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Handicapping the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination

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I’m looking forward to voting for President in 2020, and my ballot will certainly be for whoever is the Democratic candidate. I hope and believe that Trump will not be the candidate on the Republican side; he should be an ex-President by then, courtesy of impeachment, the 25th Amendment, or quitting. Of course, we would then have Pence, an unreconstructed religious fanatic. But without even the charm of Trump, he would be easy to beat.

But you can’t beat something with nothing. Who is likely to get the Democratic nomination? Here’s my eclectically personal take on the race, with my own Vegas-style odds.

Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell They’re both California congressmen in the House, both young and moderately-progressive. They’d be lost in a welter of up-and-coming politicians except that, as members of the House Intelligence Committee, they’ve gotten a ton of TV exposure due to the Trump-Russia scandal. If anti-Trump resentment is a leading factor going into the 2020 cycle, either one could be vaulted to the top. But the odds are heavily against. 40-1.

John Delaney As of now, he’s the only declared candidate. The congressman from Maryland is a complete unknown outside his state. He seems to be playing an “early intro” game: setting himself up for the future. But it won’t get him anywhere in 2020. 40-1.

Mark Zuckerberg I’m listing him only because he’s on so many other lists, but there’s a greater possibility of my dog, Gus, running for President than Zuckerberg. His politics are entirely unknown—moderate? liberal? conservative? And the Russian troll scandal at Facebook and his initial denials suddenly makes him look not so smart. 40-1. 

Elizabeth Warren The darling of the Left, with fellow combatant Bernie Sanders. But she’s better as a fertile source of leftie ideals than as a candidate: not warm and fuzzy enough. 20-1.

Hillary Clinton Yes, I’m listing her, because she won the popular vote in 2016 and tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that the best woman lost a rigged election. On the other hand, a wide swath of the Democratic Party loathes her. 20-1.

Martin O’Malley He failed miserably in his 2016 run—completely obscured between Hillary and Bernie. It’s not that anyone had anything against him; he seemed fine. He didn’t expect to win, but likely was just getting his face out there. It’s out there now. A dark horse, but so was Obama. 16-1.

Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillebrand, Kamala Harris I’m lumping them together because they’re all attractive Democratic Senators, they’re all progressive enough to appeal in the primaries, and they all want it. Booker has the race thing going for him; the other three have the gender thing. They all have great futures in the party, but 2020 isn’t their year. 15-1.

Michelle Obama Democrats would be ecstatic to see Michelle run. She’s widely beloved in the party, and no one doubts her intelligence, charisma or progressive cred. But we really know almost nothing about her political skills, and something tells me she’s not ready for prime time. 15-1.

Bernie Sanders A people’s favorite in the Democratic Party. He’s energetic, a hothouse of populist ideas, and almost upset Hillary in 2016. But he’d be 79 years old by the 2020 election, and while his health appears to be good now, even his fans could decide he’s past his sell date. 8-1.

Jerry Brown the guy has been winning elections for nearly 50 years and, as California’s governor, remains at the top of his game. His two big issues, anti-Trump and climate change, resonate strongly throughout the Democratic Party. Still, he’ll be 82 in November, 2020, which probably rules him out. 8-1.

Tom Steyer Another tech billionaire. Californians know him; Americans, not so much. But his multi-million dollar “impeach Trump” TV commercials seem to be resonating across the country. He’s attractive, seems to be moderately liberal, but maybe a little too cerebral. 8-1.

Mark Cuban We know he wants it. He’s ambitious as hell, and has been sending out signals. He was already well-known before Shark Tank made him a reality T.V. superstar. With his billions and firebrand quality, he could self-fund through the early primaries, but he’ll have to define his liberal credentials a lot more thoroughly. 8-1.

Al Franken I haven’t seen Franken on any of the other “contender” lists, but I’m putting him on mine. He’ll be a youngish 68 in 2020. He’s well-known across the party for his Saturday Night Live stint, his books, his impressive if a bit backbench Senate career, and his email fundraising prowess. Plus, he’s increasingly a talking head on TV, where his sly humor makes him likeable. And he’s super-liberal. 5-1.

Julian Castro He was HUD secretary for Obama; his handsome, open face and articulate, if cagey, skills were a regular on T.V. He seems liberal enough for Dems, and as Mayor of blue San Antonio in red-red Texas, he was on the short list for Hillary’s vice president. He has the best smile in politics since Obama. And he’ll be only 46 by election time. Oh, and he’s Latino. 4-1.

Joe Biden The former veep is dropping strong hints he’s running. He has everything going for him: name recognition, respect among Democratic ranks both liberal and centrist, the Beau sympathy factor, a scandal-free career over multiple decades, and the huge bonus of his association with Obama. He’ll be 77 at election time—old, but he looks and vibes younger (the hair plugs worked wonders). His resumé is impeccable, and he’s probably the most trustworthy of all candidates, Democratic or Republican. My sense is that he would crush Trump (if Trump’s on the ticket), as well as Pence. At this time, he’s odd-on for the nomination—if his health holds out, and he really wants it. 2-1.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Interesting thoughts. As to Michelle Obama: “we really know almost nothing about her political skills, and something tells me she’s not ready for prime time.”
    I doubt that she wants to subject herself to what a candidate has to go through. She has a great reputation (the Frenchman whose house we rented a few years ago, and who is pretty conservative, thought Michelle was great), and hopefully she won’t put herself out there to be attacked.

  2. I don’t hate Joe Biden — his story is a fairly compelling one for a career politician, and I think he’s basically a decent man — but I’m not buying him as a nominee. He’d get some establishment support and do ok in early polling because of name recognition, but does anyone actually WANT him to be president? He’s a terrible candidate. He did fine as a VP, where his job was not to screw up more than could be tolerated with his amiable “Uncle Joe” persona, and to hold his own in debates with intellectual giant Sarah Palin and blatant liar Paul Ryan.

    And he’s not scandal-free. There was the plagiarism scandal that derailed his 1988 campaign. There was his botched handling of the Clarence Thomas hearings that gave short shrift to the sexual harassment allegations — something that’s kind of a big deal these days. (Also, he’ll get tagged with every Obama “scandal,” by which I mean things that weren’t really scandals but that the right pretends are.) And just in general, he doesn’t seem capable of the big job. Neither of his campaigns for president exactly lit the world on fire. I also suspect that someone who spent so long as the senator from Delaware had probably done a lot of things to ingratiate himself with banks and credit card companies over the years, which will not play well.

    I’m curious why you say that Steyer’s impeachment ads are resonating with people. All I hear is people wondering what the point of them is.

    It’s interesting to me that Tim Kaine never shows up on any of these lists. I’m not saying it’s wrong — he was a competent but hardly electrifying presence on the 2016 ticket — but it is strange that a candidate with some name recognition, who survived the vetting process, and is from a purplish state isn’t seen as a possibility.

    I think the Dems need to walk the line between offering up someone whose qualifications aren’t much better than Trump’s (e.g. Cuban), and offering someone seen as a lifetime establishment politician (Biden).

    Of the others on your list:
    — I like Warren and Franken
    — I tentatively like but don’t know enough about Schiff, Castro, Klobuchar, and Gillibrand
    — kind of meh on O’Malley and Sanders, for very different reasons
    — don’t know anything about Delaney or Swalwell
    — don’t think any of Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Cuban, Zuckerberg, Brown, and Steyer are seriously going to run
    — I find Booker a little disingenuous and have never forgotten his little tirade against Obama for being mean to the poor Wall Street folks
    — Harris is not ready for prime time, and may never be; she comes across more as a showboat than a real leader to me

    As to who WILL win, I think Sanders has to be considered the favorite unless and until he decides not to run. But Democrats have never really subscribed to the “next man up” notion — they tend to go with the “fresh face” rather than the person who was runner-up last time, with the notable exception of 2016.

  3. JimB, Well I did call my list “eclectically personal.” Who knows, the eventual nominee could be anyone.

  4. Steve,

    Oh, nothing wrong with your list. You included all of the candidates that I usually see mentioned. I was just babbling my own “eclectically personal” reaction.

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