Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

(Ed. note: This Update replaces Friday's post, abbreviated by Trump's Iran bombing fake-out.)

The gloves came off last week, but everybody played nice to a greater degree at yesterday's #ClyburnFishFry in Columbia, SC.  That news -- owned by MSNBC to the consternation of everybody else, including CPAN -- fills up the blanks in my earlier-posted Top Ten.  I'll have more no later than Wednesday morning to preview Debate Night #1, a post Thursday morning that highlights the best and worst of the kids' table scrum along with an advance of the main event that evening, and then next Friday's usual Donkey Scramble update.

1. Joe Biden

It sure looked like Abe Simpson was losing his grip on the lead, but South Carolina's black Democrats are saving Uncle Joe's bacon grease.

Former Vice President Joe Biden faced a torrent of criticism from his Democratic opponents and elsewhere this week after he evoked his past working relationships with two well-known segregationists as proof of a time when politics had more “civility.”

Sen. Kamala Harris said she was “deeply” concerned by Biden’s comments. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said they showed Biden was “out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said while she would not criticize her fellow Democrats, it was “never OK to celebrate segregationists.” Sen. Cory Booker demanded an apology.

Miles White, 61, would like Biden to explain himself a bit more. But he doesn’t think Biden’s comments were malicious, and he certainly isn’t ready to take Biden out of his list of top presidential candidates.

“At this point, I give him the benefit of the doubt,” White said. “I don’t think he meant them the way they came out.”

White, a black man, was one of thousands of South Carolinians who attended House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s 'World Famous Fish Fry' in the state capital on Friday evening. The annual event drew more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates, who each hoped to win over not only South Carolina voters, but also Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in Congress.

For now, Biden remains the clear front-runner in South Carolina, where Democratic primary voters are predominantly black. He received the support of 37% those surveyed for a recent state poll, down from May but still far ahead of Warren, who trailed in a distant second at 17%.

Biden played up his South Carolina bona fides on Friday. He referred to Clyburn as the “highest ranking African American in the history of the United States of America, other than the guy I worked with for eight years,” and noted it was his third time at the fish fry and that he has already been all over the state.

“It seems like I’ve lived in South Carolina,” Biden added.

At the fish fry, voters seemed largely excited for and forgiving of Biden. At the start of the event, Biden received one of the largest applauses of the night. Afterward, he took selfies long into the night.

More on Biden's staying power from Politico, the WSJ, and Yahoo.

2. Elizabeth Warren

Yep, she's passed Bernie, and not just in South Carolina, and not only at his polling expense.  Let's read Chris Weigant (I disagree with many of his assessments, but not this one):

(T)he much more interesting dynamic -- one that will play out over the next four or five months, no doubt -- is between Warren and Bernie Sanders. Sanders has also lost a bit of support over the past few weeks, although not nearly as dramatically as Biden's slump. And, once again, the only candidate to pick up such support seems to be Warren. This could turn out to be much more significant in the long run. Sanders and Warren are clearly targeting the same ideological voters within the Democratic ranks. Many progressives are already torn between the two. Bernie started the revolution, but he's also got a lot of baggage by this point (such as how former Hillary fanatics still feel about him). Warren is fresher, but has stumbling blocks of her own to overcome. [...]

Warren's recent surge has put her into direct competition with Sanders. In a handful of state polls and at least one national poll, Warren has emerged in second place to Biden. Sanders is still close behind her in third, but the fact that Warren is now so competitive is indeed newsworthy, because so far she's the only one to break into the top ranks in such a fashion.

To date, only four Democrats have even registered in double digits in the Real Clear Politics polling averages. Biden and Bernie, of course, have always been far above 10 percent. Kamala Harris managed to get into the low teens during her announcement bump, but then slid back down into single digits. But last week, Elizabeth Warren broke the 10 percent barrier for the first time, as her trendline turned sharply upwards. She's still behind Bernie in the rolling average, but not by that much. And, notably, she's scoring second place finishes in the polling in some of the key early-voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina.

So, heading into the first debates, the contest stands as Biden still far out front, followed by a contest between Sanders and Warren for who will emerge in second place.

To be clear, everything I excerpted I find accurate, and nearly everything else at Weigant's link I do not.  For example, there are demonstrable and, I submit, insurmountable differences between Warren and Sanders on policy and ideology.

See ^this man's Tweet timeline^ for more examples.  It is either ignorant or disingenuous to say there are no differences, or that the differences are negligible, between the two.  Nevertheless, that's becoming a narrative.

Liz Warren won't be a compromise candidate for Bernie Sanders supporters.  If you don't like the man because he's old, or grouchy, or because you've indoctrinated any variety of the lies being repeated about him -- "hezenoddaDemuhcrat' being the most pernicious -- that's one (maliciously stupid and wrong) thing.  But try to be smart enough to understand the actual differences.

Chris Weigant is right about something else: it's a shame Bernie and Elizabeth aren't sharing a stage next week.  Oh, and Slate's Surge is more than a little dumb beyond 1 and 2.

3. Bernie Sanders

Bernie maintained his torrid pace of events and speaking and television appearances throughout the week and weekend.  Still, his high negatives among Democrats for reasons mentioned above keep him from adding to his support, and in fact are resulting in the slow leakage in polling we're seeing.

The Sanders campaign has responded with a narrative that features the poll numbers that reveal Bernie consistently defeating Trump head-to-head, going back to 2016 (which, as you might suspect, scratches open a scab for the #StillWithering).

As with every other candidate, his debate performance is pivotal.  But perhaps even more so than anyone else, considering his unique position in this primary.

4, 5, 6. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg

My perception is that just since Friday morning, Booker has gained a little and Buttigieg has lost a little.  Cory made the most hay out of Biden's segregationist gaffe, and Kamala wasn't far behind.  Mayor Pete, meanwhile, is having more racial problems at his day job.  Buttigieg had another awkward on-camera moment regarding this matter yesterday.  Not good.

Black Americans will decide the nominee.  And if Creepy Uncle Joe ever screws up enough to make the olds abandon him, it's going to be a real scramble.

7. Beto O'Rourke

Still trying to find his lane.  If Buttigieg continues to reveal himself as the flash in the pan I've always thought he was, O'Rourke seems like the natural beneficiary.  You know; white, calf-crampy in that non-threatening kind of way, liberal but not too liberal, and so on like that.  The whole bland, milquetoast, Goldilocks moderate package.

8, 9. Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand

Klobuchar is in stable condition.  Gillibrand wins on a viral Tweet.

Be sure and read the replies there, where even Kamala Harris' husband gives kudos to Kirsten for her candor.  (Too much alliteration?)

10. Rest of the field.

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