Monday, March 18, 2019

Gap Day Predictions

I'm in the aforementioned gap day between my friends' wedding (it was great!) and my honeymoon (leave tomorrow!).

But I've been wanting to lay down my current take/prediction on the 2020 Democratic primary. Because it's never too early, and if I get it right now I will be seen as a God.

In short: I think the field will winnow down to Harris versus Sanders and I think Harris wins that head-to-head.

More specifically, and including potentials as well as the already-announced:

Joe Biden: I didn't think he'd run, frankly. There are two stories to his lofty status in the polls. One is that it's pure name recognition and that, much like all his other presidential campaigns, he'll crater once the race actually gets under way. The other is that Biden is widely liked, is viewed (rightly or not) as very electable, and will lock down the hefty portion of the Democratic primary electorate which misses the Obama years. I think story one will end up beating story two.

Bernie Sanders: I actually also didn't think he'd run (I'm off to a great start). Sanders is helped by a fractured field, because I think he has the largest core of support (though like Biden some of his backing right now is a name recognition thing), but I don't know how much growth he has once other candidates drop out. Twitter I think exaggerates both how much Sanders is loved and how much he is loathed among Democrats, but other than Warren, I'm not sure which other major candidates' voters would go to Sanders once they drop out.

Elizabeth Warren: Her oxygen seems to have been sucked up by Sanders, which I think is unfortunate. I'm also surprised by how much the Cherokee DNA test thing seems to be sticking to her -- not saying it's unimportant, but we have like nine million political scandals each week and this one doesn't immediately jump out as the one that matters. If Sanders wasn't in the race I'd have her as one of the front-runners because she straddles the establishment/insurgent divide very well. But I don't see a lot of Bernie backers jumping ship to her, and that will do her in.

Kamala Harris: I think she's the strongest of the more "establishment" flavored Democratic candidates. The left is hitting her on criminal justice issues, which isn't surprising, but I think she can and will cover that flank pretty well. And other than that, she has a lot of strengths and very few weaknesses. Like Biden, she scratches the "I miss Obama" itch very well without, you know, being Joe Biden.

Amy Klobuchar: The "mean boss" thing doesn't matter as much as the fact that she seems to be trying to position herself as the "moderate" in the race. That's going to be a mistake this time around.

Cory Booker: I always liked Booker, but Harris seems to be occupying his lane of "smart, wonkish mainstream POC liberal who kind of reminds us of Obama". In a large field, I'm not sure he'll have enough space to distinguish himself fast enough to make a real go of it.

Kirsten Gillibrand: I'm honestly not sure why she's not getting any traction. And to the extent it's "because of what she did to Al Franken", I'm outright angry that anyone is holding that against her. She might fare better if/when Klobuchar drops.

Beto O'Rourke: I don't think he should be running for President. If you'd asked me yesterday I'd have said his campaign is DOA, but the $6.1 million initial haul at least raised my eyebrow.

Stacey Abrams: The real wild card. Of all the unannounced candidates this side of Joe Biden, she has the largest potential upside in terms of generating real enthusiasm--in part because she seems well-liked by both establishment and insurgent sorts. But I can also see her ultimately petering out. It's hard to see Democrats, desperate to win in 2020, nominating anyone who lost her last race--no matter how inspiring the campaign was (that goes for O'Rourke as well).

John Hickenlooper: Even more annoyed he's running than I am at Beto. He should be taking a Senate seat from Cory Gardner.

Pete Buttigieg: I'm sure he's very smart, but mayor of South Bend, Indiana (smaller than Miramar, Florida, but you don't see me covering Wayne Messam) is a pretty big leap to President. Maybe try boosting Democratic fortunes in the Hoosier State first?

Julian Castro: Another rising star who probably should've found a different office to pursue before "President". Though, like Indiana, Texas is tough territory for Democrats to win high-profile office, so maybe this is his best option. Still don't see much of a route forward for him. It's a bad sign he's getting even less attention than Buttigieg.

Jay Inslee: In a sense he doesn't count since he obviously isn't running to win, but just to draw attention to climate change. A noble goal. And since there's no Senate race he should be focusing on instead, I'm okay with it--so long as he doesn't pull any sore loser routine or distract from the ultimate nominee.

Tulsi Gabbard: "There are many great candidates running for the Democratic nomination, and also Tulsi Gabbard."

John Delaney: Will never, ever break out of "who?" status with most Americans.

Andrew Yang: I refuse to find out who this person is.