Friday, July 12, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

So much has happened over the past seven days that I'm not certain I got it all posted here.  If you saw news that I missed, hit me up in the comments.

-- Many observers, including me (as you know if you've been following these Updates for awhile) see the race coalescing around a five-member top tier -- which Nate Silver has separated into two -- followed by a handful of second-level players; the kind of candidates whose fortunes can turn on debate performances, like our native sons Julián Castro and Beto O'Rourke, for example.

I won't excerpt Silver because you should read it all and also because for the first time this cycle, I believe he's got it mostly right.  As Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money blogged, I might also put Castro up with Cory Booker and not tied with Beto and Amy Klobuchar, based on the first debate and the fact that I doubt Bob has a comeback left in him, no matter what his new money man may be planning.

In order to emphasize my minor differences with the stat nerd formerly known as poblano, my top group is, in order and matching the most recent post-debate polling: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders.  In fifth, and almost on a tier by himself: Pete Buttigieg.  And then Booker and Castro.  And then the rest.

I'll profile the top seven after I get past some of these breaking developments.

-- Go deeper with that NBC/WJS poll here.  Again, if this is your bag, the datapoints and crosstabs are revealing.  I'll touch on some of them below in the frontrunner capsules.  If you like your polls aggregated and graphed, then RCP is the best source for that.   

Don't forget that these national horse race polls cannot accurately reflect the way we elect our presidents, by state Electoral College vote.  They are a product of the corporate media and the establishment, political consultant world in order to create a narrative, generate spin and momentum, manufacture consent (or dissent, as the case may be), etc.  We can't change this system without a bonafide revolution, one that starts by getting all the money out of our politics. /rant

-- As Eric Swalwell checked out, Tom Steyer checked in.  (I haven't seen any compelling reason to reference Joe Sestak to this point.  Have you?)  Here's nine things to know about Steyer besides his teevee ads urging Trump's impeachment, and a short interview he conducted with Rolling Stone.  He has also proposed national referenda voting, which is true democracy-style stuff.

It’s part of Steyer’s new structural reform plan, which also proposes fairly novel ideas like 12-year term limits on members of Congress, a national vote-by-mail system, public campaign financing, giving the Federal Elections Commission more teeth and different composition, and imposing independent redistricting commissions to tackle gerrymandering.

Swalwell barely made last month's debate, edging out Steve Bullock, who is probably the one who replaces him on the stage in Detroit at the end of this month.

-- Let's get to those second debate details:

(As of July 5), 21 candidates have passed a modest qualification threshold for the July debates, either hitting 1 percent in three qualifying polls or getting 65,000 donors. That’s one more candidate than the Democratic National Committee has said it will allow on stage across the two nights, meaning someone has to get cut.

The DNC’s tiebreakers prioritize candidates who hit both the polling and financial thresholds, followed by candidates who only have the polling benchmark, sorted by poll average, and then candidates who have hit only the donor mark.

Fourteen candidates have crossed both of the thresholds, according to a POLITICO analysis, virtually guaranteeing their spot on stage on either July 30 or July 31: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

One of those 21 was Swalwell.  So Bullock has a lane to a podium; I'm not sure if he's worth it.

CNN put out the new rules for Rounds 3 and 4.

The upcoming Democratic presidential debates will feature opening and closing statements and two hours of debate time each night, representatives for more than 20 candidates competing in the primary were informed (earlier this week) by CNN.

CNN is airing the much-anticipated Democratic National Committee-sanctioned debates live from Detroit at 8 p.m. ET on July 30 and 31. Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper will serve together as the moderators for both debates.


The window to determine debate eligibility closes on July 16, and candidates will be informed the next day if they will be invited to participate in Detroit. On July 18, CNN will air a live draw to determine the specific candidate lineups for each debate night.

More at the link about colored lights and no 'show of hands' questions and penalties for interrupters (looking at you, Senator Gillibrand).

-- The biggest local news was that H-Town gets the third debate in September.  This might be our consolation prize for losing the DNC convention to Milwaukee.  Even with a culled field, we ought to see this event super-charging our municipal elections.  Let's just hope there isn't a hurricane.

Okay then ... on to the leaderboard.

1. (and still wilting) ... Joe Biden

He lost half of his support among African Americans after his geriatric debate performance.  Some speculated as to whether he has a hearing loss.

And yet ... he still leads the field, is still perceived to be the strongest opponent to Trump.  It does make you wonder about all those Teds out there.

The Bidens' tax returns revealed them to be multi-millionaires in just two years after they left Washington.  A similar development didn't affect Bernie (though his income was much lower) and I suspect this will have no impact on Uncle Joe's standing.  In an interview earlier this week Biden claimed that Kamala Harris taking him to the mat in the first debate over busing was something "the American people didn't buy".  That's false, as plainly evidenced in the polling.   If he had said 'old, white, Catholic, conservative Democratic-voting Americans', he'd have been correct.

If Joe flops again in Detroit, there are two women ready to grab the lead.

2. Elizabeth Warren

First, Warren is scooping up some of the voters that Biden is losing, not just Harris.  Second, Warren and Biden have some history as antagonists that is a simmering pot, waiting to boil over.  Watch CNN's debate draw (on July 17 18 at 7 p.m. Central), because if the two of them wind up going on the same night, this will be the story.  Warren also criticized, albeit very delicately, her relationship with the Obama administration when she created the CFPB but was passed over as its first director, prior to being elected senator.   From The Nation:

“But it is the case that I see a government that increasingly works for a thinner and thinner slice at the top and leaves everyone else behind. Until we take that on and break the stranglehold that the obscenely rich and powerful hold over our country, we can’t straighten out much of anything else.”

(Author Joan Walsh) noted that she had worked in Obama’s administration for a while and that, for all the good he did, he didn’t break that stranglehold, either. Why? She paused. “I tangled publicly with the administration over trade and over the regulation of big banks. Tim Geithner and I” -- here she chuckled -- “had battles that spilled onto the public stage.” In (Warren's book) A Fighting Chance, she laments, “The president chose his team, and the president’s team chose Wall Street.” But now she defended Obama, arguing simply, “Barack Obama stood up for the consumer agency when a lot of folks in his administration didn’t want to, when others were willing to throw it under the bus.”

Warren is the only front-runner appearing at Netroots Nation this weekend.  The Washington Times' take is a pretty funny read.

One last thing about voters of color: it was four years ago at Markos Moulitsas' annual gathering of high-income, expensively educated, overly centrist white liberals when Black Lives Matter activists stormed a stage where Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley were speaking, and chanted "Say Her Name", just days after Sandra Bland had died in the custody of the Waller County Sheriff's Department.  And O'Malley said, "All lives matter."

Warren is probably better prepared for a demonstration, just in case.

3. Kamala Harris

I still think Kamala is not doing anything with her pin of Biden at the first debate.  She did get that nice polling bump, but she has walked back her position on busing, and her waffle on Medicare For All is just ridiculous.  That was last week's news, though, and I just don't have much of anything that seems relevant reported about her for this week, except for Chris Cillizza and Harry Enten's ass-munching and this, which has received extremely little attention.

I'm with Caity Johnstone: I believe Harris is an oligarch's wet dream.

4. Bernie Sanders

Plenty of haters still want to write him off.  As regards his poll numbers, I feel that his base is under-represented in the sampling.  Here's a few statistics that don't get reported much by the corporate media that lead me to that premise.

And this Tweet encapsulates my full contempt of campaign finance reporting.

With respect to polling that matters -- early primary states -- Bernie and Warren are neck-and-neck in New Hampshire.  This will be the fish-or-cut bait moment for one of them ... depending on Iowa's results previously and South Carolina's polling.

5. Pete Buttigieg

His standing among black voters even in South Bend, Indiana now obvious to all, Mayo Pete released his 'Douglass Plan' to fight racial discrimination in the US.  And Change Research -- a pollster with a C+ record as scored by -- has Boot Edge Edge suddenly leading Iowa by seven points.  Feels like an outlier, but should he pull off this upset, it truly scrambles the race.  (What does Biden do if he loses both early states?  The same thing Kamala does: push all in on South Carolina.)

Still don't see anything for Buttigieg but strategic influencer in 2020, but, you know, shit can happen.

6. Cory Booker, Julian Castro

The second debate at the end of this month gives both a fresh chance to score some points on those ahead of them.  Between now and then, they have a chance to improve on their standings.  Castro went to Milwaukee for the LULAC convention where he joined Beto, Bernie, and Warren as they spoke to delegates, televised by Univision last night.

After the town hall, viewers were asked to declare their favorite.  The only Latino in the race came in fourth out of four.

Harsh.  Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer also delivered his blistering critique of Castro's tenure at HUD, and Branko Marcetic of In These Times reposted his neoliberal record as San Antonio mayor.  This is what happens when the media suddenly perceives you as having a realistic chance of winning.  Castro has always been too centrist for me, but I keep thinking he's going to break through at some point.  The #Destino2020 poll, Internet-based though it is, can't be too encouraging.

I couldn't find anything newsworthy or noteworthy to post here about Booker.  He's not coasting but he's not grabbing any headlines, either.  Treading water in sixth place out of more than 20 isn't bad at this stage, but Booker is another guy I thought would be doing a little better.

7. Beto O'Rourke 

Like Biden, I'd like to see him go away, but we're stuck with him for awhile longer.  I just don't have anything left to to say about O'Rourke, good or bad, that hasn't already been said.  I think that with both Chris Bell and Royce West's (pending) entry into the race against Cornyn, all that is left to him is to endorse one of the two runoff participants -- which I will mark today as West and Sema Hernandez -- at some point next spring or summer.  Maybe the winner of the presidential nomination taps him as running mate and makes Texas really competitive for next year.

Couple more things worth mentioning:

-- Howie Hawkins is leading a Green Party charge for ballot access across the country.

Related: Texas Greens joined Texas Libertarians in a lawsuit against the high filing fees -- and short signature-gathering period -- that the Legislature mandated when it granted them ballot access in 2020 by lowering the percentages in past elections for qualification.  Gadfly has the press release.

-- Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, who quit the GOP on July 4th because Trump is a lunatic and Pelosi won't impeach him, won't rule out a presidential bid.  The Libertarians would soil themselves if he would run under their flag, but he seems to have other plans.

In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, he did not rule out a rumoured run for the White House.

“I believe that I have to use my skills, my public influence, where it serves the country best,” he said. “And I believe I have to defend the constitution in whatever way works best.”

Such a campaign from the right could complicate Trump’s hopes of re-election in 2020. On CNN, Amash defended his role as a founder of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, a key support bloc for the president on which many place much of the blame for deadlock in Congress.

Amash also said he believed he could win re-election as an independent.

The most likely Libertarian nominee IMO today would be John McAfee.  If Amash runs only in Michigan, he ruins Trump's re-election chances.

-- A really excellent development:

Six states plan to use ranked choice voting (RCV) for their 2020 Democratic primaries or caucuses, including for all early voters in Iowa and Nevada, and all voters in Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming. These states will adapt RCV to Democratic Party rules: last-place candidates will be eliminated and backers of those candidates will have their vote count toward their next choice until all remaining candidates are above the 15 percent vote threshold to win delegates.

State parties made this change because they realize allowing voters to rank their choices -- especially in a crowded field that includes many experienced and well-funded candidates -- makes everyone’s vote more powerful. RCV has the additional advantage of putting an end to vote splitting, the problem of “spoilers” and even the possibility of a nominee who lacks majority support inside the party.

It’s a bold move, and it comes at a time when many presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, William Weld, Andrew Yang, Seth Moulton and Beto O’Rourke have indicated they support RCV.

Iowa and Nevada will also do caucus by phone.

Democrats in the early presidential contest states of Iowa and Nevada will be able to cast their votes over the telephone instead of showing up at their states' traditional neighborhood caucus meetings next February, according to plans unveiled by the state parties.

The tele-caucus systems, the result of a mandate from the Democratic National Committee, are aimed at opening the local-level political gatherings to more people, especially evening shift-workers and people with disabilities, whom critics of the caucuses have long said are blocked from the process.

*whew*  That's it.  What do you have for me?

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