Advice for a Former President: Part I

[Note: this was written prior to the Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate scheduled for February 25, 2020; while it is conceivable that something uttered in that debate changes the dynamic of the Democratic Presidential contest, such seems unlikely.]

Although many commentators – including me – have focused on the narrowness of President Trump’s 2016 victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the “Blue Wall” states that had been expected to provide Sec. Clinton her victory, the Electoral College (“EC”) victor’s margin in all of the 10 most closely-contested states was relatively narrow. Mr. Trump won: Michigan (16 EC; .3%); Wisconsin (10 EC; 1%); Pennsylvania (20 EC; 1.2%); Florida (29 EC; 1.2%); North Carolina (15 EC; 3.8%); and Arizona (11 EC; 3.9%) – 101 EC votes, roughly a third of his 304 total. Ms. Clinton won: New Hampshire (4 EC; .4%); Minnesota (10 EC; 1.5%); Nevada (6 EC; 2.4%); and Maine (4 EC; 2.7%) – 24 of her runner-up 227 EC total. For assessing any 2020 presidential hopeful’s prospects, I would submit that one could add to this group Colorado (9 EC), Iowa (6 EC), and Virginia (13 EC). Ms. Clinton won both Colorado and Virginia by about 5 points, but each 2016 result could have been skewed in her favor by factors that won’t be relevant in 2020 – Libertarian Gary Johnson took 5% of the 2016 Colorado vote, the majority of which arguably would have gone to Mr. Trump, and Ms. Clinton’s running mate, U.S. VA Sen. Tim Kaine, presumably boosted the ticket’s margin in the Old Dominion. On the other hand, although Mr. Trump won Iowa by 9 points, polls indicate that he currently has a markedly high disapproval rating in the Hawkeye State, presumably making it a 2020 Democratic target. It appears reasonable to suggest that 2020 Presidential election will be decided by the outcomes in these 13 states – all, arguably “Swing States.”

The Democratic Candidate Debate in Nevada on February 19 was disheartening. It appeared an ego-driven, doctrinaire spite fight which seemingly greatly enhanced the prospects for U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders, perhaps devastated the chances of former New York, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and didn’t meaningfully help any other candidate. In the days prior to the South Carolina primary, of the seven remaining candidates, I would suggest:

Businessman Tom Steyer has spent millions making himself known, and hasn’t made a meaningful dent in the polls. His has become an ego-driven crusade with no chance of securing the nomination. Ironically, for a candidate who has been proclaiming the loudest for the longest of the dangers presented by Mr. Trump, he appears intent on taking a significant percentage of the black vote in South Carolina from former Vice President Joe Biden, thus ensuring any Biden victory will be narrow and in effect providing another boost to Mr. Sanders. Mr. Steyer is confusing the race.

Former South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg has run a masterful race, but has failed to garner any meaningful minority support. No Democrat can win the White House without enthusiastic minority support. The African American community’s depressed turnout for Ms. Clinton in 2016 was a factor in her defeat, and it’s hard to envision that community rallying any more enthusiastically for Mr. Buttigieg.  It’s difficult to see him eking out the nomination against the respective strengths of Messrs. Sanders, Bloomberg, and former Vice President Joe Biden. At this point, Mr. Buttigieg is confusing the race.

U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar has run a strong race. In retrospect, a win in Iowa (instead of a fifth-place finish) plus her strong results in New Hampshire might have propelled her candidacy; but she, also, has failed to garner any meaningful black support. Although I consider her the most qualified Democratic candidate for the presidency aside from Mr. Biden, there appears no path to the nomination for her. At this point, Ms. Klobuchar is confusing the race.

U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also run a strong technical campaign. That said, and although national pundits that venture what I am about to state are pilloried by the Woke Brigade, Ms. Warren, for all her intelligence and background, seems divisive, hectoring, and self-righteous to many of our people. Her reported recent criticism of Mr. Bloomberg’s height is Trumpian. Her candidacy arguably died when she finished fourth in New Hampshire, neighboring her Massachusetts. Presumably, she’s acting as an ideological “Team Player,” recognizing that as long as she stays in the race, she gets media coverage to attack Mr. Bloomberg, which greatly benefits Mr. Sanders (and may unintentionally also assist the candidacy of Mr. Biden).

While one can never count out the value of hundreds of millions of dollars of media advertising, I would offer that Mr. Bloomberg’s obvious failure to prepare appropriately for the Nevada debate, taken together with Ms. Warren’s withering attacks on him, cast severe doubt upon his chances of winning the presidency if not the nomination. While blacks, practical and savvy voters, could look past Mr. Bloomberg’s “stop and frisk” difficulties in order to rid the nation of Mr. Trump, I seriously question whether either the ideological purists supporting Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren – who will consider Mr. Bloomberg, if he wins, to have bought the nomination — or “Me Too” Movement members – hearing what can reasonably be expected to be a steady stream of reports of Mr. Bloomberg’s inappropriately suggestive behavior while running his business — will vote for the former Mayor in sufficient numbers in November to unseat Mr. Trump.

If Mr. Sanders does well in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, he appears well on his way to securing the Democrats’ presidential nomination. The advice I would render if I could to a former President of the United States in Part II.

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