Sunday, June 16, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Starting Line-Ups

In an earlier post, I  suggested that the first Democratic presidential            
TV debates in Miami with ten candidates on the stage for successive
nights might present a variety of scenarios depending on whom
would be in each session. We now know that a full 20 candidates will
appear (4 have been excluded), and we know who will appear on each
night.

Since it was presumably the chance of a “lottery” which produced
the two line-ups, what might we say about them?

First, the “luck of the draw” has resulted in most of the so far
leading candidates appearing in the second-night debate, including
Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. Only
Elizabeth Warren, who also has had consistently notable poll
numbers, appears on the stage in the first debate.

The second debate is likely to draw a somewhat larger audience for
its drama of frontrunner Joe Biden defending himself against
confrontations with Sanders, Buttigieg and Harris. Although the
latter will probably focus on Biden, it will be every man or woman for
him/herself, and some side punches can be expected, not to mention
Biden’s counterpunches.  Candidates Michael Bennet, Jay Inslee, John
Hickenlooper, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang
--- none of whom are known for histrionics --- will be especially
challenged to make an impression on the TV audience, but it also
presents them with an opportunity if they can somehow rise to the
occasion.

In the first debate, the candidates (especially Warren) might also
make frontunners Biden and Sanders targets, but lacking the former
vice president and the Vermont senator present, it could well also
be a debate in which each of the candidates tries most to upstage the
others.  Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Bill DeBlasio, Julian Castro,
Kristin Gillebrand and Amy Kobuchar each have reputations for
attention-getting --- and this will be a real test of their reputed
skills. Tim Ryan, Jay Inslee, and John Delaney --- unless they offer
some surprises --- could find themselves quite overshadowed.

Wit, debating skills, stage presence and knowledge of the issues
will be factors in determining TV audience reactions. Derisive
scorn of President Trump, his policies, his twitters and calls for
his impeachment will be inevitable, but it will be interesting to see
who can do this with the most skill and originality. In fact, if most
of the candidates seem  like they are just echoing each other, the
overall effect of  this initial side-by-side public exposure of the
candidates to the public at  large might not be what Democratic
Party leaders and strategists are hoping for.

These insiders are known to wish that the historically large field
becomes much smaller quickly --- presumably before Iowa, New
Hampshire and Super Tuesday. They know that a long and divisive
nomination battle almost certainly helps the Republican cause,
particularly in affecting the key decisions of independent and
undecided voters. But this is the 2020 cycle with its uncertainties
of so many ambitious candidates, uncontrollable social media
and an unpredictable communications specialist in the White
House.

There are four announced candidates who will not  be in the first
debate, but considering the low bar for qualifying,they have no one
to blame but themselves. At least one or two of them might try to
make it for the second debate in Detroit in July.

Meanwhile, the candidates and their advisors are furiously
strategizing and gaming the two debate sessions in Miami. There
will be surprises. Poll numbers afterwards will change. Dropouts
might occur.

The 2020 cycle has begun in earnest.

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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What If.....?

There are two kinds of “what ifs” in politics --- those which speculate
about events which have already taken place, and those which
speculate about future events.

I rarely take much interest in the former because they are primarily
just intellectual games, but on the other hand, I find the latter much
more interesting because, while speculative, they sometimes actually
take place.

There are many battlegrounds in the upcoming 2020 election cycle,
and more general interest exists probably in the presidential and
U.S. senate elections. Democrats took control of the U.S. house in 2018,
and are likely to keep control of that body next year, albeit they will
need to defend several 2018 winners in competitive districts.

One district Democrats need not fear losing is Minnesota’s 5th
District which includes the city of Minneapolis and one of its largest
liberal suburbs.  The district is reliably Democratic (the party in this
state is called Democratic-Farmer-Labor or DFL) which consistently
receive about 75% of the vote. Republicans and independents usually
receive about 25%.

MN-5’s current member of Congress is Ilhan Omar, a young Somali-
American first elected in 2018, and who has become well-known
nationally for many of her controversial views on both domestic and
foreign policy. I think it is fair to say that a clear majority of 5th
district voters agree with her on most of her domestic views (as is the
case in liberal cities across the nation), but some of her foreign policy
views and community identity views have not only aroused strong
opposition among local GOP and independent voters, but among many
DFL voters in various religious communities who do not share her
opinions about the Middle East and other international hotspots.

Congresswoman Omar has presented the DFL leadership with an
ongoing problem. Her own seat is presumably safe, but she has
become a lightning rod in the rest of the state where her views are
often perceived as radical or extremist. Even among the two new
DFL congressional incumbents in neighboring suburban districts
(MN-2 and MN-3) there is reluctance to challenge her controversial
statements publicly --- for fear of backlash.

Obviously, no Republican or no independent could defeat her in
2020. Although there is much talk of challenging her in the DFL
primary, no serious challenger has so far been willing to go against
her and the DFL state party which backs her.

But there is one DFL figure who lives in the district, and does not
owe anything to the DFL establishment --- which abandoned him in
That is former Senator Al Franken who many feel was “thrown
under the bus” in 2017 over controversies not considered sufficient
to force him to resign.

Franken is known to wish to restore his political reputation and
make a comeback. His problem with that quest is that there are no
current or foreseeable openings in Minnesota at the U.S. senate or
gubernatorial levels.

But what if Al Franken decided to challenge Ilhan Omar in the
2020 DFL primary?

I think the answer is that Franken would win. Local Republicans
I have talked to, while disagreeing with Franken’s domestic views,
have told me that they would vote for him, and even go into the
DFL primary to do so.  Many DFLers in the religious community
would also do so, as would the many other DFL voters who have
become embarrassed by Rep. Omar’s chronic public controversies.
Franken remains popular among many 5th District DFLers, many
of whom feel he was unfairly pushed out of office.

What makes it attractive for Franken to run is that winning would
redeem him from his 2017 debacle. If he won, he would also likely
be in the majority, would receive important committee assignments,
and although a first-termer in 2021, would be a celebrity figure in the
U.S. house. Also, by returning to public service, he could take his time
to run for higher office should a  vacancy occur.

I have no evidence that Al Franken is considering this race, but
rumors about it were circulating at a political event I recently
attended.

Although they would be rid of Ilhan Omar if Franken won,
Republicans would lose a controversial target that helps them
statewide --- the prospects are thus complicated for the GOP.

So it’s just a ”what if” --- but a fascinating one, among many others,
in the momentous national elections coming relatively soon.


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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reservd.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Which States Might Switch In 2020?

Since the 2020 presidential election will ultimately be decided by
the state-by-state electoral college votes, and not by overall popular
votes, it might be useful to take an early look at which states might
switch from Democrat to Republican --- or Republican to Democrat
--- thus providing each party’s nominee with a route to victory in
November, 2020.

Donald Trump won in 2016, primarily with upset wins in Wisconsin,
Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. All five of these states
remain as battlegrounds in 2020, although the Democrats’ best
opportunities now seem to be in Pennsylvania, Michigan and
Wisconsin. With 46 total electoral votes, and if all other states
have the same results as they did in 2016, winning them would give
Democrats the presidency in 2020.

Democrat also seem now to have the  possibility to switch Arizona,
Iowa, North Carolina and  Georgia, as well as Ohio and Florida.
Winning all or many of these states in addition would give the
liberal party a decisive electoral college victory --- and probably a
popular vote landslide.

But the Republicans, if 2020 is a good year for the conservative party,
have opportunities to switch states, too. The GOP campaign has
already announced it will make a serious effort in New Mexico,
Nevada and New Hampshire, and GOP strategists are known to have
their eye on Minnesota (where they came very close in 2016) and
Virginia (where Democratic officials are mired in controversies).
Winning most or some of these could offset GOP losses in the
midwest, and keep the  White House Republican.

Other states which could become battlegrounds are Colorado
(Democratic in 2016) and Kansas (Republican in 2016).

Circumstances, political or economic, could bring  some of the
other 35 states, plus the District of Columbia, into unexpected
contention, but these states as  of now do not appear to be likely
battlegrounds.

The 2018 mid-term elections showed  a demographic shift of
many suburban women from GOP to Democratic, and recent
polling indicates modest but potentially significant shifts of
Hispanic and Jewish voters from the Democrats to the GOP.
Another critical demographic could be the strength of black
voter turnout in such large urban areas as Philadelphia and
Pittsburgh.

With  more than a year to go, and the Democratic nomination so
unsettled with a large field, many factors, especially economic
ones, could prove decisive in the 15 or so battleground states.
How voters decide in those states, and likely in only some
of them, will determine the outcome in this key cycle.

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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved,

Saturday, June 1, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Democratic Party Voters Take Over

Until now, the loudest voices in the Democratic Party presidential
nomination contest have been mostly those of the party’s neo-left
activist base promoting more radical issues articulated by certain
candidates --- all of this taken up by a sympathetic media which has
given an impression of solidarity and inevitability for these
candidates and issues.

I have suggested that the bulk of Democratic Party voters, while
unquestionably liberal on public policy and solidly anti-Trump, are
likely skeptical at the least to the most radical ideas --- and likely
not that much attracted to most of those who espouse them.

Current polling seems to bear this out, if we are to assume it reflects
likely Democratic voters. There is also the contention that current
polling simply reflects name recognition and pre-TV debate season
lethargy, and does not reflect voter assessment of the candidates seen
and heard on a stage together.

I have also argued the latter point, both based on experience and
common sense. Of course, both these assertions might be true, and
I think they are. In any event, the presidential campaign is about to
enter an important new stage: the increasing participation of the
mass  of the liberal party’s voters into the nomination contest.

With 24 notable candidates in the competition now weeks before the
first debate in which most have qualified to participate, the
Democratic National Committee (DNC) has just taken steps to make
this large field smaller for the third debate by raising the bar in poll
and donor numbers. This action will likely deter the very weakest
candidates in these categories, but since most of the 24 aspirants will
be seen and heard in the first two nationally-televised debates, it’s
just a guess how many will make it to the next stage that begins with
the third debate.

It’s guesswork because, once the debates begin, so many more
Democratic voters will begin to be heard from, culminating with
actual voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and the mega-(Super)Tuesday
in early March.

The 2020 cycle has, so far, defied most conventional wisdom. Bernie
Sanders, it was said, would not keep his base from 2016; Joe Biden
would not keep a big poll lead after he formally announced; Kamala
Harris and Elizabeth Warren would start strong, as would Cory
Booker; Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s “charisma” would quickly make
him a leading  candidate; Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang, a small
town mayor and an unknown businessman; would not get much
attention; and so on. These predictions have failed to happen.

The DNC and party elders might want a much smaller field of
candidates as soon as possible, but Democratic Party voters might
not cooperate. Getting 2% poll numbers might not be so difficult after
national TV exposure --- nor, considering how easily most candidates
reached he 65,000-donor mark, should obtaining another 65,000 donors.

On the other hand, Democratic voters might solidify around one, two
or three candidates right away.  Or general party voters could act in a 
permutation of other ways. The point is that no one knows what’s
going to happen, and the reason is that no one knows what Democratic
Party voters are going to think and do once the campaign begins in
earnest.

Best advice?

Wait and see.

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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.