The field of Democratic presidential candidates is limping collectively to the third round of twelve (12) scheduled debates. The Democratic National Convention is just less than a year away, and already several of the eureka-we-found-a-Trump-beater! candidates have been unceremoniously dumped onto the pile of also-ran ashes, if they will admit it or not (hint: they won't, not anytime soon).
I won't bother with the Bill de Blasios and Tim Ryans of the field, they aren't worth my time or yours.
Thus far, TDS-stricken Democrat voters have decided to play this one nice and easy, down the middle. Obama's pale shadow, Joe Biden, leads the field comfortably. What happened to the briefly shining stars of a mere month ago?
Coulda Been A Contender, But KO'd Instead
Kamala Harris was a self-professed "top tier" candidate until Tulsi Gabbard took her down a few pegs. It's anathema these days to be a Democrat and be hard on crime, as Harris found out when Gabbard pointed out the hypocrisy of locking up 1,500 pot smokers and then laughing about her own weed-happy halcyon days, back when she puffed on blunts while listening to Snoop Dogg and Tupac records that hadn't yet been released, a gaffe that the New York Times lamely tried to explain away. Her political epitaph: "One toke over the line." Then on Sunday, she threw a Hail Mary, claiming she was "prepared to take executive action" on gun control. Expect her numbers (7%) to fall further soon.
Robert "Beto" O'Rourke's demise should surprise no one. Hollywood fell in love with him during his campaign for a senate seat and proceeded to lavish such praise and contributions on the eventual loser to Ted Cruz that the naive, starstruck fellow thought he'd go for broke on the national stage. Two things went wrong: first, O'Rourke lacks the charisma and drive to crush his opponents. He's best when fighting against one "bad guy," not nine likeminded colleagues. He nodded at his rivals' debate answers like a professor considering a student's insightful question. Second, fickle Hollywood's Beto-crush faded when they discovered...
...Pete Buttigieg. What's more appealing to the elite faction of the Democratic Party than a thoughtful, straight guy with a Mexican nickname? A thoughtful, actual gay man with an unpronounceable real name! Never mind that South Bend, Indiana is a town of only 110,000 residents, youthful Mayor Pete caught the attention of liberal elites in such an immediate manner that Barney Frank, former Rep. (D-MA) and lover of male prostitutes, commented that former rising star Beto O'Rourke "may be regretting he's straight." Unfortunately for Buttigieg, he simply doesn't poll well with black voters, which is an absolute necessity for a Democratic candidate. Of his "Douglass Plan" (desperately named after Frederick Douglass) which reforms credit scoring to help black Americans, Buttigieg said blacks "don't understand" it. Way to charm 'em, Pete. Maybe next time just whip out a bottle of hot sauce.
Amy Klobuchar might have been the right woman for the Democrats if not for one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Like Hillary, Klobuchar can speak plainly...and exhaustively...and without emotion...to a host of issues. Like Hillary, she is professional to the point of being boring, and also like Hillary, she has an anger problem. Dems don't need another #BodyCount candidate on their hands. Her common retort that she has "never lost an election" has the same ring as the Tim Tebow trope, "all he does is win football games." Unlike Tebow, Klobuchar has to self-promote. Like Tebow, Klobuchar won't get anywhere near the top job.
Cory Booker frightened potential supporters with his "I am Spartacus moment" during the circus-like Kavanaugh hearings, so he doesn't really belong here, but there was a time when his future seemed limitless. He showed enough gumption during the first two debates to garner the baseline survival rate of 2% support, so we'll be entertained by him again, and perhaps we'll see his alleged girlfriend.
Elizabeth Warren is miraculously still in it. You have to hand it to her, because the Fauxcahontas 1/1,024th scandal would have killed the political career of just about anyone else. Her strong showing in the first two rounds of debates should be concerning for Trump--she's nothing if not scrappy, and she can counterpunch. The fact that she's a woman--and not nearly as reviled as Hillary--means that Trump will have to be careful delivering haymakers like "Because you'd be in jail" that were so effective in 2016. Warren is somewhat vulnerable on policy matters, such as her tax plan, which mimics that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but it's not a campaign-killer. Her past legal work--personal injury law, mostly representing cases where victims tried to collect from bankrupt entities--is under investigation by the Washington Post, could also be a stumbling block, but again, likely not fatal. Warren may in fact be the Democrats' best hope.
Bernie Sanders is still alive. That in itself is surprising. He's also still in the race, polling at 14%. Though still snappy in debates, Sanders has three fatal flaws. First, he rolled over for Clinton despite evidence of debate tampering, and even more nefariously, DNC favoritism. A presidential candidate can't be such a softy. He even let her off the hook for the infamous 33,000 missing emails. Pathetic. Next, Sanders is simply too old--he'll be 78 in a month, and he looks it. Finally, his schtick--the yelling mouth and the waving arms and the trembling lips and the florid face--was somewhat effective in 2016. He seemed passionate, he was the portrait of American anger over income inequality and corporate excess. Now he's a caricature, a blowhard more akin to Grandpa Simpson. And it doesn't help that he's a socialist when he's made over $1 million each of the past two years.
Attractive VP Candidates
Apart from Biden, Warren, and Sanders, the rest of the field should pivot toward trying to grab the number two spot. Selecting a Vice President rarely makes a campaign, but it can break one, as both John McCain and George McGovern once learned.
If Warren doesn't get the nomination, she would be the ideal pick for VP for either Biden or Sanders. Among the rest of the crowd, only Buttigieg stands out as someone who polls fairly well and receives broad support (except from blacks). If the nomination went to Warren or Sanders, who poll well but nowhere near Biden in favorability among black voters (47%...until they watch this video), a black running mate would be an easy choice. In that case, Cory Booker would seem like a good choice, but alas, Booker receives less than 1% black support. The best Sanders could do is to pick Warren, and vice-versa.
In other words, of the top three candidates, expect to see two of them paired on the ballot in 2020. My guess is that after the dust settles, we'll see a Warren-Sanders ticket.
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