policy initiatives like Medicare-for-all and free college, leaves voters to ask whether Bernie is best equipped to get them done. The answer may well be no, and I suspect age and health history will be serious factors.
  7. Amy Klobuchar – This dark horse is probably my current favorite on the CNN list. A Midwesterner (Minnesota) and former prosecutor covers a lot of ground that other contenders on this list do not. She is progressive enough, but retains a reputation for practical problem solving and working across the aisle. I’d contribute to her campaign.
  8. Sherrod Brown – He is from Ohio, and the importance of Ohio in presidential races is hard to overstate. Unlike O’Rourke in Texas, Brown actually won Ohio and did so in the midst of an odd mini red wave for other statewide offices. To me, he’s a bit of a throwback. He’s more of a 1930’s New Deal, labor union Democrat than a modern progressive. He could have issues with the youth vote if his views come across as outdated. I’d handicap him as okay, but less than exciting.
  9. Julian Castro – My principal confession regarding Julian Castro is that I don’t know much about him. He strikes me as attractive, and he appears to be cautiously progressive. There is the obvious Latino appeal in an electorate where that is becoming increasingly important. At this point, my perspective is that I’m willing to listen and learn more before handicapping him as anything other than a long shot.
  10. Kirsten Gillibrand – This is a potential candidate that I personally like. Unfortunately, I don’t think she has what it takes to wend her way through Democratic primaries and take on the likes of Trump. With her own party, she has to ‘splain her insistence on Al Franken stepping down. She may be able to do that, and it’s not an issue with me, but seems to be with others. The bigger problem is a relatively quiet personal presentation style that I fear would be overwhelmed in a general election. Because I like her otherwise, I’d be open to being proven wrong.

Well, there it is. A two-year-out take on what and who the Democrats may offer come 2020. Please join me in the comments thread to voice your own preferences or to just simply tell me how full of “it” I am and why. Best to all.

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