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Who will the Democratic candidate be?


As I’ve said before, I’m not ready to support any of the Democrats who have declared, or who may declare soon, for president in 2020. We have a lot of time—more than a year before the first primary—to listen to the candidates. But if I had to choose now, it would be Sherrod Brown.

All of the Democrats impress me. I admire Kamala Harris’s articulate passion. Cory Booker has a ton of great qualities. Julian Castro is a fine, upstanding younger man. Kirsten Gillibrand I don’t know well, but she seems smart as a whip. Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t be my first choice, but if she runs, I’m for her. Joe Biden hasn’t declared yet, but his resume is the best among any of the possible candidates.

But Brown captures my attention. Most of us are familiar with him as a T.V. presence on networks like MSNBC. What I’ve always liked about him is his sense of gravitas. There’s no glamor there. He doesn’t play to the camera, doesn’t talk in sound bites, doesn’t laugh too much (a tactic that annoys me in politicians). He is in that sense Obama-esque. He also is clearly piercingly smart, and his heart is in the right place. He checks all the right boxes. His appearance—a good-looking guy, with a nice shock of curly hair—doesn’t hurt. But what’s really appealing about him is the state he represents as a U.S. Senator: Ohio.

Democrats lost in 2016 because we lost the midwestern Rust and Farm belts: Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa. Brown could correct that. Most of the other candidates are from the East and West coasts. Republicans will run a vicious campaign against anyone from what they will allege is “elitist country,” and that could have some influence among resentful, economically-hurt people who vote against their own interests. Republicans however cannot denounce Sherrod Brown as a coastal elitist. Ohio is as mid-American as it gets. Brown is the guy in the bar you want to talk to, have a beer with, get to know.

Look: The thing Democrats want, or should want, more than anything is to WIN. To BEAT Trump, or whoever the Republican is. And to win, they have to get the Midwest. In 2016, Trump got 306 electoral votes to Hillary’s 232. That’s a difference of 74 electoral votes. The five midwestern states I mentioned– Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa—account for only 71 electoral votes. It’s perhaps a tall order for the Democrat to win all five, but it can be done. Trump fatigue will be a factor: the recent Blue Wave proves that Americans are ready and willing to turn against him. Democrats need to hold onto the states they won—which they will—and then flip a few others. This too can be done. For example, Wisconsin went Republican in 2016, but flipped in 2018. Alaska went Republican in 2016 but flipped in 2018. Maine went Republican in 2016 but flipped in 2018. Together, they have 17 electoral votes.

Donald Trump is the most divisive politician in modern American history. I think if the election were held now, he would lose, decisively. Of course, he might not even run next year: by then, he may have been impeached, or have resigned. I’ve almost never been wrong in my presidential predictions. Ever since JFK, I’ve gotten every one right, with the single exception of Reagan’s first victory, which occurred at a time in my life when I was tuned out of politics. In 2016, from September on, I knew in my heart that Trump would win, although it was hard to admit it even to myself. So I will go on the record: Democrats will retake the presidency next year. I hope they also will retake the Senate, although Republicans have done such an effective job gerrymandering that maybe they won’t. That will make it harder to erase every vestige of Trumpism. But trust me, Trumpism will be eradicated. It, and he, will be repudiated, both in the short and long terms. It’s already happening: just look around.

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