Tuesday, August 27, 2019


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Elizabeth Warren, Frontrunner? – or Frontrunner!

I thought about leading with Donald Trump’s extraordinary statements in four separate colloquies with the media at the G-7.

Even by the already-epic standards of “this president says the darndest things,” Monday was quite something, with Trump weighing in on China, Iran, Russia, North Korea, French wine, and his self-proclaimed bonhomie with G-7 colleagues, all with verbiage and style never before seen in the known solar system from an American president.

But the reality is that none of what the POTUS said really amounts to anything with a half-life of more than a few hours, since the next round of tweets superseded what came out of his mouth, anyway.

The status of China trade talks? Still unclear.

The status of possible nuclear talks with Iran? Still unclear.

The status of Putin and the G-7/8? Still unclear.

The status of the First Lady’s relationship with Kim Jong-un? Still unclear.

The status of the First Lady’s appreciation for French wine? Clear, but unremarkable.

The status of the president’s relationship with his G-7 colleagues? Clear, but, by now, unremarkable.

Even the most valiant attempts to capture Trump’s madcap final press conference could not do the video justice.

So let’s leave France.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Gang of 500’s new Democratic presidential frontrunner.

Voila! May I present to you Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

It was just a few weeks ago when the Gang was quite certain that any of the Big 5 (Biden, Harris, Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg) could be the nominee.

Then, subtly but perceptively, the Gang switched its view.

As individuals, the Gang members are sophisticated and not prone to leaps of fancy. But as a group, they are stunningly superficial. One poll, one fundraising report, one late-night comedian joke, and a contender can be voted off the island, with seeming permanence.

So at some point recently (history does not record exactly when…), the Gang switched to thinking that only Biden or Warren could be the nominee.

And, today, it is a one-person race, and Warren is the Chosen One.

The catalyst that metastasized the whole thing is the new Monmouth national poll that shows a three-way tie at the top between Sanders (20%), Warren (20%), and Biden (19%).

Forget that this poll is an outlier compared to other recent national polls that show Biden still ahead. Forget that it has a relatively small sample size.

The poll confirms what the Gang was already beginning to think, so the other four members of the Big 5 (not to mention the rest of the field, which still could produce a surprise) are currently ruled out of contention.

What has caused this wave of Warren Fever to swell so high that I had a discussion yesterday with someone smart about whom she should pick as her running mate (Colin Powell, anyone?)?

Consider:

* Her large rally crowds, swelling to 15,000 and dwarfing those of others, got her, among other things, a breathless Vanity Fair write-up.

* An essential reading New York Times story, chronicling Warren’s work on two projects on which Bernie Sanders can’t and won’t match her: reaching out to influential Democratic Party stakeholders with a personal touch and sending reassuring signals to the establishment.

* This zeitgeisty tone poem from the Washington Post’s theater critic:

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren takes the stage with a command that might have ‘Julius Caesar’s’ Marc Antony taking notes. The oratorical rhythm. The instinct for a good story. When Warren speaks, you lean in, The Post’s theater critic writes in his latest analysis of campaign politics.”

* The relatively favorable coverage that Warren has gotten even in the Boston Globe, a paper which typically covers Bay State presidential candidates with the opposite of home-state Stockholm Syndrome.

* In fact, scroll through the results of a Google News search for “Elizabeth Warren” and you will see headlines that are 90% positive, an extreme rarity in our political-media culture.

And while Warren has been moving up, both actually and in the eyes of the Gang, Biden has definitely been coming down.

His own comments from Keene, N.H. were meant neither ironically nor as his own self-written political obituary, but he actually said this:

“We can’t just be a campaign about defeating President Trump. A simple campaign is not enough to beat him. It has to be a movement.”

He wasn’t endorsing Warren, but to some ears, he might as well have been.

Smart Republican strategist John Brabender has a Wall Street Journal op-ed comparing Biden to Mitt Romney 2012, suggesting Biden is probably too weak to win the nomination but that he would lose the general election if he does get the Democratic nod.

Remember, Brabender points out, Romney barely became the GOP standard bearer on the strength of the electability argument, and emerged a very weak nominee.

And Politico has a story about Biden’s brother’s alleged improper touting of his ties to the former VP that will send up flares seen in Wilmington and media investigative units all over the place.

My take: I will say it for the eighth time – until Warren is tested by some tough coverage (tough enough to border on an existential crisis) no one has any idea what her chances of being the nominee are. I still don’t know how long it has been since she had a day of bad press, but it has been a long time. And the other candidates are not going to just let her do an Oklahoma waltz to the nomination. Do not count out any member of the Big 5, or, as I said, someone else emerging from the pack.

In other news:

The Republican establishment is on Donald Trump’s side in the nomination “fight.”

Taylor Swift is not on Donald Trump’s side on…. anything.

My take: The media is more interested in the latter; the former might be more significant in the short term.

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