Thursday, November 29, 2018

BTRTN: 55 Ways the Dems Might Go in 2020: The Exhaustive List of Potential Nominees

Tom with a look at the entire Democratic field who may vie for the nomination in 2020. 

Image result for 2020 electionOur countdown clock has been reset from Election Day 2018 to the same in 2020, and it now stands, as we publish this piece, at 704 days to go.  In that time, the Democrats will go through an absolutely gigantic winnowing process, starting with perhaps the largest field ever, almost surely larger than the 17 Republicans who faced off in 2015. 

(Note: The 2018 midterms are not quite over yet.  There are still two House races, New York 27 and California 21, that have yet to be called.  We’ll be back when these races are over with our full rundown of the midterms.  Suffice to say for now:  BTRTN did very well in our forecasts.) 

Traditionally, candidates make their launch announcements in the spring, roughly 18 months before Election Day, with many visits to Iowa and New Hampshire behind them, a team on board, and a few high money types in tow.  But all that will be accelerated in 2019.  With so many potentials afoot, few will have the luxury of waiting, and the battle for political talent (e.g., operatives to run campaigns, bundlers to raise money) is well underway.  There has, indeed, already been one announcement, by Representative John Delaney of Maryland, who doubtless acted early precisely to get an extra mention in articles like these.  And we suspect that more announcements will come – many more – right after the New Year. 

And we’ll make another not-so-bold prediction:  the Democratic nominee for President in 2020 will be one of the 55 names on the list below (and the Vice Presidential nominee as well).  But which one? 

One way to approach this challenge is to categorize the contenders based on a “theory” of the race.  That is, what “type” of candidate should the Democrats put forward as the “best” way to be rid of Donald Trump?  We’ll go through the various theories and list the potential candidates who meet the standard, and then we’ll come back with our own answer to the question. 

Theory 1:  “Go with our known quantities, this is no time for a rookie”

The theory here is that Donald Trump is dangerous and the Dems must meet his formidable campaigning skills with a big name who has played at this level for a long time.  A well-known, experienced candidate who can shred Trump on policy, if not pizazz, and will not wilt under the bright lights. 

There's a short list here, and it includes Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, for sure, and we would throw in Elizabeth Warren (even though she has never run for President), as well as John Kerry.    

And there are two other names that fit the “Big Names” category and don’t be surprised by either:  Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.  There are rumblings from Clinton-land, and there is no more popular person in America than Obama. 

Here they are, with a thumbnail “pro” and “con" for each.

"Big Name"
Claim to Fame
Achilles Heel
Joe Biden
ex-VP, Sen
He can win back the Midwest
Two-time loser, will be 79 in ‘21
Hillary Clinton
ex-SoS, Sen
Longest resume on the list
Do I really need to cite them?
John Kerry
ex-SoS, Sen
Policy chops, global stature
2004 loser, dull as a fencepost
Michelle Obama
ex-First Lady
Clobbers Trump in polls
    No actual experience at all
Bernie Sanders
Sen (Vt)
Galvanized the left in 2016
He’ll be 80!  And he's a socialist!
Elizabeth Warren
Sen (Mass)
Lefty darling with a message
(Only) ties Trump in polls now

Theory 2:  “Enough with the Biden/Pelosi generation, we need a new face”

These Democrats are dying to be swept away by a new face, with an electric message.  Move aside, Caucasian septuagenarians, give me Kamala or Beto! The strong preference is for a woman or a minority; to make this list as a white male, you have to be under 50, perhaps under 40. 

There are plenty of contenders in this category apart from those “one-name” rising stars, Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke.  Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar come to mind as perhaps the highest profile Senators; Gina Raimondo is the top Governor in this pool; and a few U.S. Representatives are sparking some interest, such as Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts.  Longer shots from more exotic backgrounds include Afghan War vet (and Rhodes Scholar) Pete Buttigieg (the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana); ex-Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards; and ex-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates (the one who Trump fired in the early days of his administration). 

"New Breed"
Claim to Fame
Achilles Heel
Cory Booker
Sen (NJ)
Dem Conv speech, Kav hearings
Too cloying by half?
Pete Buttigeig
Mayor (S.B.)
Ex-Marine mayor of South Bend, Ind.
A virtual unknown
Julian Castro
National profile; push Texas blue?
More realistically a VP
Tulsi Gabbard
U.S. Rep (Haw)
Iraq War vet; first Hindu Rep
Meeting with Assad
Eric Garcetti
Mayor (LA)
Strong on tech/green issues
A virtual unknown
Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen (NY)
Big win on "don't ask, don't tell"
Backlash on Franken
Kamala Harris
Sen (CA)
Political natural; strong resume
From Cal, not the Midwest
Maggie Hassan
Sen (NH)
Beat Kelly Ayotte in NH
A virtual unknown
Eric Holder
Very close to Obama
Has a long list of enemies
Jason Kander
ex-SoS of Mo.
Self-confidence? Lightest resume
A virtual unknown
Joe Kennedy III
US Rep (Mass)
Blood relative of JFK/RFK!
Like others <40, very young
Amy Klobuchar
Sen (MN)
Red-county wins in Senate race
What's not to like?
Seth Moulton
US Rep (Mass)
3 Harvard degrees; 4 Iraq tours
Pelosi challenge misplay?
Chris Murphy
Sen (CT)
Gun control leader post-Newtown
A virtual unknown
Beto O'Rourke
US Rep (TX)
Almost won Texas, RFK lookalike!
Probably running for VP
Deval Patrick
ex-Gov (Mass)
Axelrod wants him
Very quiet since 2015
Gina Raimondo
Gov (RI)
Moderate with RI revival story
A virtual unknown
Cecile Richards
National profile and charismatic
Most polarizing on the list
Tim Ryan
US Rep (OH)
Midwest rep with “yoga plan”
A virtual unknown
Brian Schatz
Sen (HW)
Climate change leader
A virtual unknown
Eric Swalwell
US Rep (CA)
Grew up in Iowa
A virtual unknown
Sally Yates
ex-Acting AG
Ultimate cred: Trump fired her!
Light resume
Andrew Yang
Vent. for Amer.
Unique social entrepreneur
A virtual unknown

Theory 3:  “Play it safe, we need a seasoned, boring, non-controversial white male.” 

The Dems playing in this bucket look at it from a completely different perspective, arguing that the best way to win is to offer up someone who contrasts sharply with Trump, yet is completely non-threatening.  Someone who will restore our prestige, say all the right things, and bring the country together.  Please, no women or minorities to stir up the far right.  Give me a central-casting-worthy 20th-century-era President…a.k.a., a square-jawed white male over 50. 

There are (still) many, many men who fill this slot, basically almost every past or present Governor or Senator.  The ideal pick might be from the Midwest or a red state (or both), someone like Sherrod Brown, Steve Bullock or Roy Cooper, but a garden variety moderate (say, Mark Warner) or liberal (how about Jeff Merkley) might work just as well.  If you want a little pizazz from this colorless group, just a tad, try good old boy Mitch Landrieu, the tainted Al Franken or CNN darling Adam Schiff.  If Tim Kaine had performed better as Hillary’s sidekick in 2016, he might have filled the slot and even been the presumptive favorite. 

Claim to Fame
Achilles Heel
Jerry Brown
ex-Gov (CA)
Was a maverick before McCain
He'll be 83!
Sherrod Brown
Sen (OH)
Winner in the Midwest
A virtual unknown
Steve Bullock
Gov (MON)
Strong red state guv
A virtual unknown
Lincoln Chafee
ex-Gov/Sen (RI)
Has been GOP, Ind and Dem
Big zero in 2016 Prez bid
Roy Cooper
Gov (NC)
Beat "Bathroom Bill" McCrory
A virtual unknown
Andrew Cuomo
Gov (NY)
Big name centrist; top speaker
Gruff; has had image issues
Bill DeBlasio
Mayor (NYC)
Highly rated NYC populist mayor
Very close to Hillary
John Delaney
U.S. Rep (MD)
1st to declare; in Iowa every day
A complete unknown
Al Franken
ex-Sen (MN)
Charismatic; rebounding from...
... #MeToo resignation
J. Hickenlooper
Gov (CO)
Strong Denver mayor/Col guv
A virtual unknown
Jay Inslee
Gov (WA)
Battled Trump travel on ban
A virtual unknown
Tim Kaine
Sen (VA)
Dem VP candidate in 2016 but…
…outperformed by Pence
Mitch Landrieu
ex-Mayor (NO)
Prog Mayor rebuilt Big Easy
A virtual unknown
Terry McAuliffe
ex-Gov (VA)
Legendary money raiser
Way close to Hillary and Bill
Jeff Merkley
Sen (OR)
Leader in family separation fight
A virtual unknown
Martin O'Malley
ex-Gov (MD)
Acquitted himself well in 2016
Just another contender in ‘20
Adam Schiff
U.S. Rep (CA)
High profile on House Intel Com
Really after a Cabinet slot?
Mark Warner
Sen (VA)
Moderate option from key state
A virtual unknown

Theory #4:  “Enough of these politicians, we need our own Trump.” 

Didn’t Trump prove that politicians are poison?  America doesn’t care about political resumes or appearing “presidential,” we need to counter with a better version of Trump, someone who is richer, more successful, more competent, but still unconventional and colorful. 

The two big names here are Oprah Winfrey and Michael Bloomberg (who, of course, has solid political chops from his long run as mayor of New York).  Tom Steyer has spent his way into the mix here (full disclosure – he’s a classmate of mine from business school).  America’s best known CEO’s make this list as well, Bill Gates, Howard Schultz, Bob Iger and Jamie Dimon.  Mark Cuban is the most “Trump-esque” as a personality (that is, he’s a jerk).   Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg would have been on this list once, but I think they have incinerated their chances at this point.

"Our Trump"
Claim to Fame
Achilles Heel
Michael Bloomberg
ex-Mayor (NYC)
Strong cross-party credentials
The lefty-driven primaries
Mark Cuban
Truly "our Trump"; a nut
Truly "our Trump"; a nut
Jamie Dimon
Global financial guru
Ugh, who likes bankers?
Bill Gates
Microsoft founder
He certainly has the money
Dull; money can't buy love
Bob Iger
CEO, Disney
Top CEO of an iconic brand
Leaving Disney? Now?
Howard Schultz
CEO, Starbucks
Ex-CEO of iconic brand
Too focused on nat’l debt
Tom Steyer
Big on impeachment
Unknown beyond ads
Oprah Winfrey
She's Oprah!
She's Oprah! Beats Trump in polls.
Polarizing and very liberal


There are other ways to categorize the field, and other theories, most notably across the centrist/leftist perspective.

But, the fact is, we at BTRTN reject all of these theories.  Presidential nominations simply do not work that way.  No one has ever said, and certainly not since we left smoke-filled rooms behind in 1972, “we need an X” and then systematically set about finding “X.”  It will take the long, long campaign to identify the candidate who, as President Obama recently said, “speaks directly to the times.” It all gets down to the individual – not the check boxes.

So let’s wait until we see who actually throw their hat in the ring, and then watch them perform.  This large field will, of course, winnow down, and often in unpredictable ways.  The last three Democratic winners, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, were virtual unknowns in the years before their inaugurations, and each entered the fray as the longest of long shots.  Carter was a one-term ex-Governor of Georgia, Clinton was the long-winded blowhard who bombed in 37 painfully long minutes at the 1988 Democratic convention, and Obama was 30+ points behind the all-but-anointed Hillary Clinton when he entered in 2007. 

These candidates knew their time was ripe, and, indeed, spoke to the times.  Carter was the high-integrity antidote to the slime-filled, Watergate era Washington, D.C., running against Gerry Ford and his Nixon pardon.  Clinton was the empathetic pragmatist who countered George H. W. Bush’s tone-deaf response to the human pain of economic decline.  And Obama was truly the symbol of hope and change as George W. Bush’s failing presidency hurtled to a close with the Giant Recession underway.

We don’t know now what “the times” ahead will demand.  It’s easy to say that the Democrats need a positive message, and someone who can stand up to Trump.  But what will the environment be in the fall of 2019 and winter and spring of 2020?  Will we be in recession?  At war?  What will the Mueller report bring?  Will there be a constitutional crisis over Democratic demands in House committee investigations?  Will 2019 bring a dramatic increase in environmentally-driven disasters?   Who knows?

Our purpose here was simply to define the field as it looks now.  The answers to these questions (and others) will dictate “the times” to which these candidates will attempt to speak.  Let’s see first who stands up to the mic – and then see who grabs it. 

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